Jackson Zoo

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Jackson Zoological Park
Date opened 1919[1]
Location Jackson, Mississippi
Coordinates 32°19′13″N 90°13′15″W / 32.3202°N 90.2207°W / 32.3202; -90.2207Coordinates: 32°19′13″N 90°13′15″W / 32.3202°N 90.2207°W / 32.3202; -90.2207
Number of animals 776[1]
Number of species 120[1]
Annual visitors 170,000[1]
Memberships AZA[2]
Website www.jacksonzoo.org

The Jackson Zoo is located in Jackson, Mississippi. The Jackson Zoo has attracted people from across the state and beyond for more than 90 years. The zoo boasts an animal collection representing over 120 species and nearly 800 individual animals that provide glimpses of native wildlife from around the world.[1]

The Jackson Zoo is situated within the historic 110-acre (0.45 km2) Livingston Park and welcomes approximately 200,000 visitors annually from Mississippi and surrounding states. 35,000 school children make their way to the zoo throughout the school year.[1]

Guests can also enjoy fare from the Elephant House Cafe, purchase keepsake merchandise from the Jackson Zoo Trading Company. Picnics are permitted in Livingston Park and rides are available on the Endangered Species Carousel or the train.

The Jackson Zoo is the second largest zoo in the state (behind the 175-acre (0.71 km2) Tupelo Buffalo Park and Zoo) and is the only zoo accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) in the state.

History of the Jackson Zoo[edit]

In 1916, the city of Jackson purchased 79 acres (320,000 m2) of undeveloped land from Samuel Livingston in an area that was then on the outskirts of the city. In 1919, a group of firefighters began collecting exotic animals and housing them in the central fire station, in what is now Jackson’s Chamber of Commerce Building. After the collection changed from small rabbits and squirrels to zebras, the city decided to move the animals to the newly purchased land and in 1921, the animals were moved and the Livingston Park Zoo was created.[3]

As the animal collection increased over the years, the city of Jackson realized that the Zoo could also serve as a boost during times of economic struggle. With the economy having its downfalls, the city of Jackson and the zoo’s Director Irl Bennett used the zoo to help Jackson, constructing many of the zoo’s buildings under the Works Progress Administration (WPA) to give many of its citizen’s construction jobs and the entire city a place to enjoy with their families. Today, many of the buildings constructed during this time are still standing, including the zoo’s Castle and Elephant House Café. At the time, the castle served as Monkey Island, housing several dozen Rhesus Macaques and the Café housed a young Asian elephant. The zoo also served as a park to its visitors, with much of the land open as a scenic park and a lake for visitors to enjoy during the hot summer months.

In 1948, the animal collection was expanded due to the efforts of Dr. Jacob L. Reddix, President of Jackson State College. The zoo purchased several animals from the Liberian government, including three chimpanzees, three gray Mangabey monkeys, a Colobus monkey, a lemur, and two pythons.

In the 1970s, the zoo added the children's petting zoo which would later be renovated to what is now the Discovery Zoo and also built an animal hospital to be able perform routine animal checkups, surgeries for any of the zoo’s residents and quarantine new animals before they live amongst the zoo’s animal collection. In 1975, James L. Swigert became the zoo director and with the help of the Jackson City Council and a design group, this director put together the zoo's first Master Plan.

In 1985, space from Livingston Park was added to the zoo, which allowed for the development of the African Rainforest Exhibit and in 1987, Barbara Barrett Piazza was hired as zoo director.

In 1989, the zoo became accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (now known as the AZA) and in 1995, Mississippi state government approved legislation providing $4 million for capital improvements in the zoo. In 1998, the city agreed to a $1.5 million match. This expansion included the African Savannah and the Mississippi Wilderness Exhibit. It was the largest capital improvement project in the zoo’s history.

In 1996, the zoo became a member of a community organization called ZAPP (Zoo Area Progressive Partnership) in an endeavor to assist with the regeneration of the neighborhoods surrounding the zoo.

In 2004, The Friends of the Zoo installed a new Endangered Species Carousel. This carousel was built with the zoo in mind, having animals such as zebras, leopards, giraffes, and tigers to ride, instead of the traditional horses, and even an alligator bench built with the handicap accessibility.

In 2005, the zoo opened the African Savannah exhibit. Barbara Piazza retired as zoo director and Beth Poff became the zoo’s fifth director.

On April 8, 2006, Wilderness Mississippi area opened to the public. The zoo also completed orangutan exhibit renovations for its two Bornean Orangutans and the zoo is named a “Southern Travel Treasure” by AAA Magazine.

In 2007, The Jackson Zoo was named the “Travel Attraction of the Year” at the Governor’s Conference on Tourism presented by the Mississippi Tourism Association and received the Attraction of the Year Award at the Jackson Convention & Visitors Bureau Summit Awards. The zoo also began drawings on the new Asia renovation started for exhibit improvements including new tiger exhibit and a water garden.

A groundbreaking was held on September 27, 2007, for the new Gertrude C. Ford Education Center in the Wilderness Mississippi area of the zoo set to open in April 2008. In October, renovations were also completed in the Zoo’s Animal Hospital with state funding and donations from Baptist Medical Center.

Exhibits and Animal Collection[edit]

The Jackson Zoo has currently has nearly 800 animals, representing more than 200 different species from all over the world. Currently, the zoo is renovating many of its older exhibits to new exhibits that simulate the animals natural environment so that visitors can not only see many of the world's beautiful animals, but also the scenery that these animals live in.

The zoo has several areas dedicated to specific places on Earth, including the African Rainforest, African Savannah, Wilderness Mississippi, Froggy Bottom, Jewels of South America Aviary, the Discovery Zoo, and several other exhibits throughout the 110-acre (0.45 km2) park.

African Rainforest[edit]

The African Rainforest is a boardwalk off the main path of the zoo that is designed to submerse visitors into the dense jungle of the forest. This simulated ecosystem is home to many of the zoo's more popular residents, including the chimpanzees and many of the zoo's monkey exhibits.

Jackson Zoo Pygmy Hippopotamus.jpg
  • Pygmy Hippopotamus pool - The first exhibit on the African Rainforest is a large lake to the right of the wooden boardwalk. In this lake, with the native red eared sliders, river cooters, and fish, are two pygmy hippopotamuses. Smaller than their larger cousins, the Nile hippopotamus, these mammals typically can be found either in their lake, or wallowing in several of their mud holes in the back portion of the exhibit.
Jackson Zoo Chimpanzee Pair.JPG
  • Chimpanzee Island - The zoo currently has seven chimpanzees, all of which live on a large Island in the African Rainforest exhibit. The zoo has two males and five females, and to ensure the safety of the males, the zoo keeps a pair, male and female, and a family group, the other male and the four females separated.

To accommodate both groups of great apes, the zoo alternates the pair and family groups access to the Island each day, letting the other group only access to the inside enclosure, a building simulated to look like a large rock/cliff on the side of the Island.

  • Red-Tailed Guenon, Colobus Monkey and Klipspringer Exhibit - this mixed exhibit, with two different species of monkey and a deer like animal is designed to show visitors how many animals coexist within the same environment. The zoo has several of both species of primates, many of which can typically be seen playing with several enrichment items that keeper staff give to these inquisitive animals.
Jackson Zoo Southern White Rhinoceros.jpg

African Savannah[edit]

The zoo's African Savannah exhibit is built as two large open plains, separated by a small row of trees. Completed in 2005, these mixed exhibits were designed so that when visitors view its residents, they feel like they are out on a field expedition on the open Savannah.

The Savannah is home to many species of antelope, birds, and even reptiles. The zoo accommodates this by having a large field, with several night houses for the animals to sleep in and several places for the weary animals to hide if need be. Currently, the zoo has several animals calling the African Savannah home, including Sable Antelope, Nile Lechwe, Addra Gazelle, Spur-winged Geese, African Spurred Tortoises, Zebra, Wattled Cranes, and Ostriches.

Wilderness Mississippi[edit]

In the spring of 2006, the Jackson Zoo opened its newest area of the park, a section of the zoo dedicated completely to Mississippi's most beautiful creatures. With newly designed exhibits portraying many of the states natural ecosystems, the Jackson Zoo has many of the states most represented animals including Black Bears, Mountain Lions, and rattlesnakes now calling the zoo home.

The first building found on the zoo's new facility is the Backyard Creatures, a venomous snake house.


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Zoo Facts". jacksonzoo.org. The Jackson Zoo. Retrieved 21 February 2010. 
  2. ^ "The Jackson Zoo". jacksonzoo.org. The Jackson Zoo. Retrieved 21 February 2010. 
  3. ^ "History of the Jackson Zoo". jacksonzoo.org. The Jackson Zoo. Retrieved 21 February 2010. 

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