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Brookfield Zoo

The Brookfield Zoo is located in Chicago and is operated by the Chicago Zoological Society. The zoo was opened in 1934.

Over 2 million people visit the zoo each year.

It is accredited by the American Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).

Star Animals

Binti Jua

Binti Jua was a western lowland gorilla who had a boy fall into her enclosure. She cradled the boy and carried him to her trainers making sure the other gorillas kept their distance.


Cookie is a Major Mitchell’s cockatoo who was part of the collection at the zoo since it opened in 1934.  When he arrived he was one year old. Unfortunately Cookie passed away during 2016. At the time of his death he was 83 years old.

Brookfield Zoo




United States of America

Year Opened


Land Size

87ha (216acres)

Number of Animals

2,000 (2020)

Number of Species

250 (2020)


During 1919, Edith Rockefeller McCormick donated land which her father had presented to her as a wedding gift to the Cook County Forest Preserve District so they could develop a zoo. The city then added another 40ha (98 acres) to this.

In 1926 a zoo tax was approved which allowed serious construction of the zoo to begin. Progress slowed during the Great Depression but by 1931 it had picked up again.

Opening day was July 1 1934.

In 1937 Su-lin the giant panda moved to the Brookfield Zoo. She was the first panda which lived in the U.S. The next year Mei-Mei and Mei-Lan a panda pair arrived at the zoo.

Another record set by the zoo in 1941 was breeding the first black rhino in a zoo. This rhino was known as Georgia-Joe.

1943 saw the zoo struggling to raise money as a result of low attendance due to the war. As a result they offered to sell animals to private citizens.

A pair of rare Indian rhinos were captured from the wild for the zoo in 1948. Their names were Kamala Rani and Kashi Ram.

Brookfield Zoo became one of just three zoos in the country with a dedicated hospital when their first one opened in 1952.

The following year a Children’s Zoo was opened. A year late the Roosevelt Fountain was created. It honours the conservation efforts of President Theodore Roosevelt.

A forested area of the zoo was turned into Wolf Woods during 1957. Here staff began to study wolves.

Another first too place when Mr G an okapi was born during 1959. Never before had okapi bred in the U.S. In 1961 the firsts continued with the first inland dolphinarium, Seven Seas Panorama opening.

Olga the walrus arrived in 1962. Her playful antics would help to inspire guests to care for marine mammals in her time at the zoo.

1968 saw a diesel switch train running around the zoo.

During 1971 Volunteers began to serve the zoo as part of the Volunteer League.

Work began on building Tropic World during 1973. The first section did not open till 1982 with the other two following in 1983 and 1984.

In 1980 Samson the gorilla arrived. In his time at the zoo he sired five offspring. A statue stands in Tropic World to commemorate this primate.

1984 was the 50th anniversary of the zoo. They celebrated by holding concerts with the Osmond Family, the Beach Boys and Jonny Cash performing.

A Conservation Biology Department which is staffed by world renowned scientists and researchers was formed in 1985 to solidify the zoo’s conservation efforts.

During 1987 a new Seven Seas Panorama was opened.

In 1990 the zoo responded to declining amphibian populations by creating a Declining Amphibian Task Force.

To help provide the best care for their animals the zoo hired an animal enrichment specialist during 1992. They went further in their efforts by opening a new animal hospital during 1993.

It was also in 1993 that the zoo moved their golden lion tamarins outside as part of a reintroduction program.

Jim and Axhi the brown bear cubs were rescued by the zoo during 1995.

In 1996 the zoo helped found Chicago Wilderness a group which protects hundreds of acres of wild land throughout Chicagoland. It was also in this year that Binti Jua the gorilla rescued a boy who fell in to her enclosure.

2001 saw the addition of the Hamill Family Play Zoo.

During 2006 the carousel was opened. The Centre for Conservation Leadership was also launched this year. It focuses on creating conservation leaders and protecting the natural world.

In 2008 they opened the Centre for the Science of Animal Welfare which they hope will make them world experts in the scientific care of animals.

Great bear wilderness opened in 2010.

2011 saw the closure and renovation of the Pachyderm House. This was due to the expense of creating Great Bear Wilderness along with protesting by In Defence of Animals due to the deaths of the zoo’s African elephants. This change also saw hippos removed from the collection.

In 2015 the children’s zoo was replaced by the Hamill family wild encounters exhibit.


Dolphins in Action

This show introduces visitors to the unique social structures and adaptations of dolphins while they captivate you with aerial displays.

Hamill Family Play Zoo

This award winning attraction allows children to touch explore and build. They can dress as a lemur, participate in a craft activity of pretend they are a zookeeper.

Hamill Family Wild Encounters

This exhibit allows visitors to interact with parakeets and goats alongside exhibits for red pandas, reindeer, wallabies, llamas and alpacas.


Meet several hundred butterflies of 40 species fluttering amongst a variety of flowering plants.

The Carousel

Take a spin on 72 animals along with three chariots. This carousel is one of the largest hand-carved wooden carousels in the country.

Motor Safari

Hop on the zoo’s open-air Motor Safari trams that will take you on a narrated tour of the zoo. It also provides transport between the four stops so you can give your feet a rest. Even better news is that these vehicles are powered by environmentally friendly natural gas.

Main Exhibits

Australia House

Journey to the land down under where you can meet short beaked echidnas, southern hairy nosed wombats, kangaroos, woma pythons, wallaby’s and Rodrigues fruit bat.

Big Cats

Take a stroll along a walkway from which you can view African lions, Amur leopards, Amur tigers and snow leopards.

Feathers and scales

This exhibit has been updated in to a tropical forest housing Andean condors, quail, tawny frogmouths and the greater roadrunner.

Fragile Desert

The creatures of North Africa roam this portion of the Fragile Kingdom habitat. You can encounter species such as the bat-eared fox, black footed cat, meerkat and naked mole rat.

Clouded Leopard Rainforest

Here you can see the creatures of Asia’s rainforest. On your journey you can meet African giant millipedes, binturongs, clouded leopards, fishing cats and prevosts squirrel.

Great Bear Wilderness

Enter the plains of North America where you can see bison roaming their prairie setting, bald eagles flying behind almost invisible mesh and a pack of wolves roaming the woods. Then travel below the water level to see grizzly and polar bears as they swim.

Habitat Africa! The forest

Meet the okapi a relative of the giraffe. This exhibit also includes a habitat for the white-bellied pangolin. One of the few zoos in the world where you can see these rare creatures.

Habitat Africa! The Savannah

Experience gentle giraffes along with klipspringers as they roam alongside aardvarks, African painted dogs and red river hogs in this habitat which makes you feel like you’re in Africa.

Hamill Family Play Zoo

his habitat gives kids up to 10 the perfect place to track animals prints, help build animals homes and get up close to animals. Some of the species featured her include cockatiels, rabbits and ring-tailed lemurs.

Hoofed Animals

The hoofed animals walk way introduces you to visitor favourites such as zebras and camels along with rarer species such as the addax and Prezwalski’s horse.

Living Coast

Meet the zoo’s Humboldt penguin colony in this rocky recreation of a South American shore. Above the penguins a colony of Inca terns fly. Inside the living coast guests can view fish, sharks and corals.

Pachyderm House

Home of the zoo’s tapirs, rhinos and pygmy hippos this house provides a chance to learn about preserving these endangered animals.

Pinniped Point

California sea lions, grey seals and harbour seals swim in this habitat where you can see them swim underwater. Watch as they hunt, communicate, mate and survive.

Regenstein Wolf Woods

Get nose to nose with the Mexican Grey Wolf through one way viewing glass at this habitat. Watch the wolf pack as they roam their wood.

Reptiles and Birds

Meet the avian and reptilian inhabitants of Asia and South America at this habitat. Here you can view Bali mynah, crested wood partridge, macaws and Micronesian kingfishers.

Salt Creek Wilderness

This wilderness provides a home for migratory birds to rest meaning that you can view them. Here you can also view the trumpeter swans which breed here each year.

Seven Seas

Watch the bottlenose dolphins glide through the water and attend a Dolphins in Action show.

The Swamp

Explore the swamps of America where you can meet alligator snapping turtles, little blue herons, North American river otters and Orinoco crocodiles.

Tropic World

Journey through three countries in one exhibit. Along the way you will meet the black-handed spider monkeys, callimico, cotton top tamarins and two toed sloths in South America. Then journey to Asia where small clawed otters, orangutans and white cheeked gibbons roam. Then in Africa view Western lowland gorillas and colobus monkeys.


Brookfield Zoo Website –

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