OAKLAND (CBS 5) – Christmas came early for the Oakland Zoo this year in the form of an anonymous $1 million check.

Zoo officials announced this week that a check and a letter recently arrived from the San Francisco Foundation stating that an anonymous donor had advised that the money be used for the zoo’s general purposes.

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“Every now and then, something truly extraordinary occurs at the Oakland Zoo that causes me to just shake my head in disbelief and be thankful,” said zoo President and CEO Joel Parrott. “This has never occurred on this scale before. It is simply a gift.”

The financial gift comes nearly two months after Alameda County voters rejected a parcel tax measure to help cover animal care, facility maintenance education and conservation programs and other services.

According to a zoo spokeswoman Nicky Mora, some 700,000 people, including school groups from throughout the Bay Area, visited the zoo this year. New animal births throughout the year have increased the zoo’s animal collection, including a giraffe, otters and new arrivals such as a female gibbon and hyenas.

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More animal additions over the coming year will bring a need for exhibit improvements, Mora said.

“There is no more important time than the end of the year for nonprofit organizations to reach out to the community for support and encouragement in meeting the needs. This contribution will have a huge impact on our ability to plan for the New Year,” said Emma Lee Twitchell, the zoo’s director of development.

Anyone interested in making their own contribution to the zoo may do so by contacting Parrott at (510) 632-9525 ext. 172 or Twitchell at ext. 153.

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