Reid Park Zoo

Coordinates: 32°12′29″N 110°55′12″W / 32.208°N 110.920°W / 32.208; -110.920
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Reid Park Zoo
Reid Park Zoo
32°12′29″N 110°55′12″W / 32.208°N 110.920°W / 32.208; -110.920
Date opened1965
LocationTucson, Arizona, United States
Land area24 acres (9.7 ha)
No. of animals500+

The Reid Park Zoo, founded in 1967, is a 24-acre (9.7 ha) city-owned and -operated nonprofit zoo located within Reid Park in Tucson, Arizona. The zoo features more than 500 animals. It was unofficially established in 1965 by Gene Reid, the parks and recreation director at the time.[2] The zoo boasts approximately 500,00 visitors each year.[3] It is accredited and certified with the Association of Zoos & Aquariums.[4]


Giant anteaters playing at Reid Park Zoo

Reid Park Zoo consists of four zones that are organized by the types of habitats and animals they house. The Adaptation Zone houses animals such as the grizzly bear and Aldabra giant tortoise, the South America zone houses animals such as the jaguar and spectacled bear, the Asian zone features the tiger, and the African Animals zone features animals such as the lion and giraffe.[5] The African Animals zone also houses a 7-acre expansion (Expedition Tanzania), which was opened to the public in 2012. A large aviary named Flight Connection hosts dozens of species of birds from Australia, Africa, and Asia.

Expedition Tanzania[edit]

Expedition Tanzania is currently home to an all-female herd of four African elephants, Semba (the matriarch), Lungile (an unrelated female who is also an "allomother"), Nandi (daughter of Mabu and Semba, the first ever elephant to be born in the State of Arizona on August 20, 2014) and Penzi (daughter of Mabu and Semba, born on April 6, 2020).



In 1965, a fledgling zoo was started by Gene Reid, then Parks and Recreation director, with exhibits of pheasants, peafowl, and guinea fowl just north of the present zoo site.

In the late 1960s, prairie dogs from Lubbock, Texas, were exhibited in "Prairie Dog Town" in the former "overlook" at Randolph Park. A 1.5 acre "collection of animals" become known as the "Randolph Park Children's Zoo". The first purchase of an "exotic" animal was made in the fall: a two-year-old male Asian elephant.

And in 1967 and 1968, the first budget of $49,000 presented to and approved by Tucson City Council, effectively opening the zoo and making it part of city operations. New animal additions included alligator, bear, camel, leopard, primates, and tapir. The zoo's name was changed to Randolph Park Zoo. A group called Friends of Gene Reid was informally organized to assist with everyday operations.


Admission fees were instituted in 1972. J.L. Swigert became the zoo's first professional administrator. Michael Flint was hired as the zoo's first curator. The zoo was admitted to the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (then known as American Association of Zoos & Aquariums).

In 1975, Dr. Ivo Poglayen became the second zoo administrator and a combination entrance/gift shop was constructed on the south border of the zoo. The rhino exhibit was built and Macaw Island was constructed in 1976, and Friends of Gene Reid became Friends of Randolph Zoo Society, Inc.

The African Veldt (zebra and ostrich area) exhibit was built and animals were purchased for it in 1977, and the first and second classes of docents (volunteers) were organized and trained.

In 1978, the Asian Grasslands exhibit was constructed and opened. The zoo's size expanded to 15 acres with the purchase of 2 acres on the east side. The zoo's name was changed to Reid Park Zoo when the park's name changed. Friends of Randolph Zoo Society, Inc. was incorporated as the Tucson Zoological Society.

The health center and administration offices were constructed and opened in 1979.


In 1981, an entrance, gift shop, and snack bar were constructed at the north end of the zoo, and the zoo's size increased to 17 acres with acquisition of more land. The next year, the current snack bar was built and became operational and the waterfowl exhibit was constructed and opened in September. The former entrance/gift shop building on the south side of the zoo was remodeled into the zoo school and docent headquarters.

Steve McCusker became the third administrator in October 1986, and the next year Kerry Hoffman became the first education curator. In 1988, construction was completed on the new zoo administration building in July.


In 1990, the first executive director for the Tucson Zoological Society was hired in August, and in 1991, Susan Basford became the second education curator in January. She became the fourth zoo administrator four years later.

In 1992, the former Asian Grassland area was converted into the new African Savanna and new African species were introduced. The first Festival of Lights event was also held. Extensive remodeling of the zoo school was completed in 1993, and the first "ZOOcson" fundraiser event was held.

In 1996, Vivian VanPeenen became the third education curator and the first "Howl-o-ween" event was held.

The Flight Connection Aviary opened in December 1999.


In 2003, the polar bear exhibit was expanded to include a natural substrate yard and a new front gate was completed.

Scott Barton became the zoo's second general curator in 2004. In 2007, Kenya Get Wet splash pad opened. The next year, the Lee H. Brown Family Conservation Learning Center was completed.

Jim Schnormeier became the third general curator in 2009, and the Zoofari Café was remodeled and included indoor seating for the first time.


The Gift Shop was remodeled in 2010, and groundbreaking for the Expedition Tanzania expansion, the new elephant exhibit, took place. The expansion opened in 2012.

In 2013, Jason Jacobs was named as the zoo's fifth administrator. In 2014, a female African elephant calf was born in August, the first ever born in the state of Arizona.

In 2015, the zoo hosted Bear TAG conference, the Wildlife Carousel opened, and a Baird's tapir was born. Zoo management changed from City of Tucson to Reid Park Zoological Society in 2018, and the new Animal Health Center opened.


In 2023, a pair of blue duikers was added to the zoo.[6]

Medical facilities[edit]

Reid Park Zoo has the unique ability to treat animals with cancer using radiation therapy and heat therapy. Through a partnership with the University of Arizona Cancer Center, radiation oncologists can treat animals that are transported to the zoo from all over the country, such as a Galapagos tortoise that was treated in 1983.[7]

Effects of activism[edit]

Early in 2006, a group of local activists named Save Tucson Elephants lobbied the city to move Reid Park Zoo's two elephants, Connie and Shaba, to a sanctuary in Tennessee. However, the city council decided instead to raise funds to build a new elephant enclosure, after receiving public petitions to keep the elephants in Tucson.[8]


  1. ^ "Currently Accredited Zoos and Aquariums". AZA. Retrieved 10 August 2011.
  2. ^ Reid Park Zoo. "Who We Are". Archived from the original on 2006-06-19. Retrieved 2006-08-15.
  3. ^ "About Us". Reid Park Zoo. Retrieved April 27, 2023.
  4. ^ "AZA Accredited and Certified Members". Association of Zoos & Aquariums. Retrieved April 27, 2023.
  5. ^ Reid Park Zoo. "Animals". Archived from the original on 2006-06-19. Retrieved 2006-08-15.
  6. ^ Grubb, Chelo (July 18, 2023). "Reid Park Zoo Welcomes Pair of Blue Duikers". Retrieved August 1, 2023.
  7. ^ Arthur H. Rotstein (1983-06-23). "Tortoise Gets Cancer Treatment At 'Galapagos Hilton'". Associated Press.
  8. ^ "Tucson officials want elephants to stay despite opposition". Associated Press. 2006-04-07.

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