Zoo Atlanta

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Zoo Atlanta
Zoo Atlanta logo.jpg
Date opened1889
LocationAtlanta, Georgia, United States
Coordinates33°43′57″N 84°22′11″W / 33.73250°N 84.36972°W / 33.73250; -84.36972Coordinates: 33°43′57″N 84°22′11″W / 33.73250°N 84.36972°W / 33.73250; -84.36972
Land area40 acres (16 ha)
No. of animals1,500
No. of species220

Zoo Atlanta (sometimes referred as Atlanta Zoo) is an Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) accredited zoological park in Atlanta, Georgia. The current President and CEO of Zoo Atlanta is Raymond B. King. The Atlanta zoo suffered neglect and by 1984, was ranked among the ten worst zoos in the United States. Systematic reform by 2000 put it on the list of the ten best.[2]


The gorilla exhibit

Zoo Atlanta was founded in 1889, when businessman George V. Gress purchased a bankrupt traveling circus and donated the animals to the city of Atlanta. City leaders opted to house the collection in Grant Park, which remains the zoo's present location. Original residents of the zoo included a black bear, a raccoon, a jaguar, a hyena, a gazelle, a Mexican hog, lionesses, monkeys, and camels.[3] The zoo's collection expanded in the 1930s with the personal donation of a private menagerie owned by Asa G. Candler, Jr.[4]

The 1950s and 1960s were decades of renovation and construction at the zoo, but by the early 1970s, many of its exhibits and facilities were outdated and showing signs of disrepair. In 1970, a small group of concerned citizens founded the Atlanta Zoological Society in hopes of raising funds and awareness for the institution.

Following a period of decline in the mid-1980s, the zoo was privatized in 1985 with the creation of a nonprofit organization, Atlanta Fulton-County Zoo Inc., and was renamed Zoo Atlanta that same year. A 20-year period of aggressive restoration followed, marked by several high-profile exhibit openings, including The Ford African Rain Forest, in the late 1980s and early 1990s. A pair of giant pandas, Lun Lun and Yang Yang, made their debut at Zoo Atlanta in 1999.[5]


The Ford African Rain Forest[edit]

Families often pose with one of the Willie B. bronze statues at Zoo Atlanta.

Twenty-one western lowland gorillas have been born at the zoo since the opening of The Ford African Rain Forest in 1988. Kali and Kazi, a rare set of twins, were born at Zoo Atlanta on October 31, 2005.[6]

Zoo Atlanta also remains home to offspring of its best-known gorilla, Willie B. (ca. 1959-2000). The zoo is also home to six of Willie B.'s grandchildren: Macy B (2005) and Merry Leigh (2011) and Mijadala (2016), born to Kudzoo; Gunther (2006) and Anaka (2013), born to Sukari; Andi (2013) and Floyd (2019), born to Lulu.

The Living Treehouse is an extension of The Ford African Rain Forest completed in 2004. The exhibit houses an aviary of African birds, as well as black-and-white ruffed lemurs and ring-tailed lemurs, with adjacent habitats for Angolan colobus monkeys, drills, Schmidt's guenons, and Wolf's guenons. In 2017, Zoo Atlanta introduced two crowned lemurs.

Trader's Alley and Complex Carnivores[edit]

Opened in 2010, Trader's Alley: Wildlife's Fading Footprints is focused on species impacted by the international wildlife trade. The exhibit introduced Malayan sun bears and raccoon dogs to the collection.[7] Opened in 2011, an adjacent series of exhibits, Complex Carnivores, introduced bush dogs, binturong, and fossa.[8]

African Savanna[edit]

Zoo Atlanta’s African Savanna, opened in 1989 as African Plains and reopened and renamed in 2019, houses wildlife native to the grasslands and desert of Africa, including lions, African bush elephants, southern ground hornbills, kori bustards, meerkats, and warthogs. Another savanna landscape is home to giraffes, zebras, and ostrich. Also featured is a naked mole rat colony housed in its own building. A giraffe feeding experience opened in 2012. The former elephant habitat is now an exhibit for a new species of animal, the Southern white rhinoceros.[9] Mumbles, a male white rhino has come to Zoo Atlanta from the Houston Zoo on May 20, 2020.

Giant pandas[edit]

Zoo Atlanta panda

Zoo Atlanta is one of three institutions in the U.S. currently housing giant pandas. Lun Lun (female) and Yang Yang (male) arrived in Atlanta as juveniles in 1999 and reside at the zoo on loan from China. The pair's first cub, male Mei Lan, was born on September 6, 2006. A second cub, male Xi Lan, was born August 30, 2008. Female Po was born November 3, 2010. Po's name was announced by actor Jack Black in 2011; Po was named after Black's character in the DreamWorks films Kung Fu Panda.[10] A fourth and a fifth cub, both female,[11] born July 15, 2013, were the first twin pandas to be born in the U.S. since 1987.[12] Their names were announced on ABC's Good Morning America on October 23, 2013; 100 days after their birth, which is a Chinese tradition. The names are Mei Lun and Mei Huan.[13] As of October 2015, Mei Lan, Xi Lan, Po, Mei Lun, and Mei Huan reside at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in China.[14]

A sixth and seventh cub, both female, were born September 3, 2016. Their names were announced on their 100th day of life: Ya Lun and Xi Lun. Like their older siblings, the twins will return to China once they are fully grown and weaned, likely between 3–5 years of age.

Asian Forest[edit]

The Asian Forest is set in the forests of Asia and houses giant otters, sun bears, Komodo dragons, Sumatran tigers, giant pandas, tanukis, and red pandas, as well as Bornean orangutans and Sumatran orangutans.

The Orangutan Learning Tree Project, launched at Zoo Atlanta in 2007, utilizes in-habitat touch screen technology to allow orangutans to engage in computer puzzles, games and problem-solving exercises while guests observe their activities on a linked monitor.[15]

The World of Reptiles[edit]

The Zoo Atlanta herpetology department manages more than 450 reptiles and amphibians representing over 100 species, though because of the size of the World of Reptiles exhibit building, not all of these animals can currently be displayed. The zoo is the only zoological institution to successfully breed Arakan forest turtles, a critically endangered species harvested nearly to extinction for food and traditional medicine. A rare Guatemalan beaded lizard hatched at Zoo Atlanta in March 2012.

The World of Reptiles was the zoo's oldest public building used for public exhibits, designed in the late 1950s and opened to the public in 1962. The building was home to hundreds of snakes, lizards, turtles, tortoises, frogs, toads, and salamanders from around the world. Exhibited species included black mamba, king cobra, indian star tortoise, Spider tortoise, Alligator snapping turtle, American alligator, and reticulated python. Georgia native species include eastern diamond-backed rattlesnake, timber rattlesnake, copperhead, water moccasin, Carolina pygmy rattlesnake, bog turtle, and gopher tortoise.

In 2009, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums noted that "the facility is a major concern primarily because of age." The World of Reptiles once housed critically endangered gharial (a species of crocodile from India), but because the aging facility could not maintain adequate heat, they were sent to other zoos.

Construction began in 2013 on Scaly Slimy Spectacular: The Amphibian and Reptile Experience, replaced the World of Reptiles. The exhibit opened in 2015.[16]

Outback Station Children’s Zoo[edit]

Zoo Atlanta's Outback Station houses Australian wildlife, including red kangaroos, Major Mitchell's cockatoos, kookaburra and a double-watted cassowary. The petting zoo is home to Saanen goats, Oberhasli goats, Boer goats, Southdown babydoll sheep, Gulf Coast sheep, Nigerian dwarf goats, and two kunekune pigs.

Boundless Budgies: A Parakeet Adventure[edit]

Opened in April 2009, Boundless Budgies houses free-flying parakeets which guests are permitted to hand-feed. This exhibit closed permanently in November 2016 to allow for development of the newly opened African Savannah project.[17]


Zoo Atlanta is a participant in the AZA Species Survival Plan for the following programs:

Zoo Atlanta also participates in several international conservation initiatives, among them the Asian Turtle Crisis and Global Amphibian Decline. Staff members from Zoo Atlanta and the Atlanta Botanical Garden have established captive assurance colonies of Panamanian frogs threatened by the spread of chytrid fungus. (Chytrid is the cause of the infectious amphibian disease chytridiomycosis.) [18]


Dr. Terry Maple is Zoo Director Emeritus of Zoo Atlanta. In 1985, he assumed management responsibility for zoo operations of the Atlanta-Fulton County Zoo, Inc, which was privatized and rebranded as Zoo Atlanta.[19]

Duane Rumbaugh, a professor at Georgia State University in Atlanta, was a longtime advisor and researcher on animal behavior and welfare.[20]



  1. ^ "Currently Accredited Zoos and Aquariums". aza.org. AZA. Retrieved 25 March 2011.
  2. ^ Francis Desiderio, "Raising the Bars: The Transformation of Atlanta’s Zoo, 1889-2000." Atlanta History 18.4 (2000): 8-64.
  3. ^ "A Circus at Auction". Atlanta Evening Journal. March 28, 1889.
  4. ^ Desiderio, Francis (2000). "Raising the Bars: The Transformation of Atlanta's Zoo, 1889-2000". Atlanta History: A Journal of Georgia and the South. 43 (4): 7–43.
  5. ^ Pandas Make Themselves at Home in Atlanta Zoo
  6. ^ Gorilla has twins at Atlanta Zoo
  7. ^ Sun bears debut, tigers return to Zoo Atlanta's new exhibit
  8. ^ Complex Carnivores opens at Zoo Atlanta
  9. ^ Emerson, Bo; Journal-Constitution, The Atlanta. "Zoo Atlanta's African Savanna habitat nears completion". ajc. Retrieved 2020-09-10.
  10. ^ Jack Black helps name Atlanta Zoo's baby panda
  11. ^ Update on giant pandas Po, Mei Lun and Mei Huan
  12. ^ Twin giant panda cubs at Zoo Atlanta appear healthy, doing well
  13. ^ "Twin Panda Cubs' Names Revealed at Zoo Atlanta's 100-Day Celebration". ABC News. Retrieved 23 October 2013.
  14. ^ Giant pandas to leave Zoo Atlanta for China
  15. ^ Orangutan Learning Tree opens at Zoo Atlanta
  16. ^ $18M reptile house 'biggest thing' at Zoo since panda arrival
  17. ^ New aviary opens at Zoo Atlanta Archived September 11, 2014, at the Wayback Machine
  18. ^ New guidelines intended to guard amphibians against deadly fungus
  19. ^ "Turnaround-From Worst to World Class". Archived from the original on 2016-03-24.
  20. ^ Terry Maple, and Bonnie Perdue, "Duane Rumbaugh’s Influence on the Science and Practice of Animal Welfare." International Journal of Comparative Psychology 31 (2018) pp 31-44. online.

Further reading[edit]

  • Francis Desiderio, "Raising the Bars: The Transformation of Atlanta’s Zoo, 1889-2000." Atlanta History 18.4 (2000): 8-64.

External links[edit]