National Zoological Park (United States)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
This article is about National Zoological Park in the United States. For other uses, see National Zoo.
National Zoological Park
Front entrance
Date opened 1889; 127 years ago (1889)[1]
Location 3001 Connecticut Ave. NW,
Rock Creek Park, Washington, D.C., U.S.
Coordinates 38°55′51.90″N 77°02′59.03″W / 38.9310833°N 77.0497306°W / 38.9310833; -77.0497306Coordinates: 38°55′51.90″N 77°02′59.03″W / 38.9310833°N 77.0497306°W / 38.9310833; -77.0497306
Land area Zoo: 163 acres (66 ha)[2]
SCBI: 3,200-acre (1,300 ha)[3]
Number of animals Zoo: 2,000[2]
SCBI: 30-40 Endangered Species[3]
Number of species 400[2]
Memberships AZA[4]
Major exhibits Amazonia, Asia Trail, Giant Panda Habitat, Great Ape House, Think Tank

The National Zoological Park, commonly known as the National Zoo, is one of the oldest zoos in the United States, and as part of the Smithsonian Institution, does not charge admission. Founded in 1889, its mission is to provide leadership in animal care, science, education, sustainability, and visitor experience.[5] The National Zoo has two campuses. The first is a 163-acre (66 ha) urban park located in northwest Washington, D.C. that is 20 minutes from the National Mall by Metro to the Woodley Park station, or downhill walk from the Cleveland Park station.[6] The other campus is the 3,200-acre (1,300 ha) Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI; formerly known as the Conservation and Research Center) in Front Royal, Virginia. On this land there are 180 species of trees, 850 species of woody shrubs and herbaceous plants, and 40 species of grasses. There are also 36 different species of bamboo.[7] The SCBI is a non-public facility devoted to training wildlife professionals in conservation biology and to propagating rare species through natural means and assisted reproduction. The National Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).

Altogether, the two facilities contain 1,800 animals of 300 different species.[8] About one-fifth of them are endangered or threatened. Most species are on exhibit at the zoo's Rock Creek Park campus.[9] The best known residents are the giant pandas, but the zoo is also home to birds, great apes, big cats, Asian elephants, insects, amphibians, reptiles, aquatic animals, small mammals and many more. The SCBI facility houses between 30 and 40 endangered species at any given time depending on research needs and recommendations from the zoo and the conservation community.[3] The zoo was one of the first zoos to establish a scientific research program.[7] The National Zoo, as part of the Smithsonian Institution, receives federal appropriations for operating expenses. A new master plan for the park was introduced in 2008 to upgrade the park's exhibits and layout.

The National Zoo is open every day of the year except December 25 (Christmas Day).


The zoo first started as the National Museum's Department of Living Animals in 1886.[10] By an act of Congress in 1889, for "the advancement of science and the instruction and recreation of the people" the National zoo was created. In 1890, it became a part of the Smithsonian Institution. Three well-known individuals drew up plans for the zoo: Samuel Langley, third Secretary of the Smithsonian; William T. Hornaday, noted conservationist and head of the Smithsonian's vertebrate division; and Frederick Law Olmsted, the premier landscape architect of his day.William Temple Hornaday, was the curator of all 185 animals when the park was first opened.[10] Together they designed a new zoo to exhibit animals for the public and to serve as a refuge for wildlife, such as bison and beaver, which were rapidly vanishing from North America.[11]

Olmsted Walk, near the zoo's Elephant House

For its first 50 years, the National Zoo, like most zoos around the world, focused mainly on exhibiting one or two representatives of as many exotic species as possible. The number of many species in the wild began to decline drastically, principally because of human activities. Sometimes animals became unexpectedly available. In 1899, the Kansas frontiersman Charles "Buffalo" Jones captured a bighorn sheep for the zoo.[12] The fate of animals and plants became a pressing concern. Many of these species were favorite zoo animals, such as elephants and tigers; hence the staff began to concentrate on the long-term management and conservation of entire species.[11]

In the mid-1950s, the zoo hired its first full-time, permanent veterinarian, reflecting a priority placed on professional health care for the animals. In 1958, Friends of the National Zoo (FONZ) was founded. The citizen group's first accomplishment was to persuade Congress to fund the zoo's budget entirely through the Smithsonian; previously, the zoo's budget was divided between appropriations for the Smithsonian and the District of Columbia. This placed the zoo on a firmer financial base, allowing for a period of growth and improvement. In 2006, congress approved an additional 14.6 million dollars for renovations in both facilities.[7] FONZ incorporated, as a nonprofit organization, turned its attention to developing education and volunteer programs, supporting these efforts from its operations of concessions at the zoo, and expanding community support for the zoo through a growing membership.[11] They also contribute anywhere from 4 million to 8 million additional dollars to the zoo annually.[7]

In the early 1960s, the zoo turned its attention to breeding and studying threatened and endangered species. Although some zoo animals had been breeding and raising young, no one knew why some species did so successfully and others didn't. In 1965 the zoo created the zoological research division to study the reproduction, behavior, and ecology of zoo species, and to learn how best to meet the needs of the animals.[11]

Male lion at the National Zoo
A gorilla at the National Zoo enjoys a snack.

In 1975, the zoo established the Conservation and Research Center (CRC). In 2010, the complex was renamed the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI), a title also used as an umbrella term for the scientific endeavors taking place on both campuses. On 3,200 acres (13 km2) in the Virginia countryside, rare species, such as Mongolian wild horses, scimitar-horned oryx, maned wolves, cranes, and others live and breed in spacious surroundings. SCBI's modern efforts emphasize reproductive physiology, analysis of habitat and species relationships, genetics, husbandry and the training of conservation scientists.[11]

Modern status[edit]

Expanding knowledge about the needs of zoo animals and commitment to their well being has changed the look of the National Zoo. Today, the animals live in natural groupings rather than as individuals. Rare and endangered species, such as golden lion tamarins, Sumatran tigers, and sarus cranes, breed and raise their young – a testament to the success of the zoo's conservation and research programs.[11] Today, the zoo’s research team studies animals both in the wild and at the zoo. Its research encompasses reproductive biology, conservation biology, biodiversity monitoring, veterinary medicine, nutrition, behavior, ecology, and bird migration.[7]

The National Zoo has developed public education programs to help students, teachers and families explore the intricacies of the animal world. The zoo also designed specialized programs to train wildlife professionals from around the world and to form a network to provide crucial support for international conservation. The National Zoo is at the forefront of the use of web technology and programming to expand its programs to an international virtual audience.[11]

The National Zoo has been the home to giant pandas since Hsing Hsing and Ling Ling arrived to the zoo in 1972. Since 2000, Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, also lived there. On July 9, 2005, Mei Xiang gave birth to Tai Shan, who went to China in February 2010. On August 23, 2013, Mei Xiang gave birth to Bao Bao, who still resides at the zoo. Plans for the future include modernizing the zoo's aging facilities and expanding its education, research and conservation efforts in Washington, Virginia and in the wild. As part of a 10-year renewal program, Asia Trail—a series of habitats for seven Asian species, including sloth bears, red pandas, and clouded leopards—was created. Elephant Trails, opened in 2012, provides a new home for the zoo's Asian elephants,. Kids' Farm exhibit, opened in 2004, was slated for closure in 2011, but is to remain open for another 10 years after a donation to the exhibit.[11]

The zoo, which is supported by tax revenues and open to everyone, attracts 2 million visitors per year, according to the Washington Post in 2005.[citation needed]

The National Zoo has a Federal Law Enforcement Agency deployed on its grounds; the National Zoological Park Police, which consists of full-time Law Enforcement Officers. The National Zoological Park Police is an agency that has been recognized by the United States Congress. The NZPP is one of five original police agencies within the District of Columbia with full police powers. The NZPP works very closely with the Metropolitan Police Department, the United States Park Police, Department of State, Capital Police, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Department of Defense. The agency is considered the first line of defense in the event of any crisis.[citation needed]

Dennis W. Kelly was named director of the zoo on February 15, 2010; he oversees the 163-acre (66 ha) facility in Rock Creek Park and the 3,200-acre (1,300 ha) Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) in Front Royal, Virginia. Kelly succeeded John Berry, who was the National Zoo director for three years until February 2009, when he resigned to become the director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, under the Obama Administration. Steven Monfort, the zoo's associate director for conservation and science, served as the acting director between February 2009, and February 2010.


Mother and baby gorilla at the National Zoo

Giant Panda Habitat[edit]

Tian Tian at the National zoo

The zoo's Giant Panda Habitat features three outdoor areas with animal enrichment, as well as an indoor area with a rocky outcrop, a waterfall, and visitor viewing areas. The zoo's pandas, named Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, are at the zoo on loan from the China Wildlife Conservation Association, and will live at the zoo until 2015.[13] They are the focus of a research, conservation, and breeding program that aims to preserve the species. Mei Xiang and Tian Tian successfully had a male cub, named Tai Shan, in 2005. Tai Shan currently lives at the Bifengxia Panda Base in Sichuan, China, taking part in Bifengxia’s breeding program. On September 16, 2012, Mei Xiang gave birth to another cub, but the cub died six days after its birth. On August 23, 2013, Mei Xiang gave birth to two cubs; one, a female named Bao Bao, survived, but the other was a stillborn.[14] The pandas live at the Fujifilm Giant Panda Habitat, a state-of-the-art indoor and outdoor exhibit. It is designed to be similar the pandas' natural habitat of rocky, lush terrain in China.[7] Mei delivered two cubs, of as-yet unknown gender and with the father then unknown, in August 2015, but the smaller one died a few days later.[15] Both cubs, fraternal twins, were sired by Tian Tian; the surviving male is doing well, vocalizing well, and is being properly cared for by Mei and the staff, though it is still early. He was given the name Bei Bei on September 25, 2015; and is beginning to develop his future black spots on his still-pink skin.

Asia Trail[edit]

An Asia-themed group of exhibits (one of which is the Giant Panda Habitat) opened in 2006. Along with Mei Xiang and Tian Tian the giant pandas, the area also displays sloth bears, fishing cats, red pandas, a clouded leopard, Oriental small-clawed otters and a Japanese giant salamander. The red pandas are currently on exhibit at the Small Mammal House but will be back on Asia Trail by spring 2016.

Elephant Trails[edit]

Asian Elephant at the National zoo

In spring 2008, the National Zoo began construction on Elephant Trails, a new home for its Asian elephants. The first part of the two-part 52 million dollar project opened in September 2010, expanding the zoo's former elephant area with a 5,700-square-foot (530 m2) barn, two new yards (one with a pool), and a quarter-mile walkway through woods,[16] a total of 1.9 acres (0.77 ha) of outdoor space.[17] Elephant Trails: A Campaign to Save Asian Elephants is a comprehensive breeding, education, and scientific research program. It is designed to help scientists care for elephants in zoos and save them in the wild. The zoo's Elephant House closed to the public on September 14, 2009 to let the next phase of Elephant Trails get underway. On warm days, the zoo's four elephants are on view outside during exhibit hours but may occasionally be inside (and out of view). The exhibit was completed in late March 2013 when the Elephant Community Center, an indoor exhibit with many interpretive signs and graphics, opened.[18]

Lemur Island[edit]

A moated island that is home to a group of Black-and-white ruffed lemurs. Former residents of the island were Ring tailed lemurs, Red-fronted lemurs and before that when the exhibit was called "Monkey Island", Barbary macaques.

The Small Mammal House[edit]

Red Ruffed Lemur

The majority of the zoo's smaller mammal species live in the Small Mammal House. The species on display include three-banded armadillos, black howler monkeys, naked mole rats, golden lion tamarins, golden-headed lion tamarins, a coppery titi, red ruffed lemurs, prehensile-tailed porcupines, black-footed ferrets, black-tailed prairie dogs, meerkats, two-toed sloths, sand cats,[19] a screaming hairy armadillo, long-tailed chinchillas, a greater mouse-deer, striped skunks, southern tamanduas, Malagasy giant rats, woylies and several others.

Species exhibited in the past, Senegal bushbaby, Cuban hutia, Black and rufous elephant shrews, Leopard cat, geoffroy's cat, Pygmy Marmosets, Tiger Quoll and many others.

Dwarf Mongoose at the National zoo

The Great Ape House[edit]

Two orangutans crossing over visitors via the "O Line"

The Great Ape House is separated into two enclosures, one houses six orangutans (two males named Kiko and Kyle, and four females named Lucy, Batang, Iris and Bonnie), while the other houses six western lowland gorillas (three males named Baraka, Kojo and Kwame, and three females named Mandara, Kibibi and Calaya). The orangutans are allowed access to the Think Tank (see below) by travelling along the "O-Line", a series of high cables supported by metal towers that enable the orangutans to move between the two buildings as they please. Kyle and Batang are Bornean orangutans and Kiko, Lucy, Iris and Bonnie are all hybrid orangutans.

Gorilla at the National zoo

The Think Tank[edit]

The Think Tank is an area designed to educate visitors about how animals think and learn about their surroundings. The Think Tank features several interactive displays that teach visitors how zoologists conduct their studies. The zoo's orangutans (which are sometimes used in keeper demonstrations) are allowed to move from the Great Ape House to the Think Tank whenever they want, and the building includes suitable enclosures for the apes should they choose to stay there. Other animals kept and studied in The Think Tank include brown rats, land hermit crabs, Allen's swamp monkeys and red-tailed monkeys.

Gibbon Ridge[edit]

An enclosure housing two different species of gibbon: two white-cheeked gibbons (a male named Sydney and female named Tuyen), and two siamang (a male named Bradley and a female named Ronnie).

The Cheetah Conservation Station at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C.

The Cheetah Conservation Station[edit]

Scimitar horned oryx at the Cheetah Conservation Station.

An outdoor exhibit designed to mimic the African savanna and educate visitors about cheetahs and what is being done to preserve them in the wild. The main part of the Cheetah Conservation Station consists of two enclosures separated by a fence. Two enclosures houses five South African cheetahs (four males named Granger, Draco, Gat and Zabini, and a female named Lita), while the other houses two male Grevy's zebras. Other animals on display in the area include scimitar-horned oryxs, dama gazelles, Rüppell's vultures, sitatungas, red river hogs, and until December 2013, when she was euthanized at the very old age of 18 (most do not live beyond 10), a female tammar wallaby named Maji (her species is native to Australia). The wallaby was kept off exhibit until its death. A pair of Abyssinian ground hornbill and a lesser kudu now live in the exhibit.[20]

Lesser Kudu at the National zoo

The American Trail[edit]

An exhibit housing North American species. These include California sea lions, grey seals, harbor seals, North American beavers, hooded mergansers, bald eagles, common ravens, brown pelicans, grey wolves and North American river otters. After facing severe threats, the majority of American Trail species have rebounded thanks to conservation efforts. Many of the residents of American Trail have been listed as endangered. All of the animal enclosures on American Trail exhibit plants native to North America. The exhibit also features a cafe called Seal Rock Cafe which offers dishes crafted from local, seasonal, and sustainable ingredients. Menu items include Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) certified shrimp and Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified fish.[21] The American Trail was recently renovated and reopened in late summer 2012.

The Invertebrate Exhibit[edit]

This exhibit housed the zoo's collection of invertebrates. The Invertebrate Exhibit was permanently closed to the public on Sunday, June 22, 2014 due to inadequate funding.[22] The zoo has mentioned that eventually they want to build a hall of biodiversity which will include invertebrates.


A South America-themed walk-through exhibit housing animal and plant species native to the Amazon River. The animals on display include two-toed sloths, sunbittern, roseate spoonbills, red-footed tortoises, red-bellied piranhas, rainbow boas, river stingrays, Goliath birdeaters, discus, mata mata, arapaima, Arrau turtle, tiger salamander, rubber eels, eastern newt and various catfish and poison frog species.

Great Cats[edit]

A tiger swimming

Great Cats is separated into three enclosures; the zoo rotates African lions, and Sumatran tigers between the three exhibits.

One of the zoo's tigers, Soyono, was euthanized in November 2012. She was 19 years old, which is close to the limits of her life span. The tiger looked to be suffering from spondylosis, a degenerative spinal disorder, which afflicts big cats as they get older.[23]

On January 24, 2014, the zoo's 10-year-old female lion Nababiep gave birth to three cubs in an eight-hour period. Two of the cubs survived, and were the first lion cub litter at the zoo in four years, the third for Nababiep, and the fourth for the eight-year-old father, Luke. The birth followed the birth of two rare Sumatran tiger cubs to mother Damai on August 5, 2013.[24] There are also two exhibits for bobcats and caracals.

The Reptile Discovery Center[edit]

The zoo's reptile and amphibian house houses seventy species of reptiles and amphibians. These include Gila monsters, green iguanas, green anacondas, veiled chameleons, leopard geckos, Oriental fire-bellied toads, Aldabra tortoises, alligator snapping turtles, White's tree frogs, king cobras, boa constrictors, Burmese pythons, gharials, Cuban crocodiles and a Philippine crocodile. Behind the building is multiple exhibits for, a Komodo dragon, Chinese alligators and a false gavial. In the front of the building is an exhibit for an American alligator named Wally.

Komodo Dragon at the National zoo

The Bird House[edit]

An indoor enclosure housing the majority of the zoo's bird species. The main building houses brown kiwi, cattle egrets, burrowing owls, pygmy falcons, lilac-breasted rollers and several other birds. There is also a jungle-themed indoor flight room that allows the birds to fly freely, and houses green-winged macaws, Nicobar pigeons, eclectus parrots, sunbittern, Bali myna and several others. Exhibits in and around the Bird House include "Crane Line" (home to Stanley, whooping and wattled cranes), a large, outdoor flight cage housing Mandarin ducks, wood ducks, Indian peafowl, double-crested cormorants, hooded mergansers and several others, the "South American Run" (which includes large South American birds such as king vultures, roseate spoonbills and scarlet ibis), and outdoor exhibits for greater rhea, spectacled owls, barred owls, flamingos, blue-billed curassow, double-wattled cassowary and many others.

As of 2015, the zoo is in the process of raising funds to renovate The Bird House for their new "Experience Migration" exhibit which is set to open in 2020.[25]

The Kids' Farm[edit]

An area aimed primarily at children and housing domesticated livestock. The Kid's Farm also features a "Pizza Garden," which grows traditional pizza ingredients. Animals kept in the Kids' Farm include alpacas, Ossabaw Island hogs, miniature Mediterranean donkeys, Hereford and Holstein cows, and Nigerian dwarf, Anglo-Nubian and San Clemente Island goats. In 2011, the zoo announced plans to close The Kids' Farm due to budgetary constraints, however a $1.4 million donation from State Farm Insurance allowed the exhibit to remain open.[26]

American Bison Exhibit[edit]

The zoo opened a new American Bison Exhibit on August 30, 2014 as part of their 125th anniversary celebration.[27] The exhibit features two female bison, named Zora and Wilma, that were transported to the zoo earlier that year from the American Prairie Reserve in northeastern Montana.[28]

Bison at the National zoo

Other animals[edit]

Other animals in the zoo's collection include spectacled bears, Przewalski's horses, giant anteaters and North American porcupines. There is also an outdoor exhibit for black-tailed prairie dogs during the summer months.

Notable animals[edit]

Smokey Bear[edit]

Main article: Smokey Bear
Smokey Bear, symbol of wildfire prevention
Smokey Bear playing in his pool, sometime in the 1950s.

One of the most famous animals to have spent much of his life at the zoo was Smokey Bear, the "living symbol" of the cartoon icon created as part of a campaign to prevent forest fires. A black bear cub rescued from a fire, he was part of the zoo from 1950 until his death in 1976. During his time at the zoo, he had millions of visitors and so much personal mail addressed to him—up to 13,000 letters a week—that the U.S. Post Office designated a special zip code for correspondence addressed to him.[29] During his time at the zoo, he was "married" to Goldie Bear, with the hope that one of his offspring would continue to hold the title of Smokey Bear. When the pair produced no offspring, an orphaned bear cub was added to their cage. It was named "Little Smokey," with the announcement that the bear couple had "adopted" the new cub. In 1975, an official ceremony was held to recognize the retirement of Smokey Bear and the new title of "Smokey Bear II" for Little Smokey.[29] Upon the death of the original Smokey Bear, The Washington Post printed an obituary, recognizing him as a "New Mexico native" who had resided in Washington, D.C., for many years, working for the government.[30]

Giant pandas[edit]

Tai Shan at the National Zoo.

Coming off the heels of President Richard Nixon's historic 1972 trip to China, the Chinese government donated two giant pandas, Ling-Ling (female) and Hsing-Hsing (male), to the official United States delegation. First Lady Pat Nixon donated the pandas to the zoo, where she welcomed them in an April 1972 ceremony. The first pandas in America, Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing were among the most popular animals at the zoo.[31] Ling-Ling died in 1992 and Hsing-Hsing in 1999. Although Ling Ling and Hsing Hsing had five cubs between 1983 and 1989, all died as infants.[32]

A new pair of pandas, female Mei Xiang ("Beautiful Fragrance") and male Tian Tian ("More and More"), arrived on loan from the Chinese government in late 2000.[33] The zoo pays an estimated 10 million dollars for the 10-year loan. On July 9, 2005, a male panda cub was born at the zoo; it was the first surviving panda cub birth in the zoo's history, and it was the product of artificial insemination done by the zoo's reproductive research team. The cub was named Tai Shan ("Peaceful Mountain") on October 17, 100 days after his birth; the panda went without a name for its first hundred days, in observance of a Chinese custom. Tai Shan is property of the Chinese government and was scheduled to be sent to China after his second birthday, although that deadline was extended in 2007 by two years. Tai Shan left Washington, D.C., on February 4, 2010, and was taken to the Ya’an Bifengxia Panda Base, part of the Wolong nature reserve’s panda conservation center. On September 16, 2012, Mei Xiang gave birth to another giant panda cub, believed by zoo officials to have been a female, but it died after about a week (initial results from a necropsy (animal autopsy) revealed the abnormal presence of fluid in the abdomen and also discoloration of the liver (hepatic) tissue of unknown etiology; the cub had managed to nurse before death because milk was found in its system). Zoo officials say that, while upsetting, they (and, by extension, the public) can hope to learn more about giant panda breeding, reproduction, and health as a result, and will work closely and cooperatively with their Chinese colleagues during the inquiry.[citation needed]

In January 2011, Dennis Kelly, director of the National Zoo, and Zang Chunlin, secretary general of the China Wildlife Conservation Association, signed a new Giant Panda Cooperative Research and Breeding Agreement, extending the zoo’s giant panda program for five more years, further cementing the two countries’ commitment to the conservation of the species. The new agreement, effective through December 5, 2015, stipulates that the zoo will conduct research in the areas of breeding and cub behavior.

In the summer of 2013, Mei Xiang gave birth to a live female panda cub (Tian Tian is the father; a second cub was stillborn), named Bao Bao ("treasure" or "precious" in English) on the 100th day of her existence after a naming contest (in accord with Chinese tradition), who is still living and, as of January 18, 2014, on public exhibit and drawing enormous in-person crowds (causing skyrocketing zoo attendance) and on-line views via the PandaCam. There will be an event on Saturday, February 1, 2014 for 30 "Instagrammers" (those who use InstaMeet) to meet her.[34]

Mei Xiang gave birth in August 2015 to two live cubs; the smaller one died a few days later (keepers had to care for it after Mei decided to focus on the larger cub). Sperm from both Tian Tian and another giant panda male based in a China preserve was used. It was determined on August 28, 2015 that both cubs were male and sired by Tian Tian. The larger, surviving cub was named Bei Bei ("precious, treasure") on September 25, 2015. In celebration of the state visit and as a special honor for the cub, the name was selected by First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama, and First Lady of the People's Republic of China, Peng Liyuan.

Bao Bao is also healthy; eating bamboo and special fruitsicle treats, having been separated from Mei at 18 months of age. She celebrated her second birthday in August 2015, shortly after the cubs were born. She has two years left on her contract, to 2017, without an extension of it. Once she returns to China, she may also eventually participate in the breeding program.

Special programs and events[edit]

In partnership with Friends of the National Zoo (FONZ), a non-profit organization, the zoo holds annual fund raisers (ZooFari, Guppy Gala, and Boo at the Zoo) and free events (Sunset Serenades, Fiesta Musical). Proceeds support animal care, conservation science, education and sustainability at the National Zoo.[35][36]

  • Woo at the Zoo – A Valentine's Day talk by some of the zoo's animal experts discussing the fascinating, and often quirky, world of animal dating, mating, and reproductive habits. All proceeds benefit the zoo's animal care program.
  • Earth Day: Party for the Planet – Celebrating Earth Day at the National Zoo. Guests can find out about simple daily actions they can take to enjoy a more environmentally friendly lifestyle.
  • Easter MondayEaster Monday has been a Washington-area multicultural tradition for many years. There is a variety of family activities, entertainment and special opportunities to learn more about the animals. Admission is free, and this event traditionally welcomes thousands of area families. The celebration began in response to the inability of African Americans to participate in the annual Easter Egg Roll held at the White House, until the Dwight Eisenhower presidency.
  • Zoofari – A casual evening of gourmet foods, fine wines, entertainment and dancing under the stars. Each year, thousands of attendees enjoy delicacies prepared by master chefs from 100 of the D.C. area's finest restaurants. All proceeds benefit the zoo's animal care program.
  • Snore and Roar – A FONZ program that allows individuals and families to spend the night at the zoo, in sleeping bags inside of tents. A late-night flashlight tour of the zoo and a two-hour exploration of an animal house or exhibit area led by a zoo keeper are part of the experience. Snore and Roar dates are offered between June and September each year.
  • Brew at the Zoo – Guests can sample beer from a variety of microbreweries at the zoo. All proceeds benefit the zoo's animal care program.
  • ZooFiesta – FONZ celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month with an annual fiesta at the National Zoo. Animal demonstrations, Hispanic and Latino music, costumed dancers, traditional crafts and Latin American foods are offered.
Zoolights event at the National Zoological Park in Washington, D.C.
  • Rock-N-Roar – An event featuring live music, food and drink, and viewings of lion and tiger enrichment.
  • Autumn Conservation Festival at Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) – Visitors talk with scientists one on one and learn about their research that spans the globe. Scientists are also on hand to help visitors explore the tools and technology they use to understand animals and their environments. Guests can get behind-the-scenes looks at some of the SCBI's endangered animals.
  • Boo at the Zoo – Families with children ages two to 12 trick-or-treat in a safe environment and receive special treats from more than 40 treat stations. There are animal encounters, keeper talks and festive decorations. All proceeds benefit the zoo's animal care program.
  • Zoolights – The National Zoo's annual winter celebration. Guests can walk through the zoo when it is covered with thousands of sparkling environmentally-friendly lights and animated exhibits, attend special keeper talks and enjoy live entertainment.

Friends of the National Zoo[edit]

Friends of the National Zoo (FONZ), the zoo's membership program, is the partner of the National Zoological Park that has been providing support to wildlife conservation programs at the zoo and around the world since 1958. FONZ members receive free parking, discounts at the zoo's stores and restaurants, and Smithsonian Zoogoer, an informative magazine filled with the latest zoo news, research and photos.[37][38]

FONZ's 40,000 members include about 20,000 families, largely in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, and volunteers number more than 1,000 individuals. FONZ provides guest services, development support, education and outreach programs, concessions management, and financial support for research and conservation. FONZ also offers a summer day-camp based out of the Rock Creek Park facility and a residential nature camp based out of SCBI in Front Royal.[37]

Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute[edit]

The Smithsonian established a Conservation Biology Institute in 2010 to serve as an umbrella for its global effort to conserve species and train future generations of conservationists. Headquartered in Front Royal, Virginia, the facility was previously known as the National Zoo's Conservation and Research Center.[39]

The SCBI facilitates and promotes research programs based at Front Royal, at the National Zoo in Washington and at field research and training sites around the world. Its efforts support one of the four main goals of the Smithsonian's new strategic plan, which advances "understanding and sustaining a biodiverse planet."[39]

Conservation biology is a field of science based on the premise that the conservation of biological diversity is important and benefits current and future human societies.[39]

The Institute consists of six centers:[39]

  • Conservation Ecology Center: The CEC focuses on recovering and sustaining at-risk wildlife species and their supporting ecosystems in key marine and terrestrial regions throughout the globe.
  • Migratory Bird Center: The Migratory Bird Center studies Neotropical songbirds and wetland birds, the role of disease in bird population declines, and the environmental challenges facing urban and suburban birds. They also train professionals in environmental coffee certification throughout Latin America.
  • Center for Species Survival: The CSS scientists research issues in reproductive physiology, endocrinology, cryobiology, embryo biology, animal behavior, wildlife toxicology and assisted reproduction. They strive to create knowledge that ensures self-sustaining populations in zoos and in the wild.
  • Center for Conservation and Evolutionary Genetics: Scientists at the CCEG work to understand and conserve biodiversity through genetic research. They specialize in the genetic management of wild and captive animal populations, non-invasive and ancient DNA analyses, systematics, disease diagnosis and dynamics, genetic services to the zoo community, and application of genetic methods to animal behavior and ecology.
  • Center for Conservation Education and Sustainability: Scientists at the CBES protect the planet's biodiversity by teaching conservation principles and practices. They work to find ways to help scientists, managers, companies and industries become more environmentally responsible. The CBES recruits, educates and intellectually equips the next generation of conservation professionals.
  • Center for Wildlife Health and Husbandry Sciences: The National Zoo is devoted to being a leader in animal care. Taking care of animals is a complex, demanding, multifaceted endeavor. The Center for Animal Health and Husbandry Science provides for the mental and physical well-being of every animal at the zoo.


In 2002, the zoo's head veterinarian at the time, Dr. Suzan Murray, was accused of altering medical records to make them sound more benign.[40] Murray responded that the software used "was not designed as a legal document, but rather as a user-friendly way of maintaining and sharing important information."[41] The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) specifically states "Without the express permission of the practice owner, it is unethical for a veterinarian to remove, copy, or use the medical records or any part of any record."[42]

In January 2003, red pandas died after eating rat poison that had been buried in their yard by a pest control contractor. The incident led the city of Washington, D.C., to seek to fine the zoo over its claim of federally granted immunity.[43]

In July 2003, a predator entered an exhibit and killed a bald eagle.[44] Zoo officials later stated that the animal was likely killed by a red fox.[45]

In 2005, a three-year-old Sulawesi macaque named Ripley was killed in the Think Tank when two keepers closed a hydraulic door without realizing the monkey was in the doorway. It was the third death that month at the National Zoo.[46]

In January 2005, the National Academy of Sciences released its final report on a two-year investigation into animal care and management at the National Zoo. The committee, consisting of external veterinarians and scientists, evaluated 74% of all large mammal deaths that occurred at the National Zoo from 1999 to 2003. They concluded that "in a majority of cases, the animal received appropriate care throughout its lifetime. In particular, the committee’s evaluation of randomly sampled megavertebrate deaths at the Rock Creek Park facility revealed few questions about the appropriateness of these animals’ care, suggesting that the publicized animal deaths were not indicative of a wider, undiscovered problem with animal care at the Rock Creek Park facility."[47] The problems at the zoo, which culminated with Spelman's resignation, included facilities and budget shortcomings, although the animal care problems were prominently highlighted. The zoo added a new head pathologist and other veterinarians.[48]

In January 2006, the National Zoo euthanized an Asian elephant named Toni after she suffered from arthritis and poor body conditions for a long time. Animal rights groups said that inadequate care over her lifespan in captivity led to the conditions that ultimately led to her death.[49]

In December 2006, a clouded leopard escaped from its new exhibit at the Asia Trails due to weak fencing used to confine it.[49]

In 2009, the zoo was operating under provisional accreditation due to reports of inadequate animal care resulting in animal deaths.

See also[edit]

  • Perry Lions – the lions that guard the entrance to the zoo


  1. ^ "Proposed Location for a Zoological Park Along Rock Creek". Ghosts of D.C. April 12, 2012. Retrieved May 25, 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c "About Us". National Zoological Park. Retrieved May 25, 2012. 
  3. ^ a b c "Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute". National Zoological Park. Archived from the original on June 11, 2007. Retrieved July 13, 2007. 
  4. ^ "List of Accredited Zoos and Aquariums". AZA. Retrieved May 25, 2012. 
  5. ^ "Mission". National Zoological Park. Retrieved May 25, 2012. 
  6. ^ "By MetroRail". National Zoological Park. Retrieved May 25, 2012. [dead link]
  7. ^ a b c d e f "National Zoo Facts and Figures". 
  8. ^ "History of the National Zoo – National Zoo- FONZ". 
  9. ^ "National Zoo Species". National Zoological Park. Retrieved May 25, 2012. 
  10. ^ a b "National Zoological Park". Smithsonian Institution Archives. 
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h "History". National Zoological Park. Retrieved May 25, 2012. 
  12. ^ Anderson, H. Allen (August 2000). "Buffalo Jones". H-net Online. Retrieved May 25, 2012. 
  13. ^ "Giant Pandas – National Zoo". 
  14. ^ Dazio, Stefanie E.; Ruane, Michael E. (August 28, 2013). "Panda cub born to Mei Xiang at National Zoo". The Washington Post. 
  15. ^ Ruane, Michael E.; Koh, Elizabeth; Weil, Martin (August 23, 2015). "National Zoo's giant panda Mei Xiang gives birth to two cubs hours apart". The Washington Post. Retrieved August 23, 2015. 
  16. ^ Ruane, Michael E. (September 3, 2010). "National Zoo debuts new, larger home for elephants". (The Washington Post). Retrieved May 26, 2012. 
  17. ^ "Elephant Trails". Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved 6 Mar 2013. 
  18. ^ Barron, Christina (March 26, 2013). "Elephants move into new community center at the National Zoo". The Washington Post. 
  19. ^ "Photo Release: Sand Cat Debuts at Smithsonian's National Zoo". Retrieved 5 September 2013. 
  20. ^
  21. ^ "The Newest Exhibit Area at the Smithsonian's National Zoo". Smithsonian's National Zoo. Retrieved 25 January 2013. 
  22. ^ "National Zoo's Invertebrate Exhibit to Close June 22". Retrieved 23 June 2014. 
  23. ^ Weil, Martin (November 25, 2012). "National Zoo mourns loss of Soyono, Sumatran tiger". The Washington Post. Retrieved 26 November 2012. 
  24. ^ "Great Cat Exhibit – National Zoo". 
  25. ^ "Experience Migration Project". Smithsonian National Zoological Park. Retrieved June 17, 2015. 
  26. ^ Jennifer Doren (July 20, 2011). "Generous Gift Keeps Kids' Farm Open". NBC 4 Washington. Retrieved June 17, 2015. 
  27. ^ Ileana Najarro (August 27, 2014). "National Zoo's American bison are named: Zora and Wilma". The Washington Post. Retrieved February 23, 2015. 
  28. ^ Kitson Jazynka (September 2, 2014). "Bison return to National Zoo". The Washington Post. Retrieved February 23, 2015. 
  29. ^ a b Bennicoff, Tad (May 27, 2010). "Bearly Survived to become an Icon". Smithsonian Institution Archives. Retrieved May 26, 2012. 
  30. ^ Kelly, John (April 25, 2010). "The biography of Smokey Bear: the cartoon came first". (Washington Post). 
  31. ^ Byron, Jimmy (February 1, 2011). "Pat Nixon and Panda Diplomacy". Richard Nixon Foundation. Retrieved May 26, 2012. 
  32. ^ Bennefield, Robin M. (April 16, 1972). "Ling Ling and Hsing Hsing : Meet the Pandas : Animal Planet". Discovery Communications, LLC. Retrieved May 26, 2012. 
  33. ^ Handwerk, Brian (January 9, 2001). "Panda "Ambassadors" Introduced to Washington, D.C.". National Geographic News. Retrieved May 26, 2012. 
  34. ^ "Giant Pandas – National Zoo". 
  35. ^ "Upcoming Events". National Zoological Park. Retrieved May 25, 2012. 
  36. ^ "Activities". National Zoological Park. Retrieved May 25, 2012. 
  37. ^ a b "FONZ Fact Sheet". National Zoological Park. Retrieved May 25, 2012. 
  38. ^ "Smithsonian Zoogoer". National Zoological Park. Retrieved May 25, 2012. 
  39. ^ a b c d "Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute". National Zoological Park. Retrieved May 25, 2012. 
  40. ^ "Changed Veterinary Records". (The Washington Post). Retrieved May 26, 2012. 
  41. ^ "Response From Chief Veterinarian Suzan Murray About Changes to Veterinary Notes". (The Washington Post). Retrieved May 26, 2012. 
  42. ^ "Principles of Veterinary Medical Ethics of the AVMA". American Veterinary Medical Association. Retrieved May 26, 2012. [dead link]
  43. ^ Pegg, J.R. (February 26, 2004). "Experts Blast National Zoo Management, Director Resigns". (CBS News). Retrieved May 25, 2012. 
  44. ^ Strauss, Valerie (July 6, 2003). "Bald Eagle Killed in Attack at National Zoo: Nation's Emblem of Freedom Dies on Independence Day After Fight With Unknown Animal". (The Washington Post). Retrieved March 29, 2007. 
  45. ^ Witte, Griff (July 19, 2003). "Crafty Fox No Surprise, But Attack Is a Stumper". The Washington Post. Retrieved March 29, 2007. [dead link]
  46. ^ "Third death this month at National Zoo". WTOP News. March 31, 2005. Retrieved May 25, 2012. 
  47. ^ Archived May 16, 2005 at the Wayback Machine
  48. ^ "National Zoo Faulted; Chief Quits". (CBS News). February 25, 2004. Retrieved June 10, 2008. 
  49. ^ a b Wilgoren, Debbi (December 23, 2006). "What's New at the National Zoo?". (The Washington Post). Retrieved May 23, 2010. 

External links[edit]