Philadelphia Zoo

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Philadelphia Zoo
The gate above the zoo's entrance
Date opened March 21, 1859 (chartered); July 1, 1874 (opened)
Location Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Coordinates 39°58′28.22″N 75°11′44.44″W / 39.9745056°N 75.1956778°W / 39.9745056; -75.1956778Coordinates: 39°58′28.22″N 75°11′44.44″W / 39.9745056°N 75.1956778°W / 39.9745056; -75.1956778
Land area 42 acres (17 ha)
Number of animals 1,500
Memberships AZA[1]

The Philadelphia Zoo, located in the Centennial District of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on the west bank of the Schuylkill River, was the first zoo in the United States. Chartered by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania on March 21, 1859, its opening was delayed by the American Civil War until July 1, 1874. It opened with 1,000 animals and an admission price of 25 cents.[2] For a brief time, the zoo also housed animals brought over from safari on behalf of the Smithsonian Institution, which had not yet built the National Zoo in the 1850s.[3]

The Philadelphia Zoo is one of the premier zoos in the world for breeding animals that have been found difficult to breed in captivity.[4] The zoo also works with many groups around the world to protect the natural habitats of the animals in their care.

The zoo is 42 acres (17 ha) and is home to more than 1,300 animals, many of which are rare and endangered. The zoo features a children's zoo, a paddleboat lake, a rainforest themed carousel, and many interactive and educational exhibits.


Victorian gateway by Frank Furness

The zoo was once served by the Zoological Garden station on 34th Street and Girard Avenue until the year 1902.[5]

In the early morning of December 24, 1995, a fire in the World of Primates building killed 23 animals, including a family group of six lowland gorillas, a family group of three orangutans, four white-handed gibbons, and ten lemurs (two ruffed lemurs, six ring-tailed lemurs, and two mongoose lemurs).[6][7] All were members of endangered species. The animals died in their sleep from smoke inhalation (carbon-monoxide poisoning); none were burned. Ten primates housed in an adjoining building, the Discovery House, survived. At the time of the fire, detection equipment existed in only 20% of the zoo buildings; the primates building, which had been constructed in 1985, was not one of them. In the ten months following the fire, the zoo installed fire detection equipment in all animal buildings.[8]

On July 1, 1999, the zoo opened a new primate exhibit, the PECO Primate Reserve. It features 2.5 acres (10,000 m2) of indoor and outdoor exhibits with ten species of primates, including Sumatran orangutans, Western lowland gorillas, lemurs, langurs, and gibbons.[9]

The elephants at the Philadelphia Zoo have been phased out. In July 2009, the last two elephants, both African, departed.

In 2006, the zoo opened a new, $20-million big cat exhibit, First Niagara Big Cat Falls. Showcasing the animals in scenes reminiscent of their natural habitats, this exhibit allows visitors to get very close to the cats, sometimes separated only by a pane of glass. Visitors can see 12 endangered big cats from around the world, including three new snow leopard cubs, three new cougar kittens, and a new black jaguar cub.

On May 25, 2007, three Amur Tiger cubs were born at the Philadelphia Zoo to mother Kira and father Dmitri (also spelled "Dimitri").[10] The three female cubs, named Changbai, Koosaka, and Terney, were introduced to the public August 16, 2007.[11]

On June 9, 2008, Petal, the oldest African elephant in a United States zoo, died at the age of 52.[12]

On March 21, 2009, the zoo opened its 150th Anniversary Year-Long Celebrations.

McNeil Avian Centre (photo June 2010)

On May 30, 2009, the zoo opened the McNeil Avian Center, a renovation of its classic bird house. It features two birds that are extinct in the wild: the Guam Rail and the Guam Kingfisher, a subspecies of the Micronesian Kingfisher. A theatre presents a fourteen-minute, 4D-movie about avian migration, following the migration of an animated oriole named Otis.

On October 2, 2009, the Zoo welcomed a baby Sumatran Orangutan, subsequently named "Batu". Batu, a female, is the first-born child to 15-year-old father Sugi and 18-year-old mother Tua. She is also the first baby orangutan to be born in the PECO Primate Reserve, which opened in 1999. The Zoo, however, does have a history of successfully breeding orangutans, being the first zoo in the nation to have a successful birth in 1928.

On April 10, 2010, the Zoo's seasonal "Creatures of Habitat" opened, a unique exhibit featuring 9 animal stations throughout the Zoo, each featuring an endangered animal, and each consisting of statue(s) made completely out of Lego bricks. Each statue was created by Sean Kenney, the first of only nine LEGO-certified artists in the world.[13]

On July 17, 2010, the Zoo welcomed a new female baby giraffe to first-time parents Stella, 7, and Gus, 4, after a gestation period of over 15 months. This is the first giraffe birth at the Philadelphia Zoo in over a decade.

On April 13, 2013, the Zoo opened KidZooU on the site of the old Pachyderm House. Also known as the Hamilton Family Children's Zoo and Faris Family Education Center, it is one of the largest projects undertaken by the Zoo and replaces the old Children's Zoo open for over 50 years prior. It is notable for many ecologically conscious features, such as rain gardens and cisterns, geothermal wells, and green roofs, making it the first LEED-certified exhibit at the Zoo.[14]

Features of the zoo[edit]

The Zooballoon above the Philadelphia Zoo with the pre-2008 balloon

Former Features[edit]

  • The Zooballoon: a tethered helium balloon, rose 400 feet (120 m) in the air to offer a view of the Zoo, the Schuylkill River, and the Philadelphia Center City skyline. The Zooballoon was to be retired at the end of 2014, however it was damaged beyond repair on February 3, 2014 by snow.[15]

As of May 2014 the balloon is again in use.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "List of Accredited Zoos and Aquariums". AZA. Retrieved July 7, 2012. 
  2. ^ Ashbrook Apartments newsletter, July 2009, Carrboro, North Carolina
  3. ^ "National Zoological Park , Records". Record Unit 74. Smithsonian Institution Archives. Retrieved 10 April 2012. 
  4. ^ Philadelphia Tours & Attractions
  5. ^ "Officials working to restore rail passenger service to Philly Zoo". 
  6. ^ Philadelphia Zoo Fire
  7. ^ primate
  8. ^ "From the Ashes" (PDF). AZA. Retrieved 2007-05-26. 
  9. ^ Gorilla antics anew at Philadelphia's zoo
  10. ^ "Kira and Cubs". Philadelphia Zoo. Archived from the original on 2007-12-19. Retrieved 2007-05-26. 
  11. ^ Philadelphia Zoo - Amur Tiger
  12. ^ "Philadelphia Zoo Says Good-bye to Petal, the African Elephant". Philadelphia Zoo. Retrieved 2008-06-09. 
  13. ^ Zoo Unveils Exclusive Creatures Of Habitat Lego Brick Animal Exhibit
  14. ^ The KidZooU is the Philadelphia Zoo’s first LEED – certified exhibit.
  15. ^ "Saying goodbye to the Channel 6 ZooBalloon". WPVI-TV. Retrieved 4 February 2014. 


External links[edit]