Roger Williams Park Zoo
|Date opened||1872, June 1, 1980 (renovated/expanded) |
|Location||Providence, Rhode Island, USA|
|Land area||40 acres|
|Number of species||100+|
The Roger Williams Park Zoo of Providence, Rhode Island, USA houses over 100 species of rare animals in naturalistic settings. The park and zoo are named after the founder of Providence, Roger Williams, the 17th-century proponent of religious tolerance.
The zoo was founded in 1872, and is one of the oldest zoos in the nation. The zoo was closed from 1978 to 1980 for renovations.
Since the late 2000s, the zoo has been in the midst of a new renovation project, called "The New Zoo". Recent addition included a bald eagle exhibit, a giant anteater exhibit, river otters, tree shrews, Chinese alligators and renovation of the Fabric of Africa exhibit.
The Roger Williams Park Zoo first opened in 1872. It began as a limited collection of small animals, including raccoons, guinea pigs, mouse, squirrels, rabbits, hawks, peacocks and anteaters. The zoo's first building, the Menagerie, opened in 1890. In the 1900s, the facility began to spread out over the entire park, featuring a variety of animals such as monkeys, hoofstock, bears, and big cats.
Many new exhibits opened over time. In 1929, the Menagerie building was converted to a birdhouse; this was followed by the opening of an elephant house in 1930. In the 1930s, a new sea lion pool was constructed. Bunny Village, one of the zoo's most popular exhibits, opened in 1949.
In the mid-1960s, the zoo started to show visible signs of neglect. In 1962, Sophie Danforth founded the Rhode Island Zoological Society, an organization to increase public awareness of the neglect, and to raise funds for improvement. Its goal is to provide public support for improvements to the Zoo, such as funding new exhibits, improving old exhibits, and providing the groundwork for research, educational programs, and zoo conservation. Today, Rhode Island Zoological Society remains as the non-profit organization that supports and manages the Zoo.
Like any other organization, the Society needed members to help complete their goals. Members would be kept informed and help promote visiting the zoo. Members paid dues, which went towards buying animals and zoo supplies. However, this was not enough. To fill the gaps, the Society opened a gift shop in 1970, as well as food concessions, and all funds benefited the zoo.
In 1978, the zoo closed for two years to embark upon an upgrade project. A children's nature center was added, as well as a naturalistic polar bear exhibit, a wetlands trail, and a North American bison exhibit. The zoo reopened on June 1, 1980. In the 1980s, a South American Pampas exhibit and a lemur exhibit were built. In 1986, the zoo's old barn was converted into an animal hospital, education department, and an administrative offices center. As a result, the zoo became the first in New England to receive accreditation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
In 1987, a new master plan was formulated to dramatically expand the zoo over the next decade. Over time, many new exhibits were built, including a new sea lion exhibit (1987), a humboldt penguin exhibit (1988), Plains of Africa (1991/1993), Madagascar (1995), and Marco Polo Trail (1996). In 1989, the old Menagerie building was once again renovated - this time into a new gift shop.
Another master plan was formulated in the late 2000s, dubbed "The New Zoo". Almost every area of the zoo will be affected and the changes will be momentous – all aimed at enhancing the visitor’s experience and understanding of the natural world. Capital improvements include renovations on the Plains of Africa exhibit, renaming it Fabric of Africa. The renovated area includes an outdoor elephant enclosure twice as big as the previous one with an immersion pool for bathing. A new veterinary hospital opened in the spring of 2011, helping to ensure continued top-notch healthcare for the zoo’s animal collection. In 2012, Hasbro's Our Big Backyard, an interactive playspace, was opened. Featuring hands-on educational fun and an interactive tree house, it opened June 4, with a second phase featuring native New England animals scheduled for completion in 2014. Originally the North American trail was supposed to host the return of the polar bears, but due to the economic downturn the zoo has decided that a new polar bear exhibit was not feasible. Because of that, the zoo is now planning for a big cat exhibit as an alternative, and in the summer of 2012 opened new exhibits for takins, red river hogs, and king vultures.
Animals and Exhibits
The zoo is home to more than 100 species of animals, many of which are rare. Major exhibits at the zoo include:
- North America - features river otters, harbor seals, bald eagles, American bison, red wolves and more. The harbor seals can be viewed through an underwater window.
- Fabric of Africa - (opened in April 1991, expanded in 1993, and renovated in 2008) features giraffes, zebras, African wild dogs, African elephants, West African Crowned Crane and red river hogs.
- Tropical America - contains king vultures, cotton-top tamarins, Chilean flamingoes, birds, anteaters, bats, etc. The anteater exhibit opened in 2007.
- Marco Polo Adventure Trek - opened in 1996; features camels, moon bears, snow leopards, Sichuan takins, Red-Crowned Crane, and red pandas.
- Australasia - includes Northern white-cheeked gibbon, emus, tree kangaroos, gray kangaroos[disambiguation needed], babirusa, binturongs, wallabies, and Chinese Alligator.
- Farmyard - Undergoing renovation, will reopen in the summer of 2014.
- Hasbro's Our Big Backyard - An interactive play space for children and families. Promotes outdoor, free-ended play.
Other exhibits include the Feinstein Junior Scholar Wetlands Trail.
- "Roger Williams Park Zoo - Providence, Rhode Island - Zoo and Wildlife Conservationists". city-data.com. City-Data. Retrieved 19 August 2010.
- "History of Roger Williams park Zoo". rogerwilliamsparkzoo.org. Roger Williams Park Zoo. Retrieved 19 August 2010.
- "About Roger Williams park Zoo". rogerwilliamsparkzoo.org. Roger Williams Park Zoo. Retrieved 19 August 2010.
- "List of Accredited Zoos and Aquariums". aza.org. AZA. Retrieved 27 October 2012.
- "Zoo abandons plans for polar bear exhibit". turnto10.com. NBC 10 News. Retrieved 4 April 2012.
- "Rhode Island Zoos". destination360.com. Destination360. Retrieved 20 August 2010.
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