Fresno Chaffee Zoo

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Fresno Chaffee Zoo
Date opened 1929
Location Fresno, California, USA
Coordinates 36°45′08″N 119°49′17″W / 36.7522°N 119.8215°W / 36.7522; -119.8215Coordinates: 36°45′08″N 119°49′17″W / 36.7522°N 119.8215°W / 36.7522; -119.8215
Land area 18 acres (7.3 ha)
Memberships AZA,[1] WAZA[2]

Fresno Chaffee Zoo is a zoo located in center of Roeding Park in Fresno, California. In addition to animal displays, it is also the home of Ross Laird's Winged Wonders Bird Show. The mission of the Zoo is to provide a fun, unique and up-close experience that strengthens the bond between people and wildlife. Fresno Chaffee Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and is a member of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA).


Early days

What would eventually become the Fresno Chaffee Zoo was formed some time around 1908. The first animals were largely unwanted pets which had been donated by Sezer Tamcakir. The earliest zoo record describes a collection consisting of two bears and around fifty birds of various species. The newly built Amphitheater helped the zoo attract crowds as well. Bears, local cats, hoof stock, and birds were added to the Zoo and housed in log cabin type exhibits.[3] The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) officially recognizes the park opening in 1929 as the Roeding Park Zoo.


The zoo grew both in size and quality of facilities substantially in the 1940s and 50's, reaching the 100 animal milestone in 1947, with still more birds in residence. The zoo's first foreman, Eldon "Curly" Blocker, was hired away from the San Diego Zoo, and his status made it easier for the zoo to expand its collection. In 1949, the zoo's iconic Asian elephant Nosey was obtained with help from the Fresno Rotary Club (Nosey's name was determined by a city-wide "Name-the-Elephant Contest"). Her arrival coincided with Fresno's "49ers Days Rodeo Parade", and Nosey's presence in that parade was popular enough to spawn the creation of the Fresno Zoological Society, which would create interest in the zoo and provide fundraising mechanisms for years to come.


In the 1950s, ten large exhibits were added to the zoo grounds, ranging from monkeys, sea lions, camels, giraffes, an African bird aviary, to a polar bear habitat and on-site feed and medical compounds. The zoo became an institutional member of the AZA in 1957.


In the 1960s, the zoo's operation underwent some major changes: in response to increased vandalism, the park's grounds were fenced off; a 25 cent admission fee was implemented; a Parks Zoo Admissions Trust Fund was established to provide a link between the zoo and the Fresno City Council. In 1965, Dr. Paul Chaffee was hired as the zoo's first director and veterinarian, and the management duties switched from the Zoo Society to the director. In the late 1960s, the animal exhibits were renovated, with features such as climate control being added to increase the comfort of the animals. Nutritional programs were also reevaluated, which extended the lifespans of the zoo's animals. In 1967, the large Bird of Prey exhibit was constructed, and in 1968 a Zoo Master Plan was drafted, to guide the future development of the Zoo.


The Zoo's area expanded by a third, and new exhibits featuring bison, elk, and prairie dogs were added. In 1976, in honor of the American Bicentennial Celebration, the park's grizzly bear facility was expanded. In 1978, the Park Zoo Trust Fund (different from the Zoo Admissions Trust Fund) was established to make sure a portion of concession sales were used to improve the zoo. This freed the Zoo from having to approve a budget with the City Council. In 1979, the Zoo added the Edward A. Kane Reptile House, which was the world's first computer-controlled reptile habitat.


In 1982, Nosey the Elephant's habitat was renovated and three new elephants were brought in to live alongside her. A red wolf exhibit known as Wolf Woods was added in 1984, and the Doris and Karl Falk Wildlife Education Center was completed. It would become the backbone for the zoo's Educational Center. In 1985, the Zoo's name changed from the Roeding Park Zoo to the Fresno Zoo. In 1988, the Zoo's walkthrough rainforest exhibit was added. 1989 saw the addition of a large classroom wing, and the implementation of the Adopt-an-Animal fundraising program.


The Fresno Zoo was renamed the Chaffee Zoological Gardens of Fresno in 1990 in honor of its longtime director, Dr. Paul S. Chaffee, who died that year. It became more commonly known as the Chaffee Zoo. In 1991 the Zoo's entrance was extended to connect with the nearby Roeding Park Storyland and Playland attractions. The Winged Wonders Bird Show was added, with shows taking place in the newly fenced Amphitheater. In 1993, Nosey the elephant died at the age of 47.[3]


In 2004, "Measure Z" was passed by the voters in Fresno to raise money to expand the zoo, and to improve the animal exhibits. The 150 million dollar project is currently on hold, pending the submission and review of an environmental impact report.

The name of the zoo was changed to Fresno Chaffee Zoo in 2006.

In 2007, there was a traveling "Stingray Bay" exhibit that visited which attracted large crowds to the zoo. Remarkably, several stingrays were bred while they were visiting Fresno.

In 2009, a permanent Stingray Bay exhibit was opened, funded by Measure Z. In the Rainforest exhibit, the former butterfly house (Maddis House) reopened as the Tropical Treasures exhibit in March 2009, featuring poison dart frogs and a sloth amongst other species.

Species Of Animals At Fresno Chaffe Zoo[edit]

  • Malayan tapir
  • Mexican red-kneed tarantula
  • Orangutan
  • Radiated tortoise
  • Red wolf
  • Red ruffed lemur
  • Ring-tailed lemur
  • Scimitar-horned Oryx
  • Siamang[4]


  1. ^ "List of Accredited Zoos and Aquariums". AZA. Retrieved 27 June 2011. 
  2. ^ "Zoos and Aquariums of the World". WAZA. Retrieved 27 June 2011. 
  3. ^ a b "About Fresno Chaffee Zoo". Fresno Chaffee Zoo. Retrieved 27 February 2011. 
  4. ^

External links[edit]

Media related to Fresno Chaffee Zoo at Wikimedia Commons