Tulsa Zoo

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Tulsa Zoo
Entrance Sign
Date opened 1927[1]
Location Mohawk Park, Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA
Coordinates 36°12′31″N 95°55′47″W / 36.20868°N 95.92978°W / 36.20868; -95.92978Coordinates: 36°12′31″N 95°55′47″W / 36.20868°N 95.92978°W / 36.20868; -95.92978
Land area 85 acres (34 ha)[2]
Number of animals 2,500[2]
Number of species 436[1]
Annual visitors 600,000[2]
Memberships AZA,[3] AAM[4]
Website www.tulsazoo.org
Zoo train

The Tulsa Zoo is a 85-acre (34 ha) non-profit zoo located in Tulsa, Oklahoma USA. The Tulsa Zoo is owned by the City of Tulsa, but since 2010 has been privately managed by Tulsa Zoo Management, Inc.[5][6][7] The zoo is located in Mohawk Park, one of the largest municipal parks in the United States.

The zoo is involved in many conservation efforts, such as a push to reduce the use of palm oil,[8] FrogWatch USA, and efforts to encourage ocean conservation.[9]

The Tulsa Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.


In 2005, the Tulsa Zoo was named as "America's Favorite Zoo" by Microsoft Game Studios and was granted $25,000 in a contest designed to promote the Zoo Tycoon 2 computer game. The contest counted votes from zoo visitors across the country for many of America's top zoos, including the San Diego Zoo and the Bronx Zoo.

Animals and exhibits[edit]

Elephant exhibit

Robert J. LaFortune Wild Life Trek[edit]

The Robert J. LaFortune WildLIFE Trek is a four-building complex, formerly the North American Living Museum, and is the recipient of many awards, including best new exhibit when it was constructed in 1978. As of spring 2013 each building focuses on animals from around the world and their adaptations to life in the water, desert, forest, and cold. Animals in this complex include Siberian Cranes, Bush baby, albino alligator, chinchilla, Peccary, Sand Cats and Grizzly Bears.

Albino Alligator in the Wild LIFE Trek

Lost Kingdom: Elephant[edit]

Encompasses a 2.5-acre (1 ha) area for the zoo's three elephants and includes an Elephant Interpretive Center which highlights of the life and history of the Asian Elephant species through a variety of interactive exhibits. Visitors can view the elephants from both indoor and outdoor viewing areas and the exhibit includes an elephant demonstration yard.

Tropical American Rain Forest[edit]

A living, naturalistic re-creation of a Central and South American rain forest environment. The exhibit incorporates translucent panels to illuminate the canopy of the rain forest, and a path guides visitors through the nearly 50-foot (15 m) high building. Exotic species include black howler monkeys, sloths, a green anaconda, piranhas, dwarf caimans, and jaguars and tufted-ear marmosets. The native human cultures of this region are also highlighted throughout the exhibit. Many species are not caged, including rainforest birds, to allow for a more realistic jungle feel.

Chimpanzee Connection[edit]

Visitors can view chimpanzees in a large outdoor enclosure or a large indoor play-area. The exhibit is outfitted with climbing equipment to help keep the chimps mentally and physically active.

In 2007, the Tulsa Zoo received two new additions to the Chimp Connection, Vindi and Bernsen. Vindi, a chimp born in February was named by means of a vote.[10]

Helmerich Sea Lion Cove[edit]

Presentation with Dorsey the Sea Lion

A naturalistic habitat for California Sea Lions, opened in 2012. The exhibit features a saltwater pool, large underwater viewing window wall, waterfall, rock haul-out areas, themed holding building and a large covered seating area for visitors. A behavioral conditioning program, intended to provide visitors with information about the resident sea lions (named Dorsey, Cisco, and Reyes), is demonstrated for the public midday on the weekend.

Penguin Habitat[edit]

African Black-footed Penguin exhibit, opened to the public in 2002 after a four year fund-raising campaign. The penguin enclosure is the foundation of “Oceans and Islands,” an exhibit area for the zoo that includes a naturalistic California Sea Lion exhibit and a Flamingo colony and also Black and White Ruffed Lemurs. The design for the penguin habitat includes geo-thermal heating and cooling to regulate the water temperature for the warm water inhabitants. A “wave pool” or water action simulator, plus a rocky coastline setting, imitates their natural habitat. Special viewing windows were built into the wall of the exhibit for visitors observe the penguins under water. The exhibit currently holds 20 penguins, and can hold up to 30.

African Penguin Exhibit

The fund-raising campaign for this exhibit was a local art project that created 6-foot (1.8 m) tall penguin sculptures. Businesses gave donations to the fund-raising campaign and then received the penguin sculpture at their desired location. These penguins are now called, “Tulsa penguins.”[11]

African Plains[edit]

The African Plains area of the zoo features Meerkats, Giraffes, Lions, Aldabra Tortoise, Rhinos and, African Wild Dogs. A new Meerkat pup in 2012 was the first addition to the Meerkat colony in 14 years.[12] A remodeling of a portion of the African Plains area began in 2013 to provide a new habitat for the zoo's two White Rhinoceros.

Asian Area[edit]

Malayan Tiger

The northeastern portion of the Zoo has been designated as the Asian area. Current exhibits in the area include the Siamang Island, which features a raised overlook providing views of Siamangs and Spectacled Langur Monkeys. The Elephant Encounter houses the zoo's three Asian Elephants, and includes the Elephant Interpretive Center featuring educational displays. Plans for expansion of the area in 2014 include naturalistic habitats for Malayan Tigers, Snow Leopards and Komodo Dragons.

Children's Zoo[edit]

The Children's zoo has a contact yard where kids can get up close and personal with Nigerian dwarf goats, Southdown sheep, Katadin sheep, earless Lamancha goats, Nubian goats, and rabbits. Open March 1 to Oct. 31. There are also llamas, alpacas, Sicilian donkeys and Guinea Forest hogs. This exhibit also contains the Australian Outback Area, which has red kangaroos. The Children's Zoo also includes American river otters and prairie dogs.

Dave Zucconi Conservation Center[edit]

The flamingos outside the Conservation Center

This building has a large variety of animals including primates, reptiles, birds, and fish. Some endangered animals on display are the spiny turtle, Pan's box turtle (Cuora pani), Black-breasted Hill Turtle, radiated tortoise, Flat-backed Spider Tortoise, Fiji iguana, Grand Cayman Island Blue Iguana, Bali Myna birds, Black and White Ruffed Lemurs, and Thick-billed parrots.

Future developments[edit]

The zoo began work in 2013 on the Mary K. Chapman Rhinoceros Exhibit, which will replace an older facility and host the zoo's two white Rhinoceroses. It will consist of a 3 acre outside yard and a 8,925 square foot barn.[13] As part of the Zoo's new 20-year Master Plan, released in 2012, the Zoo has also announced that work will begin in 2014 on the Helmerich Tiger Exhibit, named for the zoo's largest private donor.[14] The new exhibit will house Malayan Tigers. It will be part of a new "Lost Kingdoms" section of the Zoo, highlighting other rare animals from Asia, including Snow Leopard and Komodo Dragon.

Master Plan[edit]

African Plains[edit]

Mary K. Chapman Rhino Exhibit - Opening 2014

The current Africa section of the zoo will be transformed with the new rhino, lion, antelope, birds and African painted dog exhibits. A new savannah area will bring even more species into this area and our giraffe exhibit will be expanded and will include indoor viewing for the winter months. Our existing Maasai Village will be renovated to include new small animal exhibits as well as a new dining area. Our first phase of this project will be the new Mary K. Chapman Rhino exhibit set to open in 2014.


Lost Kingdom: Helmerich Tiger exhibit, Hardesty snow leopard exhibit, and Lobeck Taylor Red Panda/Binturong exhibit

This new area within the zoo will be themed for guests to explore the mysterious lost world of Asia where structures and relics seem to be lost to the wilderness. Tigers, snow leopards, red pandas, Komodo dragons and more will all be included in this new world to be developed in several phases. The Lost Kingdom Tiger complex is scheduled to open in 2015.

African Forest[edit]

The current Chimpanzee Connection, which houses the zoo’s chimpanzees, will be transformed into the African Forest with an expanded chimpanzee exhibit and the addition of gorillas. This area will be a deep, misty jungle with climbing structures that both our zoo guests and the animals will enjoy, with unique up-close encounters of both species.

Sheepy Hollow[edit]

A re-designed children’s zoo will be a fantastical wonderland for people of all ages. This area will feature explorative play with giant flowers and mushrooms for climbing, animals from all parts of the world, and an area where guests have the opportunity to interact with domestic animals.

Seal show

Wild Islands[edit]

Starting with the opening of Helmerich Sea Lion Cove in March 2012, this portion of the zoo will be transformed into a fun and wet play place that will include a new water guest experience currently not available at the Tulsa Zoo. New exhibits for our Aldabra tortoises, flamingos, and lemurs will be included as well as the renovation of our restaurant and playground.

Conservation program[edit]

The Tulsa Zoo Conservation Program is one of the leading conservation organizations in Oklahoma.[15] It has supported over 200 projects globally and locally, including a conservation education program to reduce the use of palm oil,[8] FrogWatch USA, and ocean conservation education.[9]

Ganesha Statue


The Tulsa Zoo attracted national media attention in 2005 when a group complained about the mention of evolutionary theory and the inclusion of religious icons, theories, and beliefs in zoo displays, including a statue of the Hindu elephant-headed god Ganesha as part of the elephant exhibition.[16] The Tulsa Park Board responded by voting to add a display on Creationism.[17][18] The board subsequently reconsidered and reversed its decision, citing widespread public criticism.[19][20]


  1. ^ a b "Zoo History". tulsazoo.org. Tulsa Zoo. 7 March 2008. Retrieved 27 October 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c "Current statistics". tulsazoo.org. Tulsa Zoo. Retrieved 27 October 2010. 
  3. ^ "List of Accredited Zoos and Aquariums". aza.org. AZA. Retrieved 3 May 2011. 
  4. ^ "List of Accredited Museums". aam-us.org. American Alliance of Museums. Retrieved 4 April 2013. 
  5. ^ Emory Bryan, "New Management To Take Over At Tulsa Zoo", KOTV-DT, June 21, 2010.
  6. ^ "Tulsa Zoo takes next steps toward privatization", KJRH-TV, June 22, 2010.
  7. ^ Jennie Lloyd, "The Zoo's New Plan: Outdated Tulsa Zoo presents its new $100 million, 20-year master plan for new exhibits, better pathways." Urban Tulsa Weekly, March 7, 2012.
  8. ^ a b http://www.tulsazoo.org/learn/conservation/palm-oil-crisis/ Palm Oil Crisis, Tulsazoo.org (accessed April 14, 2013)
  9. ^ a b http://www.tulsazoo.org/learn/conservation/saveouroceans/ Save Our Oceans, Tulsazoo.org (accessed April 14, 2013)
  10. ^ Peterson, Althea. http://www.tulsaworld.com/article.aspx/Tulsa_Zoo_Election_results_Baby_chimp_to_be_named_Vindi/070406_238_A9_spanc88808 Tulsa Zoo Election results: Baby chimp to be named Vindi, Tulsa World, April 6, 2007. (accessed April 14, 2013)
  11. ^ Tulsa Penguins locations/images and facebook group
  12. ^ Plummer, Sara. http://www.tulsaworld.com/article.aspx/Bouncing_baby_meerkat_Tulsa_Zoo_welcomes_first_one/20120526_11_A19_CUTLIN523817 "Bouncing baby meerkat: Tulsa Zoo welcomes first one born in 14 years", Tulsa World, May 26, 2012. (accessed April 14, 2013)
  13. ^ http://www.tulsazoo.org/contact-the-tulsa-zoo/media/press-releases/tulsa-zoo-to-unveil-rhinoceros-exhibit-plans-at-groundbreaking-ceremony/ Tulsa Zoo (accessed April 14, 2013)
  14. ^ http://www.tulsazoo.org/contact-the-tulsa-zoo/media/press-releases/leadgifttigers/ Tulsa Zoo Press Release, October 29, 2012
  15. ^ http://www.tulsazoo.org/learn/conservation
  16. ^ Tom Droege,"One man's persistence, zeal gives life to zoo controversy", Tulsa World, June 10, 2005.
  17. ^ "Biblical account of creation to go on display at Tulsa Zoo", Associated Press report in USA Today, June 9, 2005.
  18. ^ "Proposed Biblical Exhibit Sparks Debate at Tulsa Zoo", Morning Edition on NPR, July 6, 2005.
  19. ^ "It's All Happening at the Tulsa Zoo", New York Times, July 10, 2005.
  20. ^ Tom Droege,"Biblical display at zoo nixed", Tulsa World, July 8, 2005.

External links[edit]