Zoo Miami

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Zoo Miami
Zoo Miami logo
Entrance to the zoo
Date opened 1948 (Crandon Park Zoo)
July 4, 1980 (Miami MetroZoo)[1]
Location Miami-Dade County, Florida, USA
Coordinates 25°36′28″N 80°24′00″W / 25.6077°N 80.4001°W / 25.6077; -80.4001Coordinates: 25°36′28″N 80°24′00″W / 25.6077°N 80.4001°W / 25.6077; -80.4001
Land area 740 acres (299 ha) (324 acres (131 ha) developed)[2]
Number of animals 2,000 [2]
Number of species 500 [2]
Memberships AZA [3]
Butterfly Conservation Initiative[4]
Major exhibits 100 [2]
Website www.zoomiami.org

The Miami-Dade Zoological Park and Gardens, branded and commonly known as Zoo Miami, formerly known as Miami MetroZoo, is the largest and oldest zoological garden in Florida, and the only tropical zoo in the United States. It is located on the old Richmond Naval Air Station[5] site, southwest of Miami in southern metropolitan Miami-Dade County, in the center of the census-designated places of Three Lakes (north), South Miami Heights (south), Palmetto Estates (east) and Richmond West (west). It houses over 2,000 animals on 740 acres (299 ha), 324 acres (131 ha) of which are developed. It is about 3 mi (5 km) around if walked on the path, and has over 100 exhibits.[2]

The zoo's communications director is wildlife expert and photographer Ron Magill. He frequently appears on local talk shows and news stations, often promoting the zoo's animals.[6]

The zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).


Entrance sign with the old Zoo name

The history of the zoo can be traced back to 1948, when 3 monkeys, a goat and 2 black bears were purchased for $270 from a small road show stranded near Miami. These 6 animals were the beginning of the Crandon Park Zoo on the island of Key Biscayne, just southeast off the coast from downtown Miami.[7] The Crandon Park Zoo occupied 48 acres (19.4 ha) of the park. The first animals in the zoo, including some lions, an elephant and a rhinoceros, had been stranded when a circus went out of business in Miami. Some Galapagos tortoises, monkeys and pheasants were added from the Matheson plantation.[8] By 1967 the Crandon Park Zoo had grown to over 1,200 animals, and was considered one of the top 25 zoos in the country.[9] Other animals were added, including a white Bengal tiger in 1968.[7]

In 1965, Hurricane Betsy devastated the zoo and killed 250 animals. After the hurricane there was talk of a new zoo for Dade county, but not until 11 December 1970 did Dade County officials apply for 600 acres (243 ha) of land in the Richmond Naval Air Station property. Construction began in 1975. The zoo opened in 1980 as Miami MetroZoo with a preview section of 12 exhibits and Asia, the first major exhibit, opened on 12 December 1981. A total of 38 exhibits, covering 200 acres (81 ha), were open to the public at this time.[2]

In the 1980s, the zoo continued to open exhibits. An additional 25 acres (10 ha) with six new African hoofed stock exhibits opened in 1982, along with the zoo's monorail in 1984.[7] After the closing of 1984 Louisiana World Exposition (New Orleans, LA), monorails are being moved in Florida and re-used at Miami MetroZoo.[10] Wings of Asia, a 1.6-acre (0.6 ha) free-flight aviary, was opened in December 1984.[7] Three additional African hoofed stock exhibits followed in 1985, and two new exhibits were opened in the African savanna section in 1986. The Australian section of the zoo was opened in 1989, and PAWS, the children's petting zoo, opened in 1989.[7] The Asian River Life Experience opened in August 1990.

The zoo suffered severe damage because of its location south of Miami when Category 5 Hurricane Andrew made landfall in South Florida on August 24, 1992. The small but powerful North Atlantic cyclone toppled over 5,000 trees and destroyed the Wings of Asia aviary, which had been built to withstand winds of up to 120 miles per hour (193 km/h). The 300 birds in the aviary were lost. While preparing for the storm, zookeepers failed to get a large Rhino indoors; amazingly, when they came outside, they found the Rhino standing relatively unscathed amongst the devastation. The zoo, though looking quite different, was reopened on 18 December 1992. By July, 1993, many of the animals had been returned to Metrozoo, and 7,000 new trees had been planted to begin restoring the zoo. The Falcon Batchelor Komodo Dragon Encounter opened in January 1996, followed by Andean Condor (1999), Meerkats (2000), Cuban Crocodiles and Squirrel Monkeys (2001), and Dr. Wilde's World, which is an indoor facility for traveling zoological exhibits.

The new Wings of Asia aviary, housing more than 300 individuals representing 70 species of birds, opened in the spring of 2003.[11]

On July 4, 2010, the zoo was renamed the Miami-Dade Zoological Park and Gardens, or Zoo Miami, for marketing purposes. This was a part of the zoo's 30th anniversary celebration.[1][12]

Exhibits and animals[edit]

American flamingo exhibit at the zoo's entrance

There are four main exhibit sections in the zoo: Asia, Africa, Amazon and Beyond, and Australia. Pelican Cove, a large pond fed by a waterfall, contains various types of pelicans and waterfowl; it is adjacent to the ticket booths and Island Trader, the zoo's gift shop. Dr. Wilde's World is an indoor, seasonal, interactive exhibit at the junction of the zoo's main pathways. The property includes a large lake, called Lake Iguana.

An air-conditioned monorail that loops around the zoo's premises provides both an aerial view of the zoo and a convenient way to move between sections.[13] The monorail has four stations: the first is between the Asia and Australia sections, the second is located in the Asia section, and the final two are in the Africa section.

Narrated tram rides and guided tours are given daily.


The showcase of the zoo since its inception has been the white Bengal tiger exhibit, which is among the first seen by visitors.

The zoo's Asian exhibit features dozens of animals. The multi-leveled Asian River Life Experience replicates the surrounding and appearance of an Oriental river brook. Guests can also get close to and brush an Indian rhinoceros at the Kaziranga Camp Rhino Encounter.

Zoo Miami is only one of two zoos in the United States to display a pair of Black-necked storks.

The zoo's orangutan exhibit once housed Nonja, a Sumatran orangutan that was relocated from a Dutch zoo to Zoo Miami. She was believed to be the oldest living specimen of her species, until her death in 2007.[14]

The American Bankers Family Aviary; Wings of Asia is also located here. The aviary features 300 rare birds of 70 species in a temperate mixed forest, and it highlights the evolutionary connection of birds to dinosaurs. At 54,000 square feet (5,017 m2), it is the largest open-air Asian aviary in the Western Hemisphere.[11] The Mercantil Commercebank Children's Zoo,[15] hosts special animals that can be approached to a close distance by guests. Guests can visit meerkats, a petting zoo, the Toadstool exhibit (which displays small species of reptiles, amphibians and insects), butterfly gardens, a carousel dedicated to individual animal species, and experience traditional camel rides.


Samburu Giraffe Feeding Station

The African lobe of the zoo offers animals from different locations on the African continent. Visitors can get eye-to-eye and feed reticulated giraffes at the Samburu Giraffe Feeding Station for a small fee. The African part is divided unequally by an eatery plaza; therefore, while the majority of the African exhibits are grouped together at the southern end of the zoo, the others are situated between the Asian and the Australian areas.

Amazon and Beyond[edit]

Entrance to the Cloud Forest section of the Amazon and Beyond exhibit

Amazon and Beyond, the most recent exhibit, opened on December 6, 2008. This exhibit has 27 acres (10.9 ha) dedicated to the flora and fauna of tropical America. This exhibit is divided into four distinct areas: Village Plaza, Cloud Forest, Amazonia, and Atlantic Forest-Pantanal. The first area provides a guests a feel for the unique culture found in central and southern American civilizations. The remaining three areas represent native habitats that are found in the Amazonian region.[16]


The zoo's Australian habitat showcases specimens from throughout the region of Oceania. The Sami Amphitheater, where daily animal shows, concerts and cultural events occur, is located just outside this habitat. The amphitheater seats more than 800 guests.[17]

North America[edit]

Mission Everglades[edit]


Zoo Miami supports conservation programs at the local, national and global level,[18] and was a founding member of the AZA's Butterfly Conservation Initiative (BFCI), a program designed to assemble non-governmental organizations and government agencies to aid in the population recovery of imperiled butterflies in North America.[4]

The zoo has also provided financial help through the Zoo Miami Conservation Fund to upgrade captive breeding facilities in Thailand zoos for endangered clouded leopards and fishing cats.[19]


On November 7, 2006 voters approved for an expansion of Zoo Miami. This expansion is planned to include a family oriented hotel and water park adjacent to the current zoo in order to attract more visitors, since attendance has been lacking in the years after Hurricane Andrew,[20][21] which ravaged the zoo, as well as destroyed the aviary (which was subsequently rebuilt with corporate sponsorship help, and now flourishes with dozens of bird species from Southeast Asia).

Zoo Miami is currently undergoing aesthetic enhancements, improvements and construction of a new amphitheater.[7] Development is also set to commence on new projects; a new entrance plaza and Florida: Mission Everglades, a Florida exhibit that will showcase fauna and flora native to the region's Everglades that is slated to open in 2015-2016.[22] Design information can be found on the zoo's website.[7]


  1. ^ a b "Renaming of Miami MetroZoo". miamidade.gov. Miami-Dade County. Retrieved 23 June 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Zoo Miami Quick Facts". miamimetrozoo.co. Zoo Miami. Retrieved 13 July 2010. 
  3. ^ "List of Accredited Zoos and Aquariums". aza.org. Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Retrieved 28 June 2010. 
  4. ^ a b "Zoo Miami Conservation: North American Projects". miamimetrozoo.co. Zoo Miami. Retrieved 13 July 2010. 
  5. ^ Destroyed Richmond Naval Air Station
  6. ^ "About/Biographical Information". ronmagillwildlife.com. Ron Magill. Retrieved 28 June 2010. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f g "Zoo Miami History". miamimetrozoo.co. Zoo Miami. Retrieved 10 July 2010. 
  8. ^ Blank, Joan Gill. 1996. Key Biscayne. Sarasota, Florida: Pineapple Press, Inc. ISBN 1-56164-096-4. pp. 158-160, 163-164.
  9. ^ Abraham, Kristin (28 January 2010). "Visiting Zoo Miami". miamibeachadvisor.com. Miami Beach Advisor. Retrieved 28 June 2010. 
  10. ^ Cotter, Bill, The 1984 New Orleans World's Fair, Arcadia Publishing, Charleston, South Carolina, 2008, p.120. ISBN 0-7385-6856-2
  11. ^ a b "American Bankers Family Aviary, Wings of Asia". miamimetrozoo.com. Zoo Miami. Retrieved 28 June 2010. 
  12. ^ "Miami MetroZoo Celebrates its 30th Birthday with a New Name". miamimetrozoo.com. Miami Zoo. Retrieved 28 June 2010. 
  13. ^ "Monorail at the Zoo". miamimetrozoo.com. Miami Zoo. Retrieved 28 June 2010. 
  14. ^ "'World's oldest' orang-utan dies". BBC News (BBC). 2002-12-31. Retrieved 2012-03-17. 
  15. ^ "Mercantil Commercebank Children's Zoo". miamimetrozoo.com. Zoo Miami. Retrieved 28 June 2010. 
  16. ^ "Amazon and Beyond Exhibit". miamimetrozoo.com. Zoo Miami. Retrieved 28 June 2010. 
  17. ^ http://www.miamimetrozoo.com/assets/pdf/keepingitwild/kiw-april-june12.pdf
  18. ^ http://www.miamimetrozoo.com/conservation.asp?rootId=5
  19. ^ "Zoo Miami Conservation: Asian Projects". miamimetrozoo.co. Zoo Miami. Retrieved 13 July 2010. 
  20. ^ Miami-Dade Parks & Recreation - Zoo expansion
  21. ^ Miami Herald - Voters approve Metrozoo expansion
  22. ^ http://www.miamimetrozoo.com/animals-and-attractions.asp?Id=647&rootId=2

External links[edit]

Media related to Miami Metrozoo at Wikimedia Commons