Zoo Atlanta

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Zoo Atlanta
Date opened 1889
Location Atlanta, Georgia, USA
Coordinates 33°43′56.928″N 84°22′10.81″W / 33.73248000°N 84.3696694°W / 33.73248000; -84.3696694Coordinates: 33°43′56.928″N 84°22′10.81″W / 33.73248000°N 84.3696694°W / 33.73248000; -84.3696694
Land area 40 acres (16 ha)
Number of animals 1,500
Number of species 220
Memberships AZA[1]
Website www.zooatlanta.org

Zoo Atlanta is an Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) accredited zoological park in Atlanta, Georgia. Zoo Atlanta houses over 1,500 animals representing more than 220 species. The zoo has the nation's largest zoological collections of gorillas and orangutans and is one of four zoos in the U.S. currently housing giant pandas.[2]


The gorilla exhibit

Zoo Atlanta's history began in 1889, when businessman George V. Gress purchased a bankrupt traveling circus and donated the animals to the city of Atlanta. City leaders opted to house the collection in Grant Park, which remains the zoo's present location. Original residents of the zoo included a black bear, a jaguar, a hyena, a gazelle, a Mexican hog, lionesses, monkeys and camels.[3] The zoo's collection expanded in the 1930s with the personal donation of a private menagerie owned by Asa G. Candler, Jr. [4]

The 1950s and 1960s were decades of renovation and construction at the zoo, but by the early 1970s, many of its exhibits and facilities were outdated and showing signs of disrepair. In 1970, a small group of concerned citizens founded the Atlanta Zoological Society in hopes of raising funds and awareness for the institution.

The Atlanta Zoo reached its period of sharpest decline in the mid-1980s; it was even named by Parade Magazine one of the "ten worst" zoos in the nation in 1984. Civic leadership appointed an emergency task force to address critical needs. The zoo was privatized in 1985 with the creation of a nonprofit organization, Atlanta Fulton-County Zoo Inc., and was renamed Zoo Atlanta that same year. A 20-year period of aggressive restoration and revitalization followed, marked by several high-profile exhibit openings, including The Ford African Rain Forest, in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In 1999, 10 years after the zoo's 100th anniversary, a pair of giant pandas, Lun Lun and Yang Yang, made their debut at Zoo Atlanta.


The Ford African Rain Forest[edit]

Families often pose with one of the Willie B. bronze statues at Zoo Atlanta.

Zoo Atlanta currently holds the largest collection of western lowland gorillas in North America, with more than 20 individuals living in social groups as of August 2012. Eighteen gorillas have been born at the zoo since 1988 (the year the exhibit opened), all of whom have been mother-reared or reared by a gorilla surrogate. Kali and Kazi, a rare set of twins, were born at Zoo Atlanta on October 31, 2005. The twins' mother, Kuchi, is the only known gorilla ever to independently rear twins in captivity.

Zoo Atlanta also remains home to offspring of its best-known gorilla, Willie B. (ca. 1959-2000). The zoo is also home to Willie B.'s three grandchildren, Macy Baby (December 2005) and Merry Leigh (May 2011), born to Kudzoo, and Gunther (July 2006), born to Sukari.

The Living Treehouse is an extension of The Ford African Rain Forest completed in 2004. The exhibit center is an aviary of African birds, surrounded by viewing of black-and-white ruffed lemurs, ring-tailed lemurs and drills, with adjacent habitats for Angolan colobus monkeys, Schmidt's guenons and Wolf's guenons.

Boundless Budgies: A Parakeet Adventure[edit]

Opened in April 2009, Boundless Budgies houses more than 500 free-flying parakeets, which guests are permitted to hand-feed.

Trader's Alley and Complex Carnivores[edit]

Opened in 2010, Trader's Alley: Wildlife's Fading Footprints was designed to educate the public about the international wildlife trade. Construction of these exhibits introduced Malayan sun bears and raccoon dogs to the collection. Opened in 2011, an adjacent series of exhibits, Complex Carnivores, introduced bush dogs, binturong and fossa. Also residing here are a clouded leopard and Sumatran tigers; born at Zoo Atlanta on July 5, 2011, cubs Sohni and Sanjiv were the first Sumatran tigers born at the zoo since 2000.

African Plains[edit]

Zoo Atlanta’s African Plains, opened in 1989, houses wildlife native to the grasslands and desert of Africa, including African lions, African elephants, blue cranes, Southern Ground Hornbills, meerkats and warthogs. African forest species include yellow-backed duikers and eastern bongos. A multi-species savanna landscape is home to giraffes, zebras and ostrich. Guests may hand-feed the giraffes from Twiga Terrace, built in 2012.

Giant pandas[edit]

Zoo Atlanta panda

Zoo Atlanta is one of only four institutions in the U.S. that house giant pandas. Lun Lun (female) and Yang Yang (male) arrived in Atlanta as juveniles in 1999 and reside at the zoo on loan from China. The pair's first cub, male Mei Lan, was born on September 6, 2006, and as of February 4, 2010, now resides at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in China. Mei Lan was the only giant panda cub born in the U.S. in 2006. A second cub, male Xi Lan, born August 30, 2008, was the only giant panda cub born in the U.S. in 2008. A third cub, female Po, born 3 November 2010, was the first panda born in the US during the 2010 calendar year. Po's name was announced by actor Jack Black in 2011; Po was named after Black's character in the DreamWorks films Kung Fu Panda and Kung Fu Panda 2.

A fourth and a fifth cub, both female,[5] born 15 July 2013, were the first twin pandas to be born in the U.S. since 1987.[6] Their names were announced on ABC's Good Morning America on October 23, 2013; 100 days after their birth, which is a Chinese tradition. The names are Mei Lun and Mei Huan.[7]

Asian Forest[edit]

The Asian Forest is home to Asian small-clawed otters, Reeves's muntjac, Komodo dragon and red panda, as well as Bornean orangutans and Sumatran orangutans. As of summer 2012, Zoo Atlanta is home to the nation's largest zoological collection of orangutans; the zoo's Vice President of Collections has served as the Chair of the Orangutan Species Survival Plan since 1991.

The Orangutan Learning Tree Project, launched at Zoo Atlanta in 2007, utilizes in-habitat touch screen technology to allow orangutans to engage in computer puzzles, games and problem-solving exercises while guests observe their activities on a linked monitor.

The World of Reptiles[edit]

The Zoo Atlanta herpetology department manages more than 450 reptiles and amphibians representing over 100 species, though because of the size of the World of Reptiles exhibit building, not all of these animals can currently be displayed. The zoo is the only zoological institution to successfully breed Arakan forest turtles, a critically endangered species harvested nearly to extinction for food and traditional medicine. A rare Guatemalan beaded lizard hatched at Zoo Atlanta in March 2012; at the time of its hatching, the lizard was one of only seven known to have been born in captivity.

The World of Reptiles is the zoo's oldest public building, designed in the late 1950s and opened to the public in 1962. The building is home to hundreds of snakes, lizards, turtles, tortoises, frogs, toads and salamanders from around the world. Exhibited species include black mamba, king cobra and reticulated python. Georgia native species include eastern diamond-backed rattlesnake, timber rattlesnake, copperhead, water moccasin, Carolina pygmy rattlesnake, bog turtle and gopher tortoise.

In 2009, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums noted that "the facility is a major concern primarily because of age." The World of Reptiles once housed critically endangered gharial (a species of crocodile from India), but because the aging facility could not maintain adequate heat, they were sent to other zoos.

Children’s Zoo[edit]

Zoo Atlanta's Outback Station houses Australian wildlife, including red kangaroos, Major Mitchell's Cockatoos and southern cassowary. The petting zoo was designed to resemble an Australian sheep outpost and is home to Gulf Coast sheep, Nubian goats, Nigerian dwarf goats and a Kunekune pig.


Zoo Atlanta is an active participant in the AZA Species Survival Plan. Cooperative involvement in Species Survival Plans helps to ensure the health, genetic diversity and demographic sustainability of future animal generations.

The Zoo currently contributes to the following individual Species Survival Plans:

Zoo Atlanta also participates in several international conservation initiatives, among them the Asian Turtle Crisis and Global Amphibian Decline. Staff members from Zoo Atlanta and the Atlanta Botanical Garden were among the first to respond to the global amphibian extinction crisis by establishing captive assurance colonies of Panamanian frogs threatened by the spread of chytrid fungus. (Chytrid is the cause of the infectious amphibian disease chytridiomycosis.)



  1. ^ "List of Accredited Zoos and Aquariums". aza.org. AZA. Retrieved 25 March 2011. 
  2. ^ Joy Turns to Despair at National Zoo as Newborn Panda Is Found Dead
  3. ^ "A Circus at Auction". Atlanta Evening Journal. March 28, 1889. 
  4. ^ Desiderio, Francis (2000). "Raising the Bars: The Transformation of Atlanta's Zoo, 1889-2000". Atlanta History: A Journal of Georgia and the South 43 (4): 7–43. 
  5. ^ Update on giant pandas Po, Mei Lun and Mei Huan
  6. ^ Twin giant panda cubs at Zoo Atlanta appear healthy, doing well
  7. ^ "Twin Panda Cubs’ Names Revealed at Zoo Atlanta’s 100-Day Celebration". ABC News. Retrieved 23 October 2013. 

External links[edit]