Southwick's Zoo

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Southwick's Zoo
Sign within Southwick's Zoo
Date opened 1963[1]
Location Mendon, Massachusetts, United States
Coordinates 42°03′53″N 71°35′05″W / 42.064643°N 71.5848541°W / 42.064643; -71.5848541Coordinates: 42°03′53″N 71°35′05″W / 42.064643°N 71.5848541°W / 42.064643; -71.5848541
Land area 300 acres (120 ha)[2]
Number of animals ~500[1]
Number of species 100+[3]

Southwick's Zoo is a 300-acre (120 ha), privately owned and operated, zoological park located in Mendon, Massachusetts, United States. It was opened in 1963, and remains family-operated to date.


The Southwick homestead (which the zoo now occupies) dates back to 1803 when it was a working dairy farm. In the 1930s, Justin F. Southwick started collecting exotic poultry. His son, Justin A. Southwick, shared his father's love of birds, and became a leading authority on migratory waterfowl. In 1953, he sold the dairy herd to concentrate on birds. In 1956, he placed a donation box at the barn where he kept his birds, which let him purchase more for his collection.[1]

The family opened the zoo in 1963. In 1965, they formed two companies: Southwick's Wild Animal Farm Inc. and Southwick's Birds and Animals Inc., with Justin A. Southwick as president of both, his son Dan as vice-president of "Birds and Animals" (which traded, sold, and leased animals), and his son in law Robert Brewer as vice-president of the "Wild Animal Farm". The Brewer family moved away for a while to other opportunities, and Dan Southwick took over the businesses in 1971. With his death in 1977, the zoo suffered for a while until the Brewer family moved back and took over the operations.[1]

Many changes have been made to the zoo within the last 20 years including updating many exhibits to larger naturalistic habitats including chimpanzees, lions, tigers, giraffes to bring Southwick's Zoo to a new level of tourist attraction. The zoo currently sits on over 250 acres with over 750 animals and includes the largest zoological experience in New England. In 2008 a Skyfari Skyride was introduced to the facility and is the only triangular chair lift ride in North America. The Woodland Train ride takes guests through the native wetlands habitat and Elk Forest. In the past few years, new shows have been introduced for family entertainment and education, Bird Shows and Training have been a very popular interactive experience and Earth Educational presentations are always a favorite. The Elkhorn mining company was established in 2012 and features a walk in mine and panning for children and adults. Next to the Elkhorn mine, you will find the Elkhorn Livery Stables and pony rides. The zoo features numerous food venues for all appetites and many retail locations to not only find the essentials but amazing souvenirs and gifts. The Parakeet Aviary is a walk through experience where guests can feed the free flying parakeets. Kiddie rides are always popular at the zoo and the zoo features six mechanical rides for children. One staple at Southwick's Zoo over the last 50 years is the petting zoo where guests can interact with African pygmy goats and sheep. Southwick's Zoo also offers giraffe and rhinoceros encounters. Proceeds from rhinoceros encounters are donated to the International Rhino Foundation to support rhinoceros conservation.[4] There is a children's playpark provides a break for the adults and children alike. It takes approximately 4 to 5 hours to see in season, minimum. In 2017 Southwick's Zoo will open a new restaurant and event building. The zoo does not have an elephant exhibit or owns elephants.

The zoo currently operates mid-April through October. The Purple Peacock Gift Shop, which can be visited without purchasing admission to the zoo is Open Daily Mid April - through December. Check website for hours and details at


North American Exhibit

This exhibit is home to North American elk and a small population of wild turkey. The Woodland Express Train (12 min ride), a rubber tire train ride, passes through this exhibit and allows visitors to get a very close look at the elk in addition to the surrounding wetlands.

Deer Forest

This 35-acre (14 ha) walk-through attraction allows visitors get close to and feed fallow deer. Native wildlife such as turtles, hawks, and wild turkey can also be spotted in the Deer Forest.[5]


The zoo started with an interest in migratory waterfowl, and birds have always had a special place. Birds can be found in exhibits throughout the zoo including the Earth Discovery Center and Parakeet Landing, a walk-through aviary that lets visitors come in contact with parakeets and cockatiels, as well as feed them. Birds at the zoo include macaws, cockatoos, conures, eclectus, cockatiels, ostriches, emu, African crowned cranes, flamingos, mandarin ducks, Polish chickens, fancy pigeons, and kookaburra.

Southwick's also offers a live educational presentations about birds which discuss topics including training, enrichment, and conservation.[6]

EARTH Discovery Center

This is the home base of the environmental education non profit EARTH Ltd located within the zoo. The EARTH Discovery Center is home to EARTH's animal ambassadors which include macaws, a bush baby, porcupine, turtles, snakes, bearded dragons, and other reptiles.[3] These animals are used in EARTH's education programs including live presentations at the zoo, ZooMobiles, and Wild Adventure Programs for younger students.[7]

Big cats

Southwick's Zoo has four big cat exhibits; lions, tigers (of no subspecies), leopard, and the recently added cheetahs. [1] [2] [3]

Giraffe exhibit

Southwick's Zoo opened their larger, updated giraffe exhibit in 2011. In 2010, the zoo also began offering giraffe encounters on weekends.[8]


The zoo has the largest primate collection in New England. Species of primates found at Southwick's Zoo include chimpanzees, white-handed gibbons, siamangs, mandrills, Schmidt's guenons, Wolf's guenons, DeBrazza's monkeys, squirrel monkeys, cotton-top tamarins, ring-tailed lemurs, red-ruffed lemurs, and more. They are the only zoo in New England with a chimpanzee exhibit. [4]

Other attractions[edit]

Southwick's Zoo has over 115 species, so there are numerous exhibits including capybaras, two-toed sloths, Brazilian tapirs, white rhinos, an American alligator, and more. [5]

A petting zoo, pony rides, and camel rides are available at the zoo. A play area for children is also available, with play structures made from recycled materials.[9]

The Skyfari Sky Ride, which takes visitors over a large portion of the zoo in a triangular pattern, was opened in 2008. Visitors can see their alligator, watusi cattle, camels, chimpanzees, mandrills, and fallow deer, in a two-seat chair lift.[10][11] This is a 15 minute long ride.

Another ride offered at the zoo is the Woodland Express Train. This rubber tired train passes through the North American Exhibit giving visitors a closer look at the zoo's elk. It also passes through native wetlands and riders frequently see local species including herons, snakes, turtles, and water fowl. This is a 12 minute ride.

Southwick's Zoo is also home to the Earth Discovery Center and E.A.R.T.H Limited (Environmental Awareness of Resources and Threatened Habitats), a grass roots non profit organization focusing on education and conservation education. EARTH Ltd offers memberships, visit

New exhibits and additions[edit]

In 2013, a new, much larger prairie dog exhibit opened and can be seen by the Woodland Express Train Station. Scimitar-horned oryxes were added to the Savannah Exhibit. There is a two-toed slot exhibit by the chimpanzee exhibit. New additions for 2014 included cotton-top tamarins and Wolf's guenons. Plus a new cheetah exhibit behind the yak exhibit opened on June 2013. A new addition for 2015 included vicunas.

In 2014, EARTH Ltd. and Southwick's Zoo began offering Rhinoceros Encounters to help promote rhino conservation. These encounters help educate the participants on the current rhino poaching crisis, and they give participants the opportunity to get close to and touch the zoo's two white rhinos named Thelma and Louise.[12]

In 2016, Southwick's Zoo opened a new reptile and insect walk through building where over 20 species now call home. Visit for more details. Red River Hogs and all new Bird Shows debuted in 2016. In July of each year, the zoo celebrates Zoobabies Day to highlight the many births at the zoo throughout the year.

In 2017, a new restaurant and event building will be opening to the public and zoo guests.


EARTH Ltd provides Southwick's Zoo with assorted education programs. EARTH performs live animal presentations at the EARTH Discovery Center which cover topics including ecology and adaptations. EARTH also offers ZooMobiles. This outreach program involves an educator and about 8 animals traveling to a school, library, or other facility to perform an educational presentation. EARTH also operates the Wild Adventure spring and summer programs for children grades k-8. The interns and docents working at the zoo are trained by this non-profit as well.[13]


  1. ^ a b c d "The Southwick Story". Southwick's Zoo. Retrieved 20 July 2011. 
  2. ^ Windler, Chikage (2005-06-22). "Great Escape: Southwick's Zoo". WHDH-TV. Retrieved 20 July 2011. 
  3. ^ a b "Exhibits". Southwick's Zoo. Retrieved 10 July 2011. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ Southwick's Zoo - Deer Forest Retrieved 14 November 2014.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  6. ^
  7. ^ Southwick's Zoo - What is EARTH Retrieved 14 November 2014.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  8. ^
  9. ^ "Southwick's Wild Animal Zoo". Boston Central. Retrieved 20 July 2011. 
  10. ^ "Skyfari Sky Ride". Southwick's Zoo. Retrieved 20 July 2011. 
  11. ^ "Southwick's Zoo". Southwick's Zoo. Retrieved 20 July 2011. 
  12. ^ Southwick's Zoo - Rhino Encounters Retrieved 14 November 2014.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  13. ^ "Southwcik's Zoo - What is EARTH?". Southwick's Zoo. Retrieved 14 November 2014. 

External links[edit]

Media related to Southwick's Zoo at Wikimedia Commons