Toledo Zoo

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Toledo Zoo
Date opened 1900[1]
Location Toledo, Ohio, United States
Coordinates 41°37′09″N 83°34′51″W / 41.6191°N 83.5807°W / 41.6191; -83.5807Coordinates: 41°37′09″N 83°34′51″W / 41.6191°N 83.5807°W / 41.6191; -83.5807
Land area 51 acres (21 ha) on south side
Number of animals 4,800[2]
Number of species 700[2]
Memberships AZA,[3] WAZA,[4] BFCI[5]
Major exhibits Africa!, Aquarium, Arctic Encounter, Aviary, Dingos, Bald Eagles, Cheetah Valley, Nature's Neighborhood, Kingdom of the Apes, Museum of Science, Primate Forest, Reptile House, Snow Leopards, Flamingo Key, Tiger Terrace, Ziems Conservatory, Tembo Trail, Penguin Beach

Toledo Zoo is a zoo located in Toledo, Ohio, United States. The zoo began in 1900 as Toledo Zoological Gardens and operated by the City of Toledo's Parks Board. In 1982, ownership was transferred from the city to Toledo Zoological Society, a private non-profit organization, and professionalized the zoo's management. Many of the zoo's original buildings were built by the Works Progress Administration, and are still in use today.

Toledo Zoo is a member of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), and participates in over 30 Species Survival Plans. It is also a member of the Butterfly Conservation Initiative (BFCI). The zoo has also been home to many firsts in the world of zoos; such as the first hippoquarium (and subsequently the first video of a hippo birth),[6][7] as well as being the first place in the world to display the Kihansi spray toad.[8] In 2014, the Toledo Zoo was named USA Today's #1 zoo in America.


Toledo Zoo's bridge

Toledo Zoo began in 1900, when a woodchuck was donated to the City of Toledo. In 1918, plans were made to move the Toledo Zoo from Walbridge Park to Ottawa Park, where it would "represent the finest and the third largest zoo in the United States." [9] These plans were never carried out.

The zoo was run by the city until 1982, when management was transferred to the Toledo Zoological Society. It has since added many new exhibits. In June 1986, the Hippoquarium, Phase 1 of the African Savanna, opened; Phase 2 opened the following year, in June 1987.

Because of the success of the Hippoquarium exhibit, the Toledo Zoo was given an opportunity to exhibit two giant pandas on loan from China for the summer of 1988. This was the first year that the zoo had over a million people attend in one year. The exhibit became controversial when the World Wildlife Foundation sued the Toledo Zoo over exhibiting pandas on a short term loan. The zoo was also charging people to see the pandas as a separate exhibit and because of the lawsuit the zoo was ordered to get rid of the fee because it was a part of the regular zoo. All in all the lawsuit was settled out of court and the pandas were exhibited like planned throughout the summer. But, because of all the nationwide media attention the zoo gained during the lawsuit it is assumed many more people came to the zoo from all over the country to see the pandas on exhibit.[citation needed]

In 1998, the zoo renovated its Aviary which was originally built around 1930. In 1999, Toledo Zoo received the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' Exhibit Award for Excellence.

In recent years, the zoo built a pedestrian bridge over the Anthony Wayne Trail. Before the bridge was built, people could get into the zoo through an underground tunnel.[1]



Africa! opened on May 1, 2004, and is 12 acres (4.9 ha) large. The main exhibit, the African plains, is 5 acres (2.0 ha) in size. It has artificial termite mounds for the free-roaming African animals, such as the East African crowned cranes, Grant's zebra, greater kudu, helmeted guineafowl, impala, Masai giraffe, Nile lechwe, ostrich, watusi cattle, and wildebeest. There is also a 0.6-acre (2,400 m2) section for African wild dogs. This is all viewed by visitors on an observation deck or the Safari Railway, which circles Africa! Children can ride the only African animal carousel in existence. Africa! was built on the site of the original gravel parking lot that existed before the bridge was built. In March 2010, a male baby giraffe named Enzi was born whose father, Mowgli, is another famous giraffe at the zoo.

African Savanna (now known as "Tembo Trail: Elephants of the Savanna")[edit]

Zoo boards and directors saw a need to move animals out of sterlie, iron-barred cages and into more naturalistic exhibits that help educate the public. In 1981, noted architectural firm Jones and Jones was tapped to conceptualize a bold master plan for the zoo. Opened in 1986, African Savanna led visitors on a safari-like expedition through the the major biomes of Africa; the river, the woodlands, the savanna, and the rock kopje. Visitors started their safari under a sculpted archway designed by Toledo artist Patrica Wagenman. The sculpture represents the territorial jostling of two male hippos with their mouths wide open. The design later became the zoo's logo emblem until 2012. From there, visitors could see Slender-snouted crocodiles or a behind-the-scenes glimps into the hippo's nite quarters. Next visitors decended down a ramp to the first-of-it's-kind Hippoquarium, where visitors could see the underwater world of the nile hippopotamus (hippopotamus). Across from the hippos, the zoo exhibited African cape clawless otters, one of only a few zoos in the nation to do so.


It has one of the most diverse collections of any zoo-aquarium in the United States. The aquarium closed in October 2012 for renovations and re-opened in March 2015. The updated aquarium contains 3000+ aquatic animals in 178,000 US gal (670,000 l) of water, including the largest tank with 90,000 US gal (340,000 l). The total water volume is nearly four times as much as the previous aquarium. A new addition is a touch tank containing various stingrays and small sharks. The renovations took two and half years and preserved the exterior of the Works Progress Administration era structure.[10]

Arctic Encounter[edit]

The Arctic Encounter includes wolves, gray and harbor seals, and polar bears. Two waterfalls and 7 saltwater streams are featured in this exhibit.[11]

The seals have a 4,000 square feet (370 m2) or land and 3,000 square feet (280 m2) of salt water. The polar bear exhibit includes 6,000 square feet (560 m2) of land and 1,600 square feet (150 m2) of water. There is a freshwater stream filled with fish during regular times. A "kids' cave" shows children and adults what it is like to be a polar bear.[11][12] On January 12, 2015, three more juvenile wolves were added to the zoo after the passing of two of the female wolves. The new male wolves are named Loki, Lobo, and Tundra.[13]

Keet Retreat[edit]

People can feed parakeets in the Keet Retreat.

Bald eagles[edit]

The bald eagle exhibit and rescue is located in the middle of the north side pedestrian ramp to the bridge. The first inhabitants had an injured wing and a blind eye respectively.[14]

Cheetah Valley[edit]

Cheetah Valley can be viewed from an observation deck or from the fence located by the Museum of Science. One female from Namibia has had several litters of cubs.[15]

Nature's Neighborhood[edit]

Nature's Neighborhood is located next to the museum of science. It contains cats, small fish, guinea pigs and other animals that can be kept as pets. Children are able to pet the guinea pigs. a small garden area and playground is also located in Nature's Neighborhood.

Kingdom of the Apes[edit]

In 1993, The Kingdom of the Apes first opened. Now, it holds orangutans and western lowland gorillas. The gorillas have a Gorilla Meadow, which has an area of 0.3 acres (1,200 m2). The orangutan exhibit has a pool in the outdoor space and climbing structures.[16] Two chimpanzees, named Fifi and Harvey, used to be on exhibit at the Toledo Zoo. After the passing of the chimps from old age, the zoo chose not to continue the chimpanzee exhibit.[17]

Museum of Science[edit]

The exhibit includes two sub-exhibits, The Crawlspace and Amazing Amphibians. The Crawlspace: A World of Bugs contains over 20 species such as beetles, centipedes, cockroaches, orb-weaver spiders, scorpions, tarantulas, and stick insects.[10]

The Amazing Amphibians exhibit features over two dozen species of frogs, salamanders and caecilians, including the Kihansi spray toad, the Wyoming toad and the Japanese giant salamander. Completed in 2008, the exhibit features a nocturnal area at its entrance and biosecure rooms that enable breeding of certain species.

Penguin Beach[edit]

The Penguin Beach was built in 2014 and features African penguins. This is an outdoor exhibit with a little overhead bridge and an underwater viewing area.

Flamingo Key[edit]

The Flamingo Key contains Caribbean flamingoes, comorants and scarlet ibis. In 2015 it holds spoonbills.

Tiger Terrace[edit]

The Tiger Terrace has amur tigers, Asian sloth bears and white-naped cranes. The zoo holds a female tiger along with two cubs.


The Lights Before Christmas[edit]

The Lights Before Christmas is an annual event held by The Toledo Zoo from November 16 to December 31. Most summer attractions and exhibits are closed, but all the buildings and trees are decorated with Christmas lights. It features over one million Christmas lights, 200 animal images, ice carvings, food, carolers, model trains from the Swanton Area Railroad, and Santa Claus. An 85-foot (26 m) Norway spruce tree contains over 32,000 lights every year, which is more than the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. The main show, Dancing Lights, is near Cheetah Valley. It is repeated several times every night. It uses LED wide-angle mini lights that flash along with Christmas music.[18] All this is done using nearly 10 miles (16 km) of extension cords.[19]

Winter Weekends[edit]

Winter Weekends is an annual winter-themed event lasting from January through February. It features professional ice carving demonstrations, "Cabin Fever Feeds", musical and theatrical performances in the historic Indoor Theatre, and other special activities. Many of the outdoor animal exhibits are closed during these months, but all of the indoor exhibits remain open to the public. Zoo admission is also half-price during this event.[20]

Conservation efforts[edit]

A Cuban boa gets a microchip from Toledo Zoo biologist.

The Zoo has several projects across the world working with wildlife and habitats. Zoo employees run a majority of the research abroad and will participate in expeditions. Some of the most prominent conservation programs are the Aruba island rattle snake program, West Indian boa conservation, the Kihansi spray toad program (which served to restore a wild population that was declared extinct).

The Zoo has a department called Wild Toledo, which focuses on local conservation efforts and scientific research. This conservation department works to re-introduce hellbenders to their native habitat in southeastern Ohio, release thousands of monarch butterflies for fall migration, rear the federally endangered Mitchell’s satyr butterfly, restore native prairie habitat in urban Toledo, conduct research on the spatial ecology and population dynamic of several species of threatened turtles, conduct health assessments and vaccinations of local mesopredators, research the movement and presence/absence of native Ohio wildlife with trail cameras, conduct vegetation analysis on ecosystems around the region and work to support and restore native pollinators.

Wild Toledo runs three summer field camps aimed at 10-13 year olds interested in field research and conservation. Wild Toledo also has several partnerships with educational facilities within northwest Ohio where native prairies are installed and interpreted for students.


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