Southwick's Zoo

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Southwick's Zoo
Entrance sign
Date opened 1963[1]
Location Mendon, Massachusetts, USA
Coordinates 42°03′53″N 71°35′05″W / 42.064643°N 71.5848541°W / 42.064643; -71.5848541Coordinates: 42°03′53″N 71°35′05″W / 42.064643°N 71.5848541°W / 42.064643; -71.5848541
Land area 300 acres (120 ha)[2]
Number of animals ~500[1]
Number of species 100+[3]

Southwick's Zoo is a 300-acre (120 ha), privately owned and operated zoological park located in Mendon, Massachusetts, USA. It was opened in 1963, and remains family operated to date.


The Southwick homestead (which the zoo now occupies) dates back to 1803 when it was a working dairy farm. In the 1930s, Justin F. Southwick started collecting exotic poultry. His son, Justin A. Southwick, shared his father's love of birds, and became a leading authority on migratory waterfowl. In 1953, he sold the dairy herd to concentrate on birds. In 1956, he placed a donation box at the barn where he kept his birds, which let him purchase more for his collection.[1]

The family opened the zoo in 1963. In 1965, they formed two companies: Southwick's Wild Animal Farm Inc. and Southwick's Birds and Animals Inc., with Justin A. Southwick as president of both, his son Dan as vice-president of "Birds and Animals" (which traded, sold, and leased animals), and his son in law Robert Brewer as vice-president of the "Wild Animal Farm". The Brewer family moved away for a while to other opportunities, and Dan Southwick took over the businesses in 1971. With his death in 1977 the zoo suffered for a while until the Brewer family moved back and took over the operations.[1]

The zoo opened a new chimpanzee exhibit in 2001, and the SkyFari in 2008.

In 2010, Southwick's Zoo was named as one of the "Ten Worst Zoos For Elephants" by the animal rights organization In Defense of Animals.


North American Exhibit

This exhibit is home to many North American animals including elk (wapiti), red deer, great blue herons, river otters, swans, foxes, and painted turtles. Visitors are taken around this exhibit on the Woodland Express, a rubber-tired train.[4]

Deer Forest

This 35-acre (14 ha) walk-through exhibit lets visitors get close to, and even feed, the resident animals. Residents of this exhibit include fallow deer, painted turtles, native birds, and frogs.[3][5] Visitors can also see this exhibit from the air on the Skyfari.[6]


The zoo started with an interest in migratory waterfowl, and birds have always had a special place. Birds can be found in exhibits throughout the zoo including the Earth Discovery Center and Parakeet Landing, a walk-through aviary that lets visitors come in contact with parakeets and cockatiels, as well as feed them. Birds at the zoo include macaws, cockatoos, conures, eclectus, cockatiels, ostriches, emu, rhea, African crowned cranes, flamingos, Mandarin ducks, Polish chickens, fancy pigeons, and kookaburra.[7]

Earth Discovery Center

This is the zoo's education center, and in addition to the education programs it houses many smaller animals including macaws, bush babys, porcupines, turtles, snakes, bearded dragons, and other reptiles.[3] Some of the animals housed here have been rehabilitated after injury or donated by owners who could no loner care for them.[7]

Big Cats

There are 3 big cat exhibits; Lions, Bengal Tigers, and Leopard. The lions like to rest on their rocks, the tigers enjoy swimming in their pool, and the Leopard could climb rocks and branches. [1] [2] [3]

Giraffe Exhibit

A new Giraffe exhibit opened in 2011. They had a larger exhibit space, and opportunities to feed them were presented to the public. [4]. Nearby is a new Spotted Hyena exhibit. [5]


The zoo has the largest primate collection in New England. Their collection includes Lemurs, Galagos, Gibbons, Monkeys, and Chimpanzees. [6]

Other attractions[edit]

There are many other animal exhibits on zoo grounds, such as Binturongs, Capybara, Brazilian Tapirs, White Rhinos, an American Alligator, and more. [7]

A petting zoo, pony rides, and camel rides are available at the zoo. At one time, elephant rides were also offered, but the zoo no longer keeps elephants after their last elephant died. A play area for children is also available, with play structures made from recyclable materials.[5][8]

The Skyfari Sky Ride, which takes visitors over a large portion of the zoo in a triangular pattern, was opened in 2008. Visitors can see alligators, watusi cattle, camels, chimpanzees, mandrills, and elk, as well as fly over Deer Woods, in a two-seat chair lift.[6][9]

New Exhibits and Additions[edit]

In 2013 a new, much larger prairie dog exhibit opened and can be seen by the Wilderness Express. Scimitar-horned oryxes are added to the Savannah exhibit. There is a two-toed sloth exhibit by the chimpanzee exhibit. Plus a new cheetah exhibit behind the yak exhibit opened on June 2013. In 2014, they opened "Rhino Encounters" so guests can feel the rhinos' skins by touching.


The zoo has had education programs since it opened in 1963. These were initially run by Robert Brewer, and are now provided by Earth Limited, which was founded by Betsey Brewer and includes a staff of certified teachers, education coordinators, college students, volunteers, and interns from area colleges.[10][11]


  1. ^ a b c d "The Southwick Story". Southwick's Zoo. Retrieved 20 July 2011. 
  2. ^ Windler, Chikage (2005-06-22). "Great Escape: Southwick's Zoo". (WHDH-TV). Retrieved 20 July 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c "Exhibits". Southwick's Zoo. Retrieved 10 July 2011. 
  4. ^ "Woodland Express". Southwick's Zoo. Retrieved 20 July 2011. 
  5. ^ a b "Southwick's Wild Animal Zoo". Boston Central. Retrieved 20 July 2011. 
  6. ^ a b "Skyfari Sky Ride". Southwick's Zoo. Retrieved 20 July 2011. 
  7. ^ a b "Birds Exhibits". Southwick's Zoo. Retrieved 20 July 2011. 
  8. ^ "All elephants at Southwick Animal Farms, Inc in United States". Elephant Encyclopedia. Retrieved 20 July 2011. 
  9. ^ "Southwick's Zoo". Southwick's Zoo. Retrieved 20 July 2011. 
  10. ^ "Some Zoo History". Southwick's Zoo. Retrieved 20 July 2011. 
  11. ^ "Welcome to Earth Ltd., located at Southwick’s Zoo". Earth Limited. Retrieved 20 July 2011. 

External links[edit]

Media related to Southwick's Zoo at Wikimedia Commons