Occupying the western half of Woodland Park, the zoo began as a small menagerie on the estate of Guy C. Phinney, a Canadian-born lumber mill owner and real estate developer. Six years after Phinney's death, on December 28, 1899, Phinney's wife sold the 188-acre (76 ha) Woodland Park to the city for $5,000 in cash and the assumption of a $95,000 mortgage. The sum was so large that the Seattle mayor (W. D. Wood) vetoed the acquisition, only to be later overruled by the city council. In 1902, the Olmsted Brothers firm of Boston was hired to design the city's parks, including Woodland Park, and the next year the collection of the private Leschi Park menagerie was moved to Phinney Ridge.
As of the summer of 2010[update], the zoo includes 92 acres (37 ha) of exhibits and public spaces. It is open to the public daily, and received 1.05 million visitors in 2006. Its collection includes:
This article's factual accuracy may be compromised due to out-of-date information. Please update this article to reflect recent events or newly available information.(May 2014)
Woodland Park Zoo is a recipient of multiple Best National Exhibit awards from the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, and ranks second to the Bronx Zoo in New York for the number received. Woodland Park Zoo created what is generally considered the world's first immersion exhibit, a gorilla habitat, which opened in the late 1970s under the direction of David Hancocks. Other exhibits include:
The Zoomazium play area for kids
Zoomazium, (a portmanteau of "zoo" and "gymnasium"), is an interactive playspace for children that opened in May 2006. It includes nature-themed playspaces as well as a Nature Exchange desk and open areas for interactive programs. It was built to be energy efficient and includes a green roof of native plants.
African Savanna - The visitor enters through a model African village, which combines elements of African culture and themes of the human/animal balance in conservation. The main "savanna" houses giraffes, zebras, gazelles, oryxes, and ostriches, while two connected exhibits house hippopotamus and patas monkeys. During the summer, visitors may hand-feed the giraffes for a small fee at specified times. Hidden moats allow these areas to appear to be part of a continuous landscape. In addition to the herbivores, two separate exhibits house Southeast African lions and African warthogs.
Temperate Forest - home to a variety of animals from temperate regions of Asia, North America, and South America. It includes an aviary with a number of exotic birds, including hornbills and pheasants, as well as sections for cranes, red pandas, and a marsh exhibit featuring local waterfowl species. In 2008 a small exhibit was opened in the Temperate Forest area featuring Chilean flamingos and southern pudús, which have bred successfully at the zoo. In 2014, a pair of cheetah were temporarily housed in this area, part of a reinterpretation called "Wildlife Survival Zone", which also features a small alcove focusing on the zoo's efforts to restore the native western pond turtle.
Other notable animal exhibits at Woodland Park Zoo include a Raptor Center and accompanying flight demonstration, and lowland anoa. The zoo also includes "Family Farm" and Bug World exhibits. In the Adaptations building visitors can find meerkats, added in 2010, as well as nocturnal animals, including Indian flying fox and sloths.
In May 2009, the Woodland Park Zoo opened a new 17,000-square-foot (1,600 m2) Humboldt penguin exhibit. The outdoor enclosure is designed to recreate the penguin's native habitat in Peru, and features cliffs and pools. The exhibit is also designed to use green energy, such as geothermal power.
Bobo's successors live in a modern landscaped enclosure with glass panels that allow visitors to get up close without disturbing the gorillas.
From 1953 to 1968, Woodland Park Zoo was home to Bobo, a western lowland gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla, the same species as the gorillas currently living at the zoo). Bobo was acquired from the Lowman family of Anacortes, Washington, who had purchased the gorilla as an infant from a hunter in Columbus, Ohio in 1951 and had raised him in their family home in Anacortes. Bobo drew many visitors to the zoo and was one of Seattle's main attractions in the years preceding the construction of Seattle Center and the expansion of major-league professional sports into the city; his popularity is credited with helping the zoo obtain funding to build a new primate house.
Anthropologist Dawn Prince-Hughes spent many years working at Woodland Park Zoo and observing the western lowland gorillas there, which she wrote about in her book Songs of the Gorilla Nation: My Journey Through Autism.