Zoo Miami

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Zoo Miami
Entrance from State Road 992.
Date opened 1948 (Crandon Park Zoo)
July 4, 1980 (Miami MetroZoo)[1]
Location Miami-Dade County, Florida, United States
Coordinates 25°36′28″N 80°24′00″W / 25.6077°N 80.4001°W / 25.6077; -80.4001Coordinates: 25°36′28″N 80°24′00″W / 25.6077°N 80.4001°W / 25.6077; -80.4001
Land area 750 acres (304 ha) (324 acres (131 ha) developed)[2]
Number of animals 3,000[2]
Number of species 500[2]
Memberships Association of Zoos and Aquariums
Major exhibits 100[2]
Website www.zoomiami.org

The Miami-Dade Zoological Park and Gardens, branded and commonly known as Zoo Miami, and formerly known as Miami MetroZoo, is the largest and oldest zoological garden in Florida, and the only tropical zoo in the United States. Originally established in 1948 at Crandon Park in Key Biscayne, Zoo Miami relocated in 1980 to the former location of the Richmond Naval Air Station,[3] southwest of Miami in southern metropolitan Miami-Dade County, in the center of the census-designated places of Three Lakes (north), South Miami Heights (south), Palmetto Estates (east) and Richmond West (west). The zoo houses over 3,000 animals on nearly 750 acres (304 ha), 324 acres (131 ha) of which are developed. It is about 3 mi (5 km) around if walked on the path, and features over 100 exhibits.[2]

The zoo's communications director is wildlife expert and photographer Ron Magill. He frequently appears on local talk shows and news stations, often promoting the zoo's wildlife and exhibits.[4] Zoo Miami is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).


Entrance sign with the old Zoo name

The history of the zoo can be traced back to 1948, when 3 monkeys, a goat and 2 black bears were purchased for $270 from a small road show stranded near Miami. These 6 animals were the beginning of the Crandon Park Zoo on the island of Key Biscayne, just southeast off the coast from downtown Miami.[2] The Crandon Park Zoo occupied 48 acres (19.4 ha) of the park. The first animals in the zoo, including some lions, an elephant and a rhinoceros, had been stranded when a circus went out of business in Miami. Some Galapagos tortoises, monkeys and pheasants were added from the Matheson plantation.[5] By 1967, the Crandon Park Zoo had grown to over 1,200 animals, and was considered one of the top 25 zoos in the country.[6] Other animals were added, including a white Bengal tiger in 1968.[2]

In 1965, Hurricane Betsy devastated the zoo and killed 250 animals. After the hurricane there was talk of a new zoo for Dade county, but not until 11 December 1970 did Dade County officials apply for 600 acres (243 ha) of land in the Richmond Naval Air Station property. Construction began in 1975. The zoo opened on July 4, 1980[1] as Miami MetroZoo with a preview section of 12 exhibits and Asia, the first major exhibit, opened on December 12, 1981. A total of 38 exhibits, covering 200 acres (81 ha), were open to the public at this time.[2]

In the 1980s, the zoo continued to expand. An additional 25 acres (10 ha) with six new African hoofed stock exhibits opened in 1982, along with the zoo's monorail in 1984.[2] After the closing of 1984 Louisiana World Exposition in New Orleans, monorails were being moved in Florida and re-used at Miami MetroZoo.[7] Wings of Asia, a 1.6-acre (0.6 ha) free-flight aviary, was opened in December 1984.[2] Three additional African hoofed stock exhibits followed in 1985, and two new exhibits were opened in the African savanna section in 1986. The Australian section of the zoo was opened in 1989, and PAWS, the children's petting zoo, opened in 1989.[2] The Asian Riverlife Experience opened in August 1990.

In 1992, the zoo suffered extensive damage when Hurricane Andrew made landfall in South Florida on August 24. The small, yet intensely powerful category 5 hurricane toppled over 5,000 trees and destroyed the Wings of Asia aviary—which had been built to withstand winds of up to 120 miles per hour (193 km/h)—resulting in the loss of approximately 100 of the 300 resident birds.[8] Despite the majority of the zoo's animals remaining outside during the duration and aftermath of Hurricane Andrew, only five animals were killed from either debris or the consumption of contaminated water.[8] MetroZoo, though looking dramatically different, was reopened on December 18, 1992; with the zoo's tiger temple exhibit being renamed in honor of Naomi Browning, an active 12-year-old volunteer who was one of the storm's casualties.[8] By July 1993, many of the animals that were sent to other zoos and animal parks across the United States during the zoo's reconstruction had been returned to MetroZoo, and over 7,000 new trees had been planted to begin restoring the zoo's canopy.[8][9]

In 1994, stray dogs entered the zoo during off-hours and killed five Thomson's gazelles and two Grant's gazelles.[10] In 1996, a brush fire burned 100 acres in the southeast portion of the zoo's undeveloped land.[10] Nearly 30 animals from neighboring exhibits were evacuated.[11] The Falcon Batchelor Komodo Dragon Encounter opened that same year, followed by Andean Condor (1999), Meerkats (2000), Cuban Crocodiles and Squirrel Monkeys (2001), and Dr. Wilde's World, which is an indoor facility for traveling zoological exhibits. The rebuilt Wings of Asia aviary, housing more than 300 individuals representing 70 species of birds, opened in the spring of 2003.[12]

On July 4, 2010, the zoo was renamed the Miami-Dade Zoological Park and Gardens, or Zoo Miami, for marketing purposes. This was a part of the zoo's 30th anniversary celebration.[1][13]

Exhibits and animals[edit]

American flamingo exhibit at the zoo's entrance

There are four main exhibit sections in the zoo: Asia, Africa, Amazon and Beyond, and Australia. The zoo's original main entry featured a large rock pool fed by a waterfall, containing various types of pelicans and waterfowl. The entryway structure, conjoining ticket booths, and the adjacent American flamingo exhibit were demolished in 2014, to accommodate the construction of a modern entry plaza and a remodeled flamingo exhibit expected to open in 2015.[14] Dr. Wilde's World is an indoor, seasonal, interactive exhibit at the junction of the zoo's main pathways. The property includes a large lake, called Lake Iguana.

An air-conditioned monorail system loops around the zoo's premises, providing both an aerial view of the zoo and a convenient way to move between sections. The monorail system has four stations, each found in the zoo's four sections; Asia, Africa, Amazon and Beyond, and Australia. Narrated tram rides and guided tours are given daily.


Carlita, a white Bengal tiger, was an iconic showcase of the zoo for nearly two decades.

The zoo's Asian exhibit features dozens of animals. The multi-leveled Asian Riverlife Experience replicates the surrounding and appearance of an Oriental river brook. Guests can also get close to and brush an Indian rhinoceros at the Kaziranga Camp Rhino Encounter. Zoo Miami is only one of two zoos in the United States to display a pair of black-necked storks.

The zoo's orangutan exhibit once housed Nonja, a Sumatran orangutan that was relocated from a Dutch zoo to Zoo Miami. She was widely believed to be the oldest living specimen of her species, until her death in 2007.[15] Another notable resident was Carlita, a 21-year-old white Bengal tiger, who resided in the zoo's tiger enclosure from 1994 until her death in 2014.[16][17]

The American Banker's Family Aviary, Wings of Asia is also located here. The aviary features 300 rare birds of 70 species in a temperate mixed forest, and it highlights the evolutionary connection of birds to dinosaurs. At 54,000 square feet (5,017 m2), it is the largest open-air Asian aviary in the Western Hemisphere.[12] The Children's Zoo,[18] hosts special animals that can be approached to a close distance by guests. Guests can view meerkats, a petting zoo, an exhibit that displays small species of reptiles, amphibians and insects, butterfly gardens, a carousel dedicated to individual animal species, and experience traditional camel rides.


Samburu Giraffe Feeding Station

The African lobe of the zoo offers animals from different locations on the African continent. Visitors can get eye-to-eye and feed reticulated giraffes at the Samburu Giraffe Feeding Station for a small fee. The African part is divided unequally by an eatery plaza; therefore, while the majority of the African exhibits are grouped together at the southern end of the zoo, the others are situated between the Asian and the Australian areas.

Amazon and Beyond[edit]

Entrance to the Cloud Forest section of the Amazon and Beyond exhibit

Amazon and Beyond, the most recent exhibit, opened on December 6, 2008. This area has 27 acres (10.9 ha) dedicated to the flora and fauna of Central and South America, and is sub-divided into four distinct areas: Village Plaza, Cloud Forest, Amazon Forest, and Atlantic Forest. The first area provides guests an immersive experience for the unique culture found in central and southern American civilizations. The remaining three areas represent native habitats that are found in the Amazonian region, including the Amazon River, the Atlantic Forest, and the Pantanal.[19]


The zoo's Australian habitat showcases specimens from throughout the region of Oceania. Situated near this to habitat, is the 800-seat Sami Amphitheater, where daily animal presentations, concerts and cultural events are held. The amphitheater is named in memory of Albert and Winifred Sami, who anonymously donated an estimated $3 million to the zoo from 1993 until their deaths in 2007 and 2014, respectively.[20]

Florida: Mission Everglades[edit]

Florida: Mission Everglades—currently under construction and slated to open in 2016—will feature native fauna and flora species found in Florida, particularly from the state's Everglades region.[2] The $43 million project will be constructed in conjunction with a gentle boat ride attraction and the zoo's state-of-the-art entryway.[14]

Conservation efforts[edit]

Zoo Miami supports conservation programs at the local, national and global level, and was a founding member of the AZA's Butterfly Conservation Initiative (BFCI), a program designed to assemble non-governmental organizations and government agencies to aid in the population recovery of imperiled butterflies in North America.

The zoo has also provided financial help through the Zoo Miami Conservation Fund to upgrade captive breeding facilities in Thailand zoos for endangered clouded leopards and fishing cats.[21]


  1. ^ a b c "Renaming of Miami MetroZoo". miamidade.gov. Miami-Dade County. Retrieved 23 June 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "About Zoo Miami: Keepin' it wild since 1948". Zoo Miami. Retrieved May 20, 2015. 
  3. ^ Destroyed Richmond Naval Air Station
  4. ^ Hanks, Douglas (April 30, 2015). "The face of Zoo Miami enjoys a star turn in Havana". Miami Herald. Retrieved May 20, 2015. 
  5. ^ Blank, Joan Gill. 1996. Key Biscayne. Sarasota, Florida: Pineapple Press, Inc. ISBN 1-56164-096-4. pp. 158-160, 163-164.
  6. ^ Abraham, Kristin (28 January 2010). "Visiting Zoo Miami". miamibeachadvisor.com. Miami Beach Advisor. Retrieved 28 June 2010. 
  7. ^ Cotter, Bill, The 1984 New Orleans World's Fair, Arcadia Publishing, Charleston, South Carolina, 2008, p.120. ISBN 0-7385-6856-2
  8. ^ a b c d Abbady, Tal (1992). "Miami's zoo teems with new life 10 years after Hurricane Andrew". The Sun-Sentinel. Retrieved May 21, 2015. 
  9. ^ Lohr, Steve (May 21, 2015). "AFTER THE STORMS: THREE REPORTS; Miami". The New York Times. Retrieved May 21, 2015. 
  10. ^ a b San Martin, Nancy (March 24, 1996). "Animals Unharmed As Fire Consumes 100 Acres At Zoo". The Sun-Sentinel. Retrieved May 24, 2015. 
  11. ^ "Fire Erupts Near Zoo; Animals Evacuated". Los Angeles Times. Times Wire Services. March 24, 1996. Retrieved May 24, 2015. 
  12. ^ a b "Wings of Asia". Zoo Miami. Retrieved May 20, 2015. 
  13. ^ "Miami MetroZoo Celebrates its 30th Birthday with a New Name". miamimetrozoo.com. Miami Zoo. Retrieved 28 June 2010. 
  14. ^ a b Morejon, Liane (May 7, 2014). "Groundbreaking ceremony held at Zoo Miami for Mission Everglades exhibit". Local 10 News. Retrieved May 21, 2015. 
  15. ^ "'World's oldest' orang-utan dies". BBC News (BBC). 2002-12-31. Retrieved 2012-03-17. 
  16. ^ Dixon, Lance (September 16, 2014). "Iconic Zoo Miami white tiger euthanized". Miami Herald. Retrieved May 21, 2015. 
  17. ^ Martin, Vanessa (September 19, 2014). "Carlita Dead: White Bengal Tiger Dies At Zoo Miami". The Huffington Post. Retrieved May 21, 2015. 
  18. ^ "Children's Zoo". Zoo Miami. Retrieved May 20, 2015. 
  19. ^ "Amazon and Beyond Exhibit". Zoo Miami. Retrieved May 20, 2015. 
  20. ^ Ron Magill; Dan LeBatard (August 14, 2014). "Zoo Miami’s Ron Magill reveals identity of long-anonymous donors of millions". Miami Herald. Retrieved May 20, 2015. 
  21. ^ "Zoo Miami Conservation: Asian Projects". miamimetrozoo.co. Zoo Miami. Retrieved 13 July 2010. 

External links[edit]

Media related to Zoo Miami at Wikimedia Commons