|Date opened||1905; June 6, 1992|
|Location||Stoneham, Massachusetts, USA|
|Land area||26 acres (10.5 ha)|
Stone Zoo is a medium-small sized zoo of about 26 acres (10.5 ha) in Stoneham, Massachusetts, United States, by the Spot Pond reservoir. It is operated by Zoo New England, which also operates the Franklin Park Zoo in Boston.
Stone Zoo is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).
The zoo was founded in 1905 as the Middlesex Fells Zoo. It began as a small collection of local animals, but soon began to include more exotic species as well. A new attraction, the Kiddy Zoo (which was largely based on Mother Goose stories) opened in the 1950s. The zoo underwent major renovations in the 1960s under the guidance of zoo director Walter D. Stone; state-of-the-art exhibits were built, including a large free-flight aviary. Also from the renovation project, the zoo began featuring elephants, giraffes, zebras, pygmy hippopotamuses, sea lions, and many other large animals. On March 14, 1969, the zoo was renamed the Walter D. Stone Memorial Zoo in honor of Walter D. Stone, after his untimely death in 1968.
The zoo was very popular by the 1970s and 1980s. During this time, it began breeding endangered species, including orangutans, kinkajous, siamang gibbons, and kudus. A polar bear named "Major" came in July 1979, and soon became the zoo's main attraction.
On November 12, 1990, after drastic state budget cuts, the Stone Zoo was forced to shut down. Due to a public outcry, the state senate helped set up a private, non-profit corporation to manage the zoo, with the help of fund-raising, donations, etc. During this transition period the zoo lost all of its large animals (except for Major, who stayed at the zoo until his death in 2000), and the grounds were not kept properly. The zoo rapidly declined in quality, and then in attendance. Old facilities were put to new uses, such as using the giraffe house as an animal education center. The zoo reopened its gates on June 6, 1992.
In the early 2000s, Zoo New England began a fund-raising campaign to reinvigorate both the Stone Zoo and the Franklin Park Zoo. A variety of fund-raisers were carried out, and a variety of plans for improvements to the zoo were drawn up. Surveys were made of zoo visitors about the various plans, and Zoo New England has been using the results to direct their improvement and renovation plans. On September 24, 2005, Stone Zoo celebrated its 100th anniversary.
The current layout aims to make the whole grounds interesting and educational, without featuring as many large animals as a major zoo. Since 2000 a number of significant improvements have been made, such as:
- Birds of prey outdoor wild bird demonstrations (an independent contract with the World Bird Sanctuary based out of St. Louis, Missouri, running Memorial Day through Labor Day only) (c. 2005)
- Meerkats (c. 2006)
- Upgrades to the river otter exhibit (2008)
- A new black bear exhibit, featuring two black bears, built on the site of the old polar bear exhibit (2008)
- An annual holiday light exhibit, ZooLights, with thousands of lights and Christmas displays (runs from Thanksgiving through Christmastime)
- A newly built open air environment for gibbons (2009), as gibbons are tree-dwellers.
- An all-new seasonal exhibit, Aussie Adventure (2013), open from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
Since this time, the grounds of the zoo have been improved; attendance is up. Funds are already being raised for a series of new improvements and exhibitions.
- Yukon Creek (opened in the early 2000s): Simulates the Canadian north woods; contains gray fox, bald eagles, lynx, reindeer, etc.
- Himalayan Highlands: Yak, snow leopards, Markhor goats, and cranes.
- Treasures of the Sierra Madre (opened in 2002): Jaguar, coyotes, cougars, Gila monsters, etc.
- Windows to the Wild (opened in May 2003): Meerkats, flamingos, kookaburras, hornbills, Inca terns, Emperor tamarins, etc.
- Barnyard: Sheep, goats, pygmy zebu. This section also features a playground.
- Aussie Adventure: An all-new seasonal exhibit open from Memorial Day through Labor Day; showcases koalas, kookaburras, wallabies, tawny frogmouths, etc. Also included is a free-flight budgerigar aviary, similar to the one at Franklin Park Zoo.
There are two bathrooms, one food concessions area, and one gift shop.