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Date opened1910 (1910)[1]
LocationHershey, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Land area11 acres (4.5 ha)
No. of animalsMore than 200
No. of speciesMore than 75
Annual visitors3.2 million
MembershipsAZA, WAZA
OwnerHershey Trust Company, Hershey Entertainment and Resorts Company
Public transit accessHershey Trolley Works

ZooAmerica is a zoo located in Hershey, Pennsylvania, United States. The zoo was founded in 1910 by Milton S. Hershey with a few animals, including bears, birds, and deer.[2] Today, the zoo covers 11 acres and is home to more than 75 species and 200 individual animals, including some that are rare and endangered.[3]

The zoo is privately controlled by the Hershey Trust Company and is connected to Hershey Park. ZooAmerica is also an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA).[4]


Early history[edit]

In 1905, Franz and Louise Zinner moved to Lebanon, Pennsylvania, from Weisenberg, Germany. Mr. Zinner was unable to keep the 12 prairie dogs which he had been given by a friend, so he gave them to Milton S. Hershey who went on to use them as an attraction at Hershey Park. In 1910, Mr. Zinner received a black bear from the same friend and once again, it was given to Hershey. With the acquisition of another animal, Hershey decided to build a zoo that included bears, birds, deer, and other animals.

In 1910, the park officially opened and throughout the year, the zoo received a few more bears, angora goats, fox squirrels, opossums, peacocks, pheasants, and zebus. In 1914, the zoo received a lion, monkeys, and a leopard. In 1915, the zoo received major renovations to help alleviate the overflow since new animals were arriving. Those included the addition of the Hershey Laundry building. Once the renovations were done, the center of the zoo had a large building and every enclosure was renovated and some exhibits were built along the creek. In 1916 the zoo displayed hundreds of animals.[1]

By 1934, the zoo covered more than 40 acres, had a reptile house and a pair of baby elephants, but they were sold after Hershey overheard a guest talk about how they prefer the monkeys.

Milton Hershey with an elephant at ZooAmerica

After Milton Hershey's death and the end of World War II, the zoo opened under new leadership. The zoo acquired a variety of new animals including African sheep, antelope, aoudad, bison, black bear, chipmunk, crow, deer, duck, emu, fox, goat, goose, groundhog, hare, hawk, llama, monkey, opossum, owl, parakeet, partridge, pheasant, rabbit, raccoon, skunk, squirrel, and wolf. The zoo also built a diversified wildlife education exhibit on Pennsylvania's wildlife.

In 1971, Hershey Park and Zoo America both closed for renovations. A year later, they both re-opened, the zoo included a new monkey island, a barnyard petting zoo and baby animals such as llamas and elephants. Six years later, John Strawbridge III became the new director of ZooAmerica. Under his direction, the zoo was connected with Hershey Park and decided to focus entirely on North American animals. He even made sure the animals had naturalistic exhibits.

The new North American Wildlife Park occupied 11 acres and consisted of five sections: North Woods, Eastern Woodlands, Big Sky Country, Grassy Waters, and Cactus Community.

In 1982, ZooAmerica was accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums becoming only the second zoo or aquarium in Pennsylvania to get accredited.[5]

Recent history[edit]

Finally, in 2000 ZooAmerica opened a new bear exhibit featuring hills, grass, toys, and a 13,000-gallon swimming pond with fish for the bears. The following year and in 2012 two albino alligators were temporarily acquired.

In 2004, the zoo established a program for kids to become more involved with conservation. It included an official mascot, Ranger Scratch, and the Ranger Scratch Kid's Club, a program designed to educate kids about conservation and environmental issues. Five years later, the zoo finished construction of their new education building, the Woodlands Education Center, which gives guests experiences with animals.



Southern Swamps[edit]

The first section of the zoo is the Southern Swamps, which has a variety of animals from marshy, semi-tropical areas. Some of the animals include, but are not limited to the alligator snapping turtle, American alligator, barred owl, a variety of rattlesnakes, gopher tortoise, roseate spoonbill, and more.[8]


Another exhibit at ZooAmerica is their Northlands exhibit, which showcases animals that are native from Newfoundland across Canada into Alaska. Some animals on exhibit there are the American marten, bald eagle, Canada lynx, gray wolf, porcupine, snowy owl and peregrine falcon. It provides a great experience on how animals survive in some of the coldest climates.[9]

An American marten at ZooAmerica

Eastern Woodlands[edit]

The Eastern Woodlands exhibit provides guests with a unique experience on how animals are adapting to an ever-changing eastern United States. Some animals, which can be seen include the red-tailed hawk, river otter, barn owl, American black bear, bobcat and eastern wild turkey.[10]

The black bears at ZooAmerica

Big Sky Country[edit]

Towards the end of the zoo is Big Sky Country, which exhibits animals in their native environment in a unique way. It has vast pieces of flat grass, replicas of the bottom of mountain summits and areas where short grass meets with tall grass. Some of the wildlife species include the American elk, prairie dog, pronghorn, turkey vulture, black-billed magpie, sandhill crane, long-eared owl and mountain lion.[11]

Great Southwest[edit]

Finally, the last exhibit at the zoo is the Great Southwest, which includes a section with nocturnal animals, armadillos and an open-bird sanctuary. Some animals on exhibit include the black-footed ferret, burrowing owl, chuckwalla, coati, vampire bat, desert box turtle, desert tortoise, nine-banded armadillo, ocelot, ringtail, roadrunner, tarantula, and thick-billed parrot.[12]


ZooAmerica is an active member in the conservation and breeding process known as the Species Survival Plan. The zoo currently houses and is working to breed the thick-billed parrots, swift fox, Canada lynx, black-footed ferret, and ocelots.

In the past, ZooAmerica played a big role in bringing back the golden eagle and peregrine falcon, which were both facing severe threats in the wild. However, ZooAmerica has raised many birds of prey which were later released, including a peregrine that was later found nesting along the Susquehanna River.[13]

Beginning in 2011[14], ZooAmerica became involved in a cooperative project with Fort Indiantown Gap to raise Regal Fritillary butterflies for release. In 2014, The National Military Fish & Wildlife Association honored two naturalists at ZooAmerica, Tim Becker and Ann Holzman, for their work in the reintroduction of the regal fritillary butterfly to Pennsylvania.[15]


On September 7, 2011, flooding took place in Hershey, Pennsylvania, due to Tropical Storm Lee. The rain broke records set by Hurricane Agnes in 1972. As a result, Spring Creek, which runs through Hershey Park and ZooAmerica overflowed. Many animals were put into safe and secure areas, but the bison, Esther and Ryan, were just moved to higher ground in their exhibit, unfortunately, the rain increased drastically, resulting in the animals panicking. Even though keepers used ropes to keep them above water, one of them drowned and the second was forced to be euthanized.[16][17]

In popular culture[edit]


In Carole Marsh's book, The Mystery in Chocolate Town...Hershey, Pennsylvania and in Milton Hershey: Young Chocolatier by M.M. Eboch, ZooAmerica is mentioned multiple times.


In Milton Hershey: The Chocolate King, ZooAmerica is mentioned quite a few times. The film was narrated by Jack Perkins and is available on Netflix and Biography.com.[18]


  1. ^ a b D'Antonio, Michael (2007). Hershey: Milton S. Hershey's Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams. Simon and Schuster. p. 159. ISBN 9780743264105. (via Google Books)
  2. ^ "Timeline of 35 years at ZooAmerica". PennLive.com. Retrieved 2017-10-09.
  3. ^ "Conservation - Current Projects". www.zooamerica.com.
  4. ^ "About ZooAmerica". www.zooamerica.com.
  5. ^ "Currently Accredited Zoos and Aquariums". www.aza.org.
  6. ^ "Timeline of 35 years at ZooAmerica". PennLive.com. Retrieved 2017-10-09.
  7. ^ "Hershey Community Archives - ZooAmerica - Hershey Zoo". www.hersheyarchives.org.
  8. ^ "Southern Swamps". www.zooamerica.com.
  9. ^ "Northlands". www.zooamerica.com.
  10. ^ "Eastern Woodlands". www.zooamerica.com.
  11. ^ "Big Sky Country". www.zooamerica.com.
  12. ^ "Great Southwest". www.zooamerica.com.
  13. ^ "ZooAmerica turns 35, with some original staff and critters still on board".
  14. ^ "ZooAmerica Regal Fritillary Conservation Program works to restore rare Pennsylvania butterfly".
  15. ^ "Butterfly project nets award for ZooAmerica naturalists".
  16. ^ "One bison drowns at Hershey zoo, another euthanized".
  17. ^ "2 drowning ZooAmerica bison euthanized in Hershey".
  18. ^ https://www.biography.com/video/milton-hershey-full-episode-2074723193

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 40°17′15″N 76°39′03″W / 40.28750°N 76.65083°W / 40.28750; -76.65083