Dallas Zoo

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Dallas Zoo
Entry Plaza-Dallas Zoo fountain with logo
Date opened1888[1]
LocationDallas, Texas, U.S.
Coordinates32°44′39″N 96°48′51″W / 32.7441223°N 96.8141537°W / 32.7441223; -96.8141537Coordinates: 32°44′39″N 96°48′51″W / 32.7441223°N 96.8141537°W / 32.7441223; -96.8141537
Land area106 acres (43 ha)[1]
No. of animals2000+[2]
No. of species406
MembershipsAZA,[3] WAZA[4]
Major exhibitsGorilla Research Center, Endangered Tiger Habitat, Chimpanzee Forest, Simmons Hippo Outpost, Penguin Cove, Giants of the Savanna
Public transit accessDallas Area Rapid Transit:

Dallas Zoo is a 106-acre (43 ha) zoo located 3 miles (5 km) south of downtown Dallas, Texas, in Marsalis Park. Established in 1888, it is the oldest and largest zoological park in Texas[1] and is managed by the non-profit Dallas Zoological Society. It is home to over 2,000 animals representing 406 species.[5] It is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), and is a member of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA).

Since 2009, when the Dallas City Council voted unanimously to turn the zoo over to private management under the DZS, attendance and community support for the zoo has surged. In 2015, the zoo achieved an all-time annual attendance record of 1 million+ visitors. The Dallas Zoological Society is supported by over 25,510 membership households and growing.[6] [7] The DZS manages all fundraising, membership, special events, food services, retail operation, volunteer programs, marketing, and public relations for the zoo under management contract with the City of Dallas.[8]


The zoo was established in 1888. The zoo's first purchase was two deer and two mountain lions for $60 from a private seller in Colorado City, Colorado. The animals were placed in pens and put on display in City Park. In the 1890s, the Dallas City Council approved funding for the zoo and more animals were purchased and added to the zoo's collection. The zoo called City Park home until 1910, when it was relocated to Fair Park. In 1912, the zoo moved to 36 acres (15 ha) in Marsalis Park which the city had purchased in 1909, from which it has expanded to its current size. Under the leadership of Zoo Commissioner William H. Atwell, the zoo acquired many more animals as well as exhibits. In the 1920s, a special Zoo Commission was created by the city and the collection was further developed with the acquisition of numerous specimens from game hunter and trapper Frank Buck. In the Depression Era of the 1930s, the facilities at the zoo underwent extensive renovation funded by the Works Progress Administration.[9][10]

Giants of the Savanna
Dallas Zoo's African lion

The Dallas Zoological Society was established in 1955 to support the zoo.[8]

By the 1960s, the zoo was a popular and profitable attraction. In 1966, the zoo displayed over five hundred species of animals. However, by the 1980s, attitudes began to change from the profit driven display of animals toward science and the humane treatment of animals strongly advocated by the AZA. More emphasis was put on saving endangered species and breeding animals in captivity. The Dallas Zoo cooperated with this program and was accredited in 1985. Around the same time, Zoo Director Warren J. Iliff proposed an addition to be known as the Wilds of Africa. Herbert W. Reimer, a New York architect, designed the Wilds of Africa with a "zoogeographic grouping" of African animals. In addition to a nature trail, he further envisioned a slow moving monorail that visitors could ride and observe as if on safari. Two bond measures, amounting to $30.4 million, brought the expansion from the drawing board in 1983 to its opening in June 1990.[9]

On June 14, 1996, rail and bus service arrived at the zoo. Dallas Zoo station opened on the first phase of the Red Line. The connection to DART made getting to the zoo significantly more convenient.[11]

In 1997, the 19,000-square-foot (1,800 m2) Kimberly-Clark Chimpanzee Forest exhibit opened to the public.

On May 8, 1999, the 2-acre (0.81 ha), $4.5 million ExxonMobil Endangered Tiger Habitat opened.[12]

On September 3, 2008, the zoo announced it had received the largest gift in its 120-year history, a $5 million donation from Harold Simmons. This donation, as well as other factors, allowed the zoo to fast track the construction of the Giants of the Savanna habitat.[13]

On August 12, 2009, the Dallas City Council voted unanimously to turn the zoo over to private management. On October 1, 2009, the zoo's management responsibilities, animals, and employees were officially turned over to the Dallas Zoological Society.[14]

On May 28, 2010, the Giants of the Savanna habitat opened to national acclaim.[15]

On April 1, 2015, the Dinosaur exhibit opened hosting over 20 animatronic dinosaurs.[16]


The zoo is divided into two major regions: ZooNorth and Wilds of Africa.[17] ZooNorth is the original and oldest section of the zoo. The Wilds of Africa region was constructed seventy-eight years after ZooNorth and is accessed from ZooNorth via a tunnel beneath Clarendon Drive. It includes Giants of the Savanna, which was opened in 2010. Visitors can download the Dallas Zoo iPhone app to assist them in navigating the zoo. The zoo app is free and provides information about hours, admission, parking, directions, animals, membership, educational programs, and special events, as well as maps. The zoo is the first in the United States to offer visitors such an app in both English and Spanish.[18]


ZooNorth is the original and oldest section of the zoo. It features a wide range of exhibits such as the Otter Outpost, Galápagos tortoises, and Bug U!. The Hill, one of the original parts of the zoo, was closed as many of the animals there were moved to the new Giants of the Savanna exhibit. One of the more recent additions to ZooNorth is the Wildlife Amphitheater. The Wildlife Amphitheater is home to SOAR! A Festival of Flight. Primate Place features monkeys, with species from Africa and South America. ZooNorth is also home to the Pierre A. Fontaine Bird & Reptile Building where visitors are encouraged to learn about endangered reptiles, amphibians, and what can be done to save them.

Endangered Tiger Habitat

The ExxonMobil Endangered Tiger Habitat is a 2-acre (0.81 ha), $4.5 million habitat that opened on May 8, 1999 and resembles a forest in the process of regrowth after logging. A glass viewing area and pathways allow the visitor to observe Sumatran tigers and Malayan tigers. The tigers' lush exhibits feature sun and shade, shallow pools with deep channels, running streams with hot rocks, perching rocks, and climbing/clawing trees. The observation area of the exhibit consists of two buildings; House of Tiger and House of Man, designed in the Thai pole house style. The complex acts as a bridge spanning the Valley of the Tiger placing the visitors in the center of the tiger's landscape.[19]

Tiger using tree as scratching post
Children's Zoo

The Lacerte Family Children's Zoo in ZooNorth is home to the Nature Exchange, the JC Penney Discovery House, the UnderZone, a petting zoo, and pony rides. It also features an artificial creek that children are encouraged to splash around in.


An exhibit that teaches children about the zoo's extensive collection of invertebrates (i.e. a termite colony, honey bee colony, Texas leafcutter ants, black widows, and brown recluse spiders).

Wilds of Africa[edit]

The other half of the zoo is the Wilds of Africa. Opened in 1990, it was the first exhibit to feature all of the major habitats of Africa. Visitors can visit the rain forests, mountains, woodlands, rivers, deserts, and bush of Africa. The Nature Trail takes visitors through the rain forest past two large, naturalistic gorilla habitats. Nile crocodiles, wattled cranes, and a few other animals are seen before the Forest Aviary. In the middle of the forest is the Kopje, home to rock hyraxes, klipspringers, and meerkats. The rain forest/watering hole is also home to hippopotamus and okapi, which the zoo, in the case of the latter, is famous for in both its breeding and research. About 20 percent of okapi in zoos in the U.S. and Japan can trace their lineage back to it.[20]

Tunnel to Wilds of Africa and Giants of the Savanna
Shana and Zola in the bachelor habitat
Juba and B'wenzi in the bachelor habitat
Chimpanzee Forest
Penguin Cove

Penguin Cove is home to about a dozen African penguins. The penguins can be seen above and under the water as they walk and swim around their exhibit.

Chimpanzee Forest

The 19,000-square-foot (1,800 m2) Kimberly-Clark Chimpanzee Forest exhibit opened in 1997. Visitors can observe the chimpanzees from the open air viewing station or from the floor-to-ceiling observation windows.[21] Chimpanzee Forest features a waterfall, stream, climbing structures, trees and rocks that are heated in the winter and cooled in the summer. Another feature is an artificial termite mound where the chimpanzees can fish with long sticks for special treats, such as peanut butter and honey. In addition to their food from the zoo commissary, there are more than 40 edible plants in their area for them to forage on.[22]

Gorilla Research Center

Originally opened in 1990, the Gorilla Research Center is a 2-acre (0.81 ha) habitat featuring a lush naturalistic landscape. The habitat was designed in a way that encourages the gorillas to roam freely in an environment that replicates, as closely as possible, their native equatorial forest habitat. The exhibit includes two areas, separated by a wall, which provide enough room for two gorilla troops. The exhibit closed in 2004 and reopened in 2006 after undergoing a $2.2 million renovation to raise the exhibit walls from 12 feet to 15 feet and add a visitor's center. The visitor's center is known as the Gorilla Research Station. It features high vantage points and floor-to-ceiling windows where visitors can interact with the gorillas and have their questions answered by on site gorilla guides. The habitat is currently home to two gorilla troops; a bachelor troop and a family troop. The bachelors are named Juba, B'wenzi, Shana, and Zola. Juba and B'wenzi came to the Dallas Zoo in 2011 and Shana and Zola, half-brothers, arrived in 2013. The family troop members are Subira, the silverback, Madge, and her daughter, Shanta, and Megan. The goal was for former silverback Patrick and one of the females to breed but in September 2013 the plan was abandoned due to Patrick's lack of interest in reproducing.[23]

Crocodile Isle

Crocodile Isle allows visitors to view Nile crocodiles from behind glass. Visitors can watch crocodiles swim, lounge in the sun, and even devour their food at public feedings.[21]

Forest Aviary

The Forest Aviary contains colorful and exotic birds native only to Africa in a habitat featuring a wooded landscape, rock cliffs, and a tranquil stream.[21]

Wilds of Africa Adventure Safari

The Wilds of Africa Adventure Safari is a 20-minute, one-mile, narrated monorail ride, which travels around the watering hole (hippopotamus) rain forest (okapi), mountain (Nubian ibex), woodlands (Grévy's zebra), river (waterbuck, greate white pelicans, Goliath herons, blue cranes), arid desert (scimitar-horned oryx, addra gazelle), semi-arid desert (addax, gemsbok, ostrich) and bush (gerenuk, black crowned cranes, greater kudu, Thomson's gazelle, marabou storks) exhibits. The monorail features aerial views of the Simmons Hippo Outpost, Chimpanzee Forest, Nile crocodile, and Penguin Cove exhibits, which are also accessible via the Nature Trail. The monorail originally opened in 1990 but after two decades of use and over a million passengers, the attraction began to show its age with aging infrastructure and several electrical outages that left passengers stranded on the tour. The final incident in August 2014 prompted zoo officials to shut down the attraction for evaluation. Following the evaluation the DZS decided a $3 million renovation was in order. On March 25, 2016, the Monorail Safari reopened as the Wilds of Africa Adventure Safari featuring a new sound system, an upgraded station, air-conditioning, upgraded mechanical and electrical components and new graphics on the individual cars. Additionally, a diesel powered tug is now on standby to nudge the trains back to the station in the event of a power failure.[24]

Giants of the Savanna

Phase II of the Wilds of Africa, Giants of the Savanna, opened on May 28, 2010. This is an 11-acre (4.5 ha) expansion to the current Wilds of Africa, and features four female African elephants, a large herd of reticulated giraffes, African lions, South African cheetahs, impala, Grant's zebras, ostriches, guineafowl, warthogs, red river hogs and the newest attraction African Wild Dogs. Visitors have the opportunity to feed lettuce leaves and rye crackers to the herd of giraffe at the Giraffe Feeding Station. Five of the eleven acres are dedicated to the eight African elephants; Jenny, Gypsy, Kamba, Congo, Tendaji, Mlilo, Zola, Ajabu. The elephants' facilities are state of the art with padded floors and a community room with seven feet of dirt that allows the pachyderms to indulge their natural inclination for digging. The exhibit is the first in North America to mix elephants with giraffes, zebras, ostriches, impala, and guineafowl.[25] Also in the exhibit is a pride of four lions and a family of three cheetahs. In between the lion and cheetah exhibits, there is a "Predator Encounter" area where the keepers give educational talks.[26] Climate controlled rocks draw the lions to a floor-to-ceiling bay window at the Serengeti Grill, where they sit or lay within mere inches of diners.[27] On March 11, 2016, five new African elephants arrived from Swaziland in order to escape a drought.[28] Two years later, Nolwazi and her daughter Amahle were transferred to Fresno Chaffee Zoo in Fresno, California.[29]

Elephants in the Giants of the Savanna habitat
Giraffes, zebras, antelopes and elephants in Giants of the Savanna


On October 6, 2011, the zoo received special recognition from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums for the Giants of the Savanna Habitat. The $32.5 million habitat is the first in North America, as well as one of the first on the planet, to combine a variety of large species in a single exhibit in order to re-create the landscape of the African savanna.[15]


The zoo is highly proactive in species preservation and conservation efforts and participates in over 40 Species Survival Plans (SSP) with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. The following is a list of the Species Survival Plans (SSP) that the zoo is involved with[30]

The zoo supports many conservation projects including Okapi Conservation - Epulu Research Station, Zaire, International Rhino Foundation, Chimp Haven, Bushmeat Crisis Task Force, Gray's Monitor Lizard In The Philippines, Taxon Advisory Groups (Tag), Bowling For Rhinos, and the Thailand Hornbill Project - Adopt A Hornbill Nest.[31] In addition to conservation, sustainability efforts by the zoo include growing bamboo and cabbage to function as part of the landscape aesthetic throughout the zoo. The overgrowth is harvested and used as food for the zoo's herbivores.[32]

Cell Phone Recycling

The zoo collects and recycles cell phones through a program called ECO-CELL. The objective of both the zoo and ECO-CELL is to reduce coltan mining. Coltan is a raw material used in the manufacturing process of cell phones and it is mined almost exclusively in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The mining results in a loss of habitat for gorillas, elephants, okapi and many others. For every cell phone recycled through ECO-CELL, the zoo receives a donation to its conservation fund.[33] ECO-CELL has partnerships with over 110 zoos and is a member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).[34]


Safari Nights is the zoo's concert series that takes place on eight consecutive Saturday nights during the summer season.[35]

Running For Rhinos is a 1k or 5k run to raise money to help protect rhinos in the wild. The event features door prizes, massages, awards, and foods.[36]

Halloween Nights at the Dallas Zoo is a four night event held every October just days before Halloween.[37]

Zoo To Do is the zoo's annual fundraising gala. Patrons of this exclusive event have the opportunity to view the animals, enjoy food from some of Dallas’ top chefs, bid on auction items, and dance.[38]

Dollar Day at the zoo is held one day in July and one day in November. The zoo shows its appreciation to the community for its support with $1 admission all day. Families can look for dollar deals on food, drinks and gifts throughout the zoo.[39]


In Spring 2017, hippos returned to the zoo for the first time since the death of their last hippo 15 years back with the opening of Simmons Hippo Outpost. In February 2016 ground was broken on the $13.5 million, 3.5 acre immersive habitat that houses three Nile hippos; one male and two females. The habitat features an overlook deck and an underwater viewing area as well as be visible from the Wilds of Africa Monorail Safari.[40]

The Dallas Zoo Conservation Education & Science Center is a proposed 70,400-square-foot (6,540 m2) facility that will be located adjacent to ZooNorth. The facility will be a teaching laboratory for conservation of the world ecology systems and will be LEED certified silver level category. It will include research, teaching and interpretive facilities, and will become the new entrance to the zoo. This project is currently in the design phase and on hold pending funding.[41]


The nearest DART station is Dallas Zoo on the Red Line. The zoo is also served by bus routes 19, 515 and 522.[42]

Every Monday and Tuesday, from March through December, the zoo offers $2 off admission to visitors who present their same-day DART pass at the Dallas Zoo ticket booth.[43]


On March 18, 2004, a gorilla named Jabari scaled a retaining wall and injured four visitors. He was fatally shot by a police SWAT team after being pursued by zoo employees through the Wilds of Africa exhibit.[44] This incident prompted several zoos to create or enhance emergency response teams to deal with escaped animals. The Jake L. Hamon Gorilla Research Center was redesigned with new landscape, taller walls, and expanded viewing areas for visitors, including an air conditioned visitor center with floor-to-ceiling windows, videos, and on-site “gorilla guides” to answer questions and point out interesting facts. The exhibit is home to two gorilla troops.

On November 17, 2013, one of the male lions, either Dinari or Kamaia, killed Johari, one of the three lionesses. Witnesses to the tragedy say that it appeared that both of the male lions were simply roughhousing with Johari. Apparently one of the males seized Johari by the neck, cutting off her oxygen supply. Witnesses said they didn't know Johari had been killed until she went visibly limp. By then, zoo keepers were on the scene throwing meat into the habitat in an attempt to distract the two brothers. Dallas Zoo officials later confirmed that Johari sustained no other wounds and was killed quickly by the bite she suffered to the neck. A reason for the attack was not immediately determined.[45][46]

On January 7, 2014, The Dallas Zoo announced that Kamau, a six month old cheetah cub, died from a bout of pneumonia. He and his brother, Winspear, were both sick with the illness, and Kamau suddenly worsened and went into cardiac arrest. He could not be revived. The two cubs were originally born at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Virginia.[47]

On July 28, 2015, a giraffe calf named Kipenzi died when she broke her neck after accidentally running into the edge of her herd's enclosure.[48][49] Kipenzi was born into fame after her birth was broadcast and streamed live on Animal Planet.[50]

On October 10, 2018, a hippo named Adhama suddenly died, according to the zoo. They said that the hippo became ill, and later found him unresponsive. An examination revealed that Adhama had severe enteritis, which is the acute inflammation of the intestines. Earlier in the year, Boipelo, the mate to the deceased hippo, gave birth to their calf, but it died of natural causes moments after birth.[51] In 2019, Adhama became the late father to Boipelo's second calf, Adanna. She was named after her father.[52]

On June 17, 2019, Witten, a one year old giraffe, suddenly died during a medical exam. While under anesthetics, he stopped breathing, and the zoo staff could not revive him. The zoo said he was due to be transported to Canada in September, and they were doing his examinations. He was named after current Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten.[53]

On July 4, 2019, Ola, an 8 year old African painted dog recently obtained by the Dallas Zoo, was found dead in her back enclosure. She died after her pack mates, Mzingo and Jata, attacked her and delivered wounds that were fatal. Ola was transported from the Columbus Zoo a few weeks prior to her death, and seemed to get along well with her packmates. The Dallas Zoo said on Twitter the dogs were only exhibiting natural behavior, and they did nothing wrong.[54]

On November 4th, 2019, the Dallas Zoo announced that Hope, a twenty-three year old western lowland gorilla, had passed away without warning. The zoo reported that the gorilla family was suffering from a bout of gastrointestinal issues, and while the cause of death was not immediately confirmed, a necropsy found Hope's colon severely inflamed. Hope became famous when she gave birth to Saambili, the first gorilla baby the Dallas Zoo had in twenty years. According to the zoo, Saambili and her family were "understandably shaken" and were taken off the habitat for a period of time to recover.[55]

On March 27th, 2020, the Dallas Zoo revealed on social media that silverback gorilla Subira had died of heart failure. He had a cough that was being monitored; zoologists believed he had "nothing more of a common cold". A necropsy revealed that Subira had a cardiovascular disease. The zoo had worked closely in research on how to prevent heart disease in male gorillas, which is the number one cause of death in them. It was also said that Subira was healthy and examinations confirmed nothing was wrong. The zoo has said he did not catch coronavirus, a disease causing a worldwide pandemic. Subira was the second gorilla death at the zoo in four months following the death of Hope in November 2019. Before his death he fathered two children, Saambili and Mbani. He was the only full-grown silverback in the group, which contains three female gorillas and one baby male: Megan, Shanta, Saambili, and Mbani.[56]


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External links[edit]