The Dallas Zoo is located in Dallas, Texas. It has been operating since 1888 and is the oldest and largest zoo in Texas.
The zoo is owned by the City of Dallas and operated by a private management board in a public-private partnership.
T-Rex Express Miniature Train
Take a ride on the T-Rex Express mini train which is a trackless train running around a small loop in Zoo North.
Travis and Zach’s bird landing
Visitors are able to offer worms and seed to some birds. In the aviary there are two dozen different species of birds which have been hand raised to make them friendly.
Hillcrest foundation nature exchange
Children have the opportunity to bring in an item and tell educational interpreters about it. They earn points for their knowledge which can be used to purchase an item on the shop shelves
Endangered Species Carousel
This is a custom made carousel with a range of animals on it which kids can ride. This carousel received an award from the American Association of Architects.
Number of Animals
Number of Species
During the spring of 1888 a man who lived in Colarado City offered the city of Dallas a pair of deer and two mountain lions. They ended up purchasing these animals for $60 and pens were assembled in City Park. The park had been bought for $600 in 1876.
The zoo moved to Fair Park in 1909. The city purchased it with all its facilities and improvements for $125,000 in 1904. The zoo had become very popular but City Park wasn’t big enough to house all the animals. As such when Fair Park became the city’s second ever park it was moved. In 1910 the entire collection moved to Fair Park.
Fair Park was also the home of the State fair which was very prosperous. As such the zoo had to move to make room for it in 1912. The park moved to its current location of Marsalis Park in Oak Cliff.
It was also at this time that a full time zoo commissioner was appointed. He grew the collection using donations from civic groups and private groups. He also shifted the zoos focus to education instead of collecting animals. He continued to grow the zoo until 1914 when he retired and administration of the Zoo fell to the Park Board. They handed control to 2 zoo commissioners who held their position till 1922.
The zoo commission was appointed in 1922. They undertook a capital campaign which raised $10,000 and saw animal numbers grow from 161 to 1,065 in the five years after 1920.
During this campaign the school children of Dallas donated nickels, pennies and dimes to purchase Queenie the elephant. The collection peaked at 1,540 specimens in 1930 before holdings were halved due to the Great Depression.
The zoo received $100,000 from the Federal Works Projects Administration along with labour to allow them to upgrade the zoo. This led to bridges, houses, winding walks, stairways, retaining walls, monkey cages, large animals paddocks along with wild fowl cages built. There was also a new commissary office and entrance built.
It was in 1955 that the Dallas Zoological Society was founded and they took on the role of funding new animals.
Throughout the 1960s Pierre A. Fontaine directed the zoo. They had impressive displays and it was regularly developing attracting more visitors who would praise the change in atmosphere and design. For $300,000 the zoo added a new entrance, information area, meeting room, commissary space, bridge to the zoo, retaining walls, walkways and a reference library.
In 1964 the zoo completed its bird and reptile building allowing reptiles to be effectively displayed for the first time. Over the next 2 decades the zoo developed its first research programs mainly in the reptile and amphibian department. 30 captive breeding awards have been given to the zoo along with 4 significant achievement awards and two Edward C. Bean awards from the American Zoo and Aquarium Association since 1960.
In the 1980s public opinion changed and they began to demand naturalistic facilities instead of clean displays. By 1981 a $75 million master plan was completed and approved to expand the zoo. It was with a $30.5 million bond issue that the zoo’s first natural exhibit was completed. This was to be the Wilds of Africa complex.
During this time the zoo was led by Warren Iliff with his first major achievement being to gain the zoo accreditation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) in 1985. The Society reached its 30th birthday and they also gave their 1 millionth dollar that year.
Ilif worked with the society to increase the board and thus its ability to give. They also took on management of the development, membership and volunteers. As such the zoo was able to receive its first ever $1 million gift from Nancy B. Harmon. $2.5 million in gifts was also raised which allowed the zoo to build the Jake L. Hamon Gorilla Conservation Research Centre.
The centennial of the zoo was celebrated during March of 1988 at which time ground was broken on Wilds of Africa. It was the most comprehensive display of one continents fauna ever assembled in a zoo. The public loved the habitat and 635,047 people rushed to see it setting a new zoo attendance record.
At this time the society began to manage marketing, events, food services and retail at the zoo.
During 1991 Mr. Iliff resigned. As such the zoo, park board and City of Dallas combined to find his replacement. Richard Buickerood was hired and he held the position for the next 14 years.
The Exxon Corporation made a generous gift in 1992 which funded a long range strategic plan. This was completed during 1993 and made recommendations for changes to habitats, circulation, services and the approach to interpretation. No new exhibits opened in the next 4 years and the zoo suffered with attendance falling to 408,437.
Michael Meadows became the executive director of the society in July 1994. The society, Park Board and the Zoo began to move quickly so they could participate in the bond referendum. The society committed that it would match the bond funding the zoo received and they chose to build a chimpanzee habitat, new children’s zoo, new health care centre, new primate exhibit and to repair the bird and reptile building’s roof. Exxon Corporation then stepped forward and committed to fund a tiger habitat. This commitment lead the city to approve $6.7 million of bond funding. Voters then overwhelmingly approved these funds. The Zoo also had $4 million left over from a 1985 bond which they used for a new entrance, car park and lemur habitat.
The $10.7 million capital was announced in 1996 as the society had matched the $6.7 million in bond funding. The capital campaign was completed when they were given their largest gift ever by the Lacerte family. This lead to the construction over the next 5 years of the Primate Place, Kimberley Clark Chimpanzee habitat, A.H Meadows Animal Health Care Facility, Exxon Endangered Tiger Habitat and finishing in 2000 with the Lacerte Family Children’s Zoo.
Responsibility for the society fell to new CEO James Howard in 1999. By 2001 attendance grew to 635,000.
The 1993 long range plan was altered at this time. That lead to the 2002 construction of the endangered species carousel and the 2003 Prime Meriden Food Court. It also called for a new Conservation Education and Science Centre as well as Wilds of Africa being expanded.
In 2004 gorilla, Jabari escaped and attacked some guests. He was then killed by a police officer. The gorilla enclosure closed and was renovated with higher walls being added. The public also lost their confidence in the zoo and this meant they suffered a dip in attendance with only 508,000 visitors attending the zoo that year. The society also lost Mr Howard and recruited new society boss Michael Meadows.
In 2005 Bug U! with texas invertebrates, tamarin treetops, a saddle billed stork enclosure and the Betty Moroney Norsworthy Otter Outpost with Asian Small Clawed Otters opened. The plaza in Wilds of Africa, the entrance, rest rooms and other improvements were also completed to celebrate the society’s 50th birthday. There was also a new brand, logo and marketing program initiated after a study into public opinion.
Gregg Hudson became the zoo’s director in 2006. The zoo opened crocodile isle, a rhino iguana habitat, the renovated gorilla habitat, acacia springs aviary, Don M. Glendenning Penguin Cove which is home to African black footed penguins, new kangaroo, wallaby and perentie habitats along with Travis and Zach’s Bird Landing.
$25 million of bond funds were approved by the city in November of 2006.
Wings of Wonder brought some of the largest birds of prey to the zoo in 2007. Giant tortoises were also added with Aldabra and Galapagos tortoises making their home at the zoo. These improvements saw 641,972 people come to the zoo. They also had a single day attendance record of 26,421 people.
Stingray Bay the Zoo’s largest ever temporary habitat was added in 2008. The zoo once again beat its single day attendance record with 34,479 visitors.
The Zoo announced in August of 2008 a use for the 2006 bond funds. This would be used to create an 4.6ha (11 acre) Savannah exhibit. The Dallas City Council approved the enclosure in 2009. The 11 site became home to elephants, giraffes, lion, warthog and cheetah.
The City of Dallas was facing a budget shortfall in 2009. As such the Zoo was privatized. The Dallas Zoo Management was the new non-profit set up to manage the zoo and the children’s aquarium at fair park. The board of this society was appointed by the society in August 2009.
The Zoo’s largest transport of large African Mammals for the $30 million Giants of the Savannah project was the next big challenge. As such a new large mammal quarantine barn and yard was built. This allowed four African elephants and a herd of giraffes to make their way to the zoo. A new commissary was also built around this time.
Giants of the Savanna opened in 2010 and the public reacted well with 698,506 people visiting the zoo.
SOAR A Festival of Flight launched in April 2011 as part of a contract with Natural Encounters. It was presented in the zoo’s new 600 seat Amphitheatre.
In 2017 the Dallas Zoo expanded the Wilds of Africa area once again with the opening of the Simmons hippo outpost exhibit.
The zoo is divided into 2 portions Zoo North and Wilds of Africa.
Zoo North exhibits
Lacerte Family Children’s Zoo
Here kids can meet pigs, rabbits, guinea pigs and some other farm animals. There is also Travis and Zach’s birds landings where you can get up close with birds. The stream is located here and is the place where kids can play in the water.
Endangered Tiger Enclosure
This enclosure is 0.8ha (2 acres) and resembles a forest which is regenerating after logging. Visitors can observe Sumatran and Malayan tigers.
Features Africa’s and South Americas monkey species.
Zoo North is also home to otters, Galapagos tortoises, Bug U! and the Bird and reptile buildings.
Wilds of Africa
This area was the first to feature all of Africa’s major habitats. The area features
Penguin Cove is where you can meet African penguins.
Chimpanzee forest is a 19,000 square foot habitat where guests can meet the chimpanzees. There is an open air viewing or windowed viewing area. There is also a fake termite mound out of which the chimps can get treats. It also features 40 edible plants for them to eat.
Gorilla research centre
Originally opened in 1990 and extensively renovated in 2004 the enclosure is home to two gorilla troops. These inhabit the two enclosures and also live within the Gorilla Research centre. There is a range of vantage points and gorilla guides are present to answer questions.
Visitors can watch Nile crocodiles above water as well as below.
The monorail Safari takes guests to portions of wilds of Africa which cannot be seen on foot. There are rainforest, mountain, woodland, river, arid desert, semi-arid desert and bush habitats. Animals such as zebra, ibex, okapi, oryx, gazelle, addax, pelicans, cranes, gerenuk, kudu and storks.
Giants of the Savanna
Giants of the Savanna is an 4.6ha (11 acre) complex which received special recognition from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. The habitat is a home for elephants, giraffes, lions, cheetahs, impala, zebra, ostrich, guineafowl, warthogs and red river hogs.
This habitat has assisted the zoo in receiving the first ever “Step in the Right Direction” recognition from In Defence of Animals (IDA). Each year they release the “Top Ten Worst Zoos for Elephants” list. This exposes the suffering of the world’s largest animals. The IDA actually awarded Dallas recognition for their protected contact handling practices, not breeding, acquiring elephant from circuses etc. and a moderate climate.
Simmons Hippo Outpost
At Simmons Hippo Outpost a group of river hippos can be seen swimming. The 1.4ha (3.5 acre) enclosure is viewable from the walking path and the monorail.
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