Fort Worth Zoo

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Fort Worth Zoo
Date opened1909
LocationFort Worth, Texas, United States of America
Coordinates32°43′19″N 97°21′24″W / 32.7219°N 97.3566°W / 32.7219; -97.3566Coordinates: 32°43′19″N 97°21′24″W / 32.7219°N 97.3566°W / 32.7219; -97.3566
Land area64 acres (26 ha)
No. of species435
MembershipsAZA [1]

The Fort Worth Zoo is a zoo in Fort Worth, Texas, United States, that was founded in 1909 with one lion, two bear cubs, an alligator, a coyote, a peacock and a few rabbits. The zoo now is home to 7,000 native and exotic animals and has been named as a top zoo in the nation by Family Life magazine, the Los Angeles Times and USA Today, as well as one of the top zoos in the South by Southern Living Reader's Choice Awards.

The Fort Worth Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).


When the Fort Worth Zoo opened in 1909, it had one African lion, two bear cubs, an alligator, a coyote, a peacock and a few rabbits. From its opening until 1991, the zoo was owned and operated by the City of Fort Worth. Although the city collected money from the community to purchase new animals, the Zoological society (now the Fort Worth Zoological Association) was formed in 1939 to help raise additional funds.[2]

Monkey Island was built in 1937 with funds from the Works Progress Administration. After being refurbished in 1949, this exhibit became a sea lion pool, and by 1970, it had been converted to house small South American mammals. Storks and cranes were housed in this exhibit in the 1980s, and it was converted once again in the early 1990s to house alligators. It is currently being used as the Parrot Paradise exhibit.[3]

The Herpetarium was completed in the summer of 1960 and was an indoor exhibit measuring 117 by 55 feet (17 m). Boasting the largest exhibit of reptiles and amphibians in the world (with 175 vivaria and about 200 species), the facility also included a zoo hospital and quarantine room. Features such as refrigerated air, operational skylights, temperature controlled water, switch operated emergency alarms, and state-of-the-art service facilities, made the Herpetarium a marvel of technology for its time. Innovative exhibits such as a display of giant snakes with curved non-reflective glass (creating the illusion of an open-fronted exhibit) were especially popular attractions. The main public area included five exhibit halls covering various geographic regions and another area that was devoted exclusively to amphibians. There were also special exhibits teaching the identification of native venomous snakes and treatment for snakebite.[4]

In October 1991, the Fort Worth Zoological Association assumed management of the zoo under a contract with the city. In 1992, the zoo opened the first two of a series of exhibits: World of Primates and Asian Falls. During the rest of the decade, the zoo opened Raptor Canyon, Asian Rhino Ridge, an education center in 1993, a cheetah exhibit in 1994, Flamingo Bay, a Komodo dragon exhibit, Insect City in 1995, Meerkat Mounds in 1997, a new veterinary center in 1998, and Thundering Plains (now closed) in 1999.[2]

The first decade of the new millennium saw the opening of Texas Wild! in 2001 to showcase native Texas animals, Parrot Paradise in 2004, Great Barrier Reef in 2005 as part of a renovated Australian Outback exhibit, and the penguin exhibit in 2008. This decade also saw the closing of the original Herpetarium in 2009 to be replaced by the Museum of Living Art in 2010.[2]

In the autumn of 2016, the zoo announced its $100-million capital campaign: A Wilder Vision, which will include new exhibit space, renovated habitats, special events space, multiple dining areas, restrooms and most importantly, new ways to observe, interact with and learn about animals. The first step in this plan, a renovated African Savanna, opened in April 2018. Other upcoming projects are an expanded elephant habitat, renovated exhibits for the various African and Asian carnivores, and a new Forests & Jungles section. New species will include the clouded leopard, African wild dog, African leopard, & okapi.[5]

A zebra at Fort Worth Zoo, 2005

Main exhibits[edit]

Current zoo exhibits include Penguins, World of Primates, Asian Falls, Raptor Canyon, Flamingo Bay, Meerkat Mounds, Australian Outback, African Savanna, Parrot Paradise, Texas Wild! and the Museum of Living Art (MOLA).


This indoor exhibit is home to a colony of African penguins and southern rockhopper penguins, and includes a beach and an underwater viewing area.[3]

World of Primates

Opened in 1992, World of Primates is a 2.5-acre (1.0 ha) exhibit that includes both indoor and outdoor habitats. The atrium is a tropical rainforest that has since been turned into an aviary, in which visitors can observe several different bird species from around the world and black-and-white colobus monkeys. Once through the atrium, visitors take a winding boardwalk past other primates including the zoo's gorilla troop, orangutans, mandrills, bonobos, chimpanzees and white-cheeked gibbons.[3]

Malayan tiger cubs playing
Asian Falls

Asian Falls was opened in 1992 and includes the Asian elephant complex. Once past the elephants, visitors can observe the animals from a boardwalk that gives a bird's-eye view of rhinos and takes them past other animals including the zoo's white tigers, Malayan tigers, a pair of striped hyenas, an anoa, sun bears, a sloth bear, and several birds endemic to Asia including white-naped crane and lesser bird-of-paradise.[3]

Raptor Canyon

Raptor Canyon is an aviary that opened in 1993 and is home to crowned eagles, Andean condors, milky eagle owls, king vultures, harpy eagles, white-backed vultures, and palm-nut vultures.[3]


The cheetah exhibit was opened in 1994 and is home to the zoo's cheetahs. Two other enclosures in this exhibit are home to bongos, warthogs, and red river hogs. Most of this exhibit has been closed with the opening of the new African Savanna, but one enclosure remains, now containing Nile lechwe and black crowned cranes.[3]

Flamingo Bay

Flamingo Bay is home to the 70 or so flamingos at the zoo. The exhibit includes three species of flamingo, including American flamingo, Chilean flamingos, and lesser flamingos, with the latter two having been successfully bred in captivity here.[3]

Meerkat Mounds

This exhibit was opened in 1997 and features an entire colony of the extremely social meerkats. Visitors can view the meerkats through a plexiglass wall, a bubble window in one of the outer walls, or from a boardwalk which provides a bird's-eye view of the colony. This exhibit has been relocated to the new African Savanna.[3]

Australian Outback/Great Barrier Reef

This exhibit has been renovated and now includes the Great Barrier Reef exhibit in addition to being home to the zoo's red kangaroos, wallabies & formerly koalas. The Great Barrier Reef exhibit is a collection of Australian aquatic animals in three tanks containing more than 10,000 US gallons (38,000 l; 8,300 imp gal) of water. The exhibit includes 500 animals representing 86 species, including clownfish, blacktip reef sharks, angelfish, brain corals, moray eels and sea apples.[3]

African Savanna

Opened in 2018, the newly renovated African Savanna allows guests to see giraffes, dama gazelles, lesser kudu, springbok, ostriches, Abyssinian ground hornbills, pink-backed pelicans & helmeted guineafowl from multiple viewing spots, including an elevated boardwalk that allows giraffe feeding. There are also several paddocks for the black rhinos, above- and underwater viewing of the hippopotami, a flamingo pond, and an aviary. Parts of the older Savanna are still around the zoo, including the lions, Nubian ibex, and zebras.[6]

Parrot Paradise

Parrot Paradise was opened on the zoo's upper path between the lions and Raptor Canyon in 2004. It is a free-flight aviary featuring rosellas, macaws, cockatiels and budgerigars.[3]

Bobcat in Texas Wild!
Texas Wild!

Texas Wild was opened in 2001 to display various animals native to Texas. This section includes a carousel with hand-painted ponies. Texas Town includes a play barn and the Texas Hall of Wonders, and prepares visitors for the rest of the exhibit. High Plains and Prairies represents the Panhandle and Northwestern Texas. It is home to swift foxes, black-footed ferrets, roadrunners, burrowing owls, and black-tailed prairie dogs. Pineywoods and Swamps represents East Texas. This section of the exhibit includes red wolves, river otters, alligators, and black bears. Gulf Coast is home to Southern Texas animals including the aquatic animals and waterfowl of the delta marsh, and includes an aviary that is home to birds including the roseate spoonbill and white and brown pelicans. Brush Country represents Southern Texas. This section includes bobcats, cougars, coyotes, jaguars, ocelots, ring-tailed cats, and white-nosed coati, as well as birds of prey which are the turkey vulture, red-tailed hawk, and bald eagle. Mountains and Desert completes the tour in a mine shaft where visitors can see bats, dung beetles, Texas horned lizards, western diamondback rattlesnakes, and other animals endemic to the area.[7]

Caiman lizards
Museum of Living Art (MOLA) (2010)

The Museum of Living Art is a $19 million, 30,000-square-foot (2,800 m2) herpetarium built to replace the original herpetarium at the zoo. The facility houses more than 5,000 animals representing more than 100 species. Residents include a saltwater crocodile, Aldabra giant tortoises, a Burmese python, Fly River turtles, golden-headed lion tamarins, ring-tailed lemurs, gharials, a Chinese giant salamander, and a king cobra. The zoo's Komodo dragons will find a new home here with both indoor and outdoor exhibits.[3]


The Fort Worth Zoo hosts the Turtle Survival Alliance. It was founded in 2001 as an IUCN task group to help stabilize populations of Asian fresh water turtles. It works with countries where endangered species of turtles appear, helping them develop a plan for conserving and sustaining their turtle populations, mostly emphasizing captive breeding and rescue.[8]


The zoo features an unusual Texas sized sculpture. A furious 40-foot iguana sculpture named Iggy, was lowered by helicopter onto the roof of the animal hospital in June 2010. Created by Austin artist Bob "Daddy-O" Wade, the sculpture is owned by Fort Worth oilman Lee M. Bass.[9]


  1. ^ "Currently Accredited Zoos and Aquariums". AZA. Retrieved 23 April 2011.
  2. ^ a b c "Fort Worth Zoo celebrates diverse 100-year history". Fort Worth Zoo. Retrieved 14 November 2010.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "Plan a Visit: Exhibits". Fort Worth Zoo. Retrieved 14 November 2010.
  4. ^ Garret, Clay M., Clay M. (2006). "Herpetology at the Fort Worth Zoo: A 45-Year History" (PDF). Herpetological Review. Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles. 37 (3): 264–268. Retrieved 23 April 2011.
  5. ^ "A Wilder Vision". Fort Worth Zoo. Retrieved 17 October 2016.
  6. ^
  7. ^ "Texas Wild!". Fort Worth Zoo. Retrieved 14 November 2010.
  8. ^ "History". Turtle Survival Alliance. Retrieved 23 April 2011.
  9. ^ Brick, Michael (13 June 2010). "Attack of the 40-Foot Iguana!". New York Times. Retrieved 13 June 2010.

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