The ZooMonitor app was publicly released in 2016 but it’s conceptualization dates back much further and roots into the legacy of Lincoln Park Zoo. At Lincoln Park Zoo, behavioral monitoring and applying data to decision-making has always played an important and central role. This can be most notably seen through the work of the scientists at the Lester E. Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes. These researchers have monitored the resident chimpanzees and gorillas at Lincoln Park Zoo for almost 20 years and built one of the longest running datasets of animal behavior of any zoo in the world. While these research efforts had transitioned at Lincoln Park Zoo over the years from pen and paper to electronic data collection, there was still a need for user-friendly tools that could be employed by non-scientists. With this goal – to build an easy-to-use, accessible tool that could expand behavioral monitoring efforts across the zoo community – ZooMonitor was born. The initial development of a pilot version of the ZooMonitor app was made possible through a Rice Foundation grant. Then, in 2014, Lincoln Park Zoo was awarded a National Leadership Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to develop the ZooMonitor app. To ensure the Lincoln Park Zoo team understood the needs of the community, 15 institutions joined forces to help test ZooMonitor and provide feedback during the design process. These institutions represented a mix of zoos, aquariums, and sanctuaries.
Given their long history of software development for the zoo and aquarium community, Lincoln Park Zoo selected the team behind Tracks Software to bring the idea of ZooMonitor to reality. After two years of development, ZooMonitor was released in September, 2016. Since 2016, over 500 institutions from over 40 countries have registered for the app. This amazing support highlights the importance of behavioral monitoring for the zoo and aquarium community and reinforces our committment to grow ZooMonitor into a powerful tool for all organizations, regardless of size or budget.