CINCINNATI – The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden tops 1.2 million visitors in 2009. The Zoo’s total gate attendance from January to December was 1,218,892 – the highest since 2000. Overall gate attendance was up 236,849 visitors (or 24%) compared to 2008.“The Zoo thanks Tri-State residents for their continued support during these challenging economic times,” said Thane Maynard, Executive Director of the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden. “In 2009 our theme at the Zoo was ‘More Animals, More Fun!’ and clearly the word got out that we have more than ever to offer.”Zoo membership was also up 5.6% from 2008 and over 18% from 2007, boasting nearly 43,000 member households in 2009. This increase in Zoo membership makes 2009 the best year for total memberships sold since 2002. Of those 43,000 member households, nearly 142,000 more individual members visited the Cincinnati Zoo in 2009 than in 2008, which contributed to the Zoo’s record attendance. In addition to gate attendance, more than 83,000 people were able to experience Zoo animals in their local schools or at community events through the Zoo’s Frisch’s Outreach program.Special events like Zoo Babies, a perennial favorite, drew 110,628 visitors during the 16-day event in May. More than 40,000 guests attended the six-day HallZOOween event, which helped October boast the highest attendance since 1997. The 27th installment of PNC Festival of Lights not only added one million more lights, but brought in huge crowds as well with November and December seeing the highest attendance since 2000.The opening of the Historic Vine Street Village in May helped alleviate parking issues and created a more welcoming and visitor-friendly entrance to the Zoo. Summer was busier this year than normal. Playing off its adage, “more animals, more fun,” the Zoo stepped up its Meet-A-Zookeeper and Random Animal Encounter programs to bring visitors closer to the animals throughout the park. Close encounters with everything from snakes and porcupines to bearcats and alligators helped attract 526,833 from Memorial Day through Labor Day. The Zoo also introduced several new animals to its already impressive collection including four baby Malayan tigers, a baby Grevy’s zebra, a baby African cheetah, “Klyde,” the black rhino, Przewalski’s horse, a camel, and three baby fishing cats. On September 9, the Cincinnati Zoo gained worldwide attention when its eight-year-old cheetah, “Sarah,” broke the speed record for all land mammals with a time of 6.13 seconds in a 100-meter sprint. This exposure brought record crowds to see Sarah and the other cheetahs run in the Cheetah Encounter show.A number of national rankings named the Cincinnati Zoo one of the best in the country for families. Parents Magazine ranked the Cincinnati Zoo one the Top Ten Best Zoos in the country. As the only Ohio zoo on the list, the Cincinnati Zoo was chosen based on their wide range of family activities and their dedication to fostering knowledge, appreciation, and excitement among their visitors. In addition to this announcement, the Zoo has a growing list of other accolades: the Cincinnati Zoo was named the #1 attraction in Cincinnati and one of the top zoos in the nation by Zagat Survey, Child Magazine’s “Top 10 Best Zoos for Kids”, “One of the Top 10 Zoos in America” by USA Travel Guide, and Newt Gingrich’s “10 Great Places to Go Wild Over Zoo Animals” in USA Today.Now through February 28, Zoo visitors can enjoy half-priced admission daily during Penguin Days, which include special animal encounters every Saturday & Sunday.Visit the nationally recognized Cincinnati Zoo TODAY! Admission prices are $14/adults, $9/children (2-12), children under two are free and parking is additional. The Zoo opens daily at 9 a.m. For more information, call (513) 281-4700 or, visit www.cincinnatizoo.org for a complete list of events and activities.