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Bronx Zoo

Bronx Zoo
Bronx Zoo logo
Asia Gate Entrance
Date opened November 8, 1899 [1]
Location 2300 Southern Boulevard, Bronx Park, Bronx, New York, 10460
Land area 265 acres (107 ha)[2]
Number of animals 4,000 [3]
Number of species 650 [3]
Memberships AZA [4]
Major exhibits Congo Gorilla Forest, JungleWorld, Wild Asia Monorail, Madagascar!, Tiger Mountain, African Plains, World of Birds, World of Monkeys, World of Reptiles, Zoo Center
Public transit access



Website .com.bronxzoowww

The Bronx Zoo is located in the Bronx, a borough of New York City, within Bronx Park. It is among the largest metropolitan zoos in the world, and is one of the largest in North America, with some 4,000 animals representing about 650 species from around the world. The zoo comprises 265 acres (107 ha) of park lands and naturalistic habitats, through which the Bronx River flows. The Bronx Zoo is part of an integrated system of four zoos and one aquarium managed by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), and is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).[5]


  • History 1
    • Early years 1.1
    • Ota Benga controversy 1.2
    • Recent years 1.3
  • Exhibits and attractions 2
    • Free exhibits 2.1
      • List 2.1.1
      • Details 2.1.2
    • Paid attractions 2.2
      • Bug Carousel 2.2.1
      • Butterfly Garden 2.2.2
      • Children's Zoo 2.2.3
      • Congo Gorilla Forest 2.2.4
      • Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, The 4-D Experience 2.2.5
      • JungleWorld 2.2.6
      • Wild Asia Monorail 2.2.7
  • Conservation 3
  • Incidents 4
    • 1985 zookeeper death 4.1
    • 2008 Skyfari Malfunction 4.2
    • 2012 mauling 4.3
    • Animal escapes 4.4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


Early years

Zoo Director William T. Hornaday feeding a greater kudu in 1920

Fordham University owned the land which became the Bronx Zoo and New York Botanical Garden. Fordham sold it to the City of New York for only $1,000 under the condition that the lands be used for a zoo and garden; this was in order to create a natural buffer between the university grounds and the urban expansion that was nearing. In the 1880s, New York State set aside the land for future development as parks. In 1894 the Boone and Crockett Club founded and took control of the New York Zoological Society (later renamed to Wildlife Conservation Society) for the purpose of founding a zoo. Credit for this belonged chiefly to Madison Grant, C. Grant LaFarge, and some others.[6]

The zoo (originally called the Bronx Zoological Park[7] and the Bronx Zoological Gardens[8]) opened its doors to the public on November 8, 1899, featuring 843 animals in 22 exhibits. The first zoo director was William Temple Hornaday, who had 30 years of service at the zoo.[9]

Heins & LaFarge designed the original permanent buildings as a series of Beaux-Arts pavilions grouped around the large circular sea lion pool.[10] In 1934, the Rainey Memorial Gates, designed by noted sculptor Paul Manship, were dedicated as a memorial to noted big game hunter Paul James Rainey.[11] The gates were listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972.[12]

The Rockefeller fountain that today adorns the gardens was once a famous landmark in Como, as it was standing in the main square (Piazza Cavour) by the lakeside. It was bought by William Rockefeller in 1902 for 3,500 lire (the estimated equivalent then of $637) and installed at the Bronx Zoo in 1903. In 1968, the fountain was designated an official New York City landmark, and is one of the few local monuments to be honored in this way.[13]

Ota Benga controversy

Ota Benga at the Bronx Zoo in 1906. Only five promotional photos exist of Benga's time here, none of them in the "Monkey House"; cameras were not allowed.[14]

A large controversy erupted when, in 1906, Ota Benga, a Mbuti pygmy, was brought to the Bronx Zoo, as an exhibit, by the American businessman and explorer Samuel Phillips Verner, and displayed there, being allowed to roam the grounds freely. He became fond of an orangutan named Dohong, "the presiding genius of the Monkey House", who had been taught to perform tricks and imitate human behavior.[15] The events leading to his "exhibition" alongside Dohong were gradual. Benga spent some of his time in the Monkey House exhibit, and the zoo encouraged him to hang his hammock there, and to shoot his bow and arrow at a target. On the first day of the exhibit, September 8, 1906, visitors found Benga in the Monkey House.[16] Soon, a sign on the exhibit read:

The African Pigmy, "Ota Benga."
Age, 23 years. Height, 4 feet 11 inches.
Weight, 103 pounds. Brought from the
Kasai River, Congo Free State, South Cen-
tral Africa, by Dr. Samuel P. Verner. Ex-
hibited each afternoon during September.[17]

Hornaday considered the exhibit a valuable spectacle for visitors; he was supported by Madison Grant, secretary of the New York Zoological Society, who lobbied to put Ota Benga on display alongside apes at the Bronx Zoo. A decade later, Grant became prominent nationally as a racial anthropologist and eugenicist.[18]

African-American clergymen immediately protested to zoo officials about the exhibit. Said James H. Gordon, "Our race, we think, is depressed enough, without exhibiting one of us with the apes ... We think we are worthy of being considered human beings, with souls."[16] Gordon also thought the exhibit was hostile to Christianity and a promotion of Darwinism: "The Darwinian theory is absolutely opposed to Christianity, and a public demonstration in its favor should not be permitted."[16] A number of clergymen backed Gordon.[19] In defense of the depiction of Benga as a lesser human, an editorial in The New York Times suggested:

We do not quite understand all the emotion which others are expressing in the matter ... It is absurd to make moan over the imagined humiliation and degradation Benga is suffering. The pygmies ... are very low in the human scale, and the suggestion that Benga should be in a school instead of a cage ignores the high probability that school would be a place ... from which he could draw no advantage whatever. The idea that men are all much alike except as they have had or lacked opportunities for getting an education out of books is now far out of date.[20]

After the controversy, Benga was allowed to roam the grounds of the zoo. In response to the situation, as well as verbal and physical prods from the crowds, he became more mischievous and somewhat violent.[21] Around this time, Rev. Dr. R. MacArthur of Calvary Baptist Church, was quoted in The New York Times saying: "It is too bad that there is not some society like the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. We send our missionaries to Africa to Christianize the people, and then we bring one here to brutalize him." Soon, the zoo removed Benga from the grounds.[17][22] Benga committed suicide in 1916 at the age of 32.[23]

Recent years

A side entrance to the Bronx Zoo

In November 2006, the zoo opened up brand-new eco-friendly restrooms outside the Bronx River Gate. According to the Clivus multrum company, which built the composting toilets chosen by the zoo, these facilities will serve 500,000 people and save 1,000,000 U.S. gallons (3,800,000 l) of water a year.[24][25]

In March 2007, the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Fordham University Graduate School of Education announced they would offer a joint program leading to a Master of Science degree in education and New York State initial teacher certification in adolescent science education (biology grades 7-12). The program began in 2008, and is the first joint degree program of its kind.[26]

Exhibits and attractions

Free exhibits


Nyalas, and birds
Monkeys grooming each other
  • Congo Gorilla Forest (January through March)
  • Astor Court and Sea Lion Pool
  • African Plains
  • Baboon Reserve
  • Big Bears
  • Himalayan Highlands
  • Madagascar!
  • Mouse House
  • Russell B. Aitken Sea Bird Colony and Aquatic Birds
  • Tiger Mountain
  • World of Birds
  • World of Reptiles
  • Stork Aviary
  • Asia Plaza
  • Pheasant Aviary
  • Birds of Prey
  • Zoo Center
  • Carter Giraffe House
  • Bison Range
  • Mitsubishi Riverwalk
  • Northern Ponds
  • Pond by the Dancing Crane Cafe

As of 2010, the Bronx Zoo is home to more than 4,000 animals of 650 species, many of which are endangered or threatened.[3] Some of the exhibits at the Bronx Zoo, such as "World of Birds" and "World of Reptiles", are arranged by taxonomy, while others, such as "African Plains" and "Wild Asia", are arranged geographically.[27]


The "African Plains" exhibit allows visitors to walk past lions, storks and zebras, and see herds of gazelles sharing their home with nyalas and African wild dogs. Giraffes roam nearby. The wild dogs can be viewed close-up from a glass-fronted viewing pavilion.[28] Three lion cubs were born in January 2010 and reside in the "African Plains" exhibit. The Bronx Zoo in partnership with the NY Daily News held a contest to name the newborns which made their public debut in April 2010. The names that won for the two females and one male were Nala, Adamma, and Shani.[29] The "Carter Giraffe Building", a section of the "African Plains" area, features indoor/outdoor viewing of the Bronx Zoo's Rothschild's giraffes and ostriches, and is also home to spotted hyenas, African Wild Dogs, and aardvarks. The "African Plains" area originally opened in 1941, and later expanded in the 1970s and 1980s (for example, the "Carter Giraffe Building" was added in 1982).

"Baboon Reserve", opened in 1990, recreates the Ethiopian highlands, and is home to a troop of geladas. Visitors can watch the geladas from multiple viewpoints along with the Nubian ibex, rock hyrax, and African waterfowl that also live in this area.[30]

The "Monkey House", first opened in 1901 and originally named the "Primate House", was home to cotton-topped tamarins, white-faced sakis, marmosets, and other New World monkeys.[31] It closed in late February 2012. Most of the primates that were in the now-closed Monkey House have been moved to other parts of the Bronx Zoo and some others have been moved to other New York City zoos.

The "Madagascar" exhibit, which opened on June 20, 2008, recreates a small section of what many people call the eighth continent. It contains a variety of wildlife from Madagascar, including lemurs, hissing cockroaches, sifaka lemurs, and the Nile crocodile.[32] The building was converted from the former "Lion House", which had opened in 1903 and closed by the late 1980s.

"World of Birds", originally opened in 1972, is an indoor walk-through aviary. The building closed for repairs and upgrades in the summer of 2010,[33] and reopened the following year.

Each attraction is $5.

  • Bug Carousel
  • Butterfly Garden
  • Children's Zoo (reopens in summer 2015)
  • Congo Gorilla Forest (free from January until April)
  • 4-D Theater[34]
  • Jungle World
  • Wild Asia Monorail
  • Zoo Shuttle

Bug Carousel

The Bug Carousel hosts insects as seats. It was installed in 2005 and has an annual ridership of 540,000.[35]

Butterfly Garden

This permanent structure is an indoor butterfly conservatory which lets visitors walk through gardens and meadows and watch the butterflies up close.[36] It was built and inaugurated in mid-1996. The attraction is a 170-foot-long maze, where "visitors can walk through the stages of a monarch's metamorphosis" with a greenhouse in the middle hosting 44 species and over 1,000 butterflies; the greenhouse is really "a plastic tent on an aluminum frame." The structure, costing $500,000, is the precursor for a future permanent House of Invertebrates in the Monkey House near the Fordham Road entrance. Many species come from the New York metropolitan area, and all species of butterflies and moths are from around the continent. If not successful, the Oklahoma City Zoo would have purchased it in September 1997.[37]

Children's Zoo

The original Children's Zoo in the Bronx Zoo opened in 1941 with a nursery-rhyme theme; in 1981, a new Children's Zoo opened, and was instantly successful, seeing almost 250,000 visitors in two months. It closed for renovations in 2013;[38] it reopened on May 30, 2015, with new exhibits featuring giant anteaters, pudús, Linne's two-toed sloth, squirrel monkeys, Asian small-clawed otters, and Nubian goats.[39]

Congo Gorilla Forest

Congo gorillas

In the southwestern part of the zoo, "Congo Gorilla Forest" is a 6.5-acre (2.6 ha) rainforest that is home to the 20 or so western lowland gorillas in the zoo. Colobus monkeys, guenon, marmosets and mandrills also call this area home. Visitors walk through the area and can also view it from treetop lookouts.[40]

The Congo Gorilla Forest was opened in 1999 and was visited 7,000,000 times as of 2009.[41] In one of the largest breeding groups of western lowland gorillas in North America, the exhibit has two troops of gorillas, for a total of 19 gorillas. Since 1999, 14 gorillas, 23 red river hogs, 11 Wolf's guenons, and four okapis have been born in the exhibit.[41] There is also an 8-minute film in the middle of the exhibit, as well as viewing points throughout. In total, there are about 400 animals from 55 species. Over $10.6 million for conservation of Central African habitats has been collected in donations since the exhibit's opening,[42] and the exhibit has netted $12.5 million in exhibit fees as of 2014.[43][44]

Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, The 4-D Experience

Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, The 4-D Experience, shown in the Bronx Zoo in a 4D movie theater in the southwestern corner,[45] is a 14-minute 4D film that retells the condensed story of Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs with the help of 3D projection and sensory effects, including moving seats, wind, mist, snow and scents. Produced by SimEx-Iwerks, The 4-D Experience premiered in May 2012, at the San Diego Zoo's 4-D Theater.[46][47]


Silvery lutungs (Trachypithecus cristatus), at JungleWorld

This exhibit is an indoor tropical jungle and home to nearly 800 animals including otters, gibbons, and a tapir, live in mangroves and on the beaches. Visitors can watch the gibbons swinging or singing, and watch the otters play. The exhibit includes species that are usually on the jungle floor including stag beetles, scorpions, and fire-bellied toads, but behind glass. A pond with a waterfall lets visitors sit and observe gourami and Fly River turtles.[48]

Planning for JungleWorld, in the southeastern "Wild Asia" portion of the zoo, was started in 1977 and completed at a cost of $9.5 million in June 1985. $4.1 million in funds were donated by Enid A. Haupt, a member of the New York Zoological Society's board of trustees.[49] The building is the largest at the zoo with an area of 1 acre (4,000 m2) and a height of 55 feet (17 m). There is a wooden path that meanders for 0.13 miles (210 m). The building's design integrates its environment with the path, as no bars are present in the building; the walkway has no full-height barriers and short railings; and only by means of ravines, streams, or cliffs are most of the animals separated from people and each other. There is a volcanic scrub forest, a mangrove swamp, a lowland evergreen rain forest with giant trees which merges into a mountain rain forest, and five museum-like galleries connecting and explaining the habitats.[49] The building was built to emphasize the fact that 150 acres (61 ha) of rainforest is lost every minute.[50] Nearly 800 species live here.[51]

Wild Asia Monorail

The Monorail

The monorail was inaugurated in 1977 with the rest of the formerly underdeveloped Wild Asia section of the zoo. There are six 9-car monorails on this 1.6 miles (2.6 km) ride, originally built by Rohr; the ride was refurbished in 2007.[52] Some animals in the zoo can only be seen on this ride.[3]

This ride takes visitors through a 40-acre (16 ha) area that recreates the mud wallows and pastures, forests and riverbanks of Asia. Visitors will see tigers, elephants, and rhinos, and wild horses in their natural habitats. As the monorail travels along the Bronx River, visitors can see native animals including egrets, turtles, and ducks. The monorail is accessible for wheelchairs up to 26" wide. Smaller chairs are available at the monorail platform for visitors with wider wheelchairs or motorized scooters.[53]

In 2012, a visitor was mauled after jumping off this monorail.[54]


The Bronx Zoo made the news in August 2006 when it agreed to enter a snow leopard cub, Leo, into its breeding program. The 13-month-old cub was found stuck in mud following a landslide in Naltar Valley in Pakistan. The landslide had killed the cub's mother. A Pakistani shepherd in the area found the cub with its female sibling, but the female had died a week later due to malnutrition. He then handed over the male cub to Pakistani authorities to care for him. Since there are no captive breeding programs or rehabilitation centers for snow leopards in Pakistan, the authorities decided to send the cub to the Bronx Zoo. The leopard will be returned to its place of birth following construction of a rehab facility in the Naltar Valley with cooperation from the United States.[10][55][56][57] On April 9, 2013, a snow leopard was born at the zoo and was put on display in August. It was the first son of Leo.[58]

In January 2010, the zoo was selected to house four abandoned baby bear cubs. The Wildlife Conservation Society suspects that their mother was killed in a mudslide.[59]

The next month, an "assurance colony" of Kihansi spray toads was placed in the zoo. The species disappeared in their native Tanzania home.[60]

In December 2012, five Chinese yellow-headed box turtles, a critically endangered species, were born.[61]


1985 zookeeper death

On July 29, 1985, two Siberian tigresses killed 24-year-old animal keeper Robin Silverman after she entered their enclosure with a volunteer aide.[62] It was unclear why Silverman entered the enclosure; the zoo's general curator suspected a lapse in concentration while Silverman's family suspected a lapse on the part of the zoo. It was the first fatality in the zoo's history.[63]

2008 Skyfari Malfunction

On July 9, 2008, the "Skyfari", a now defunct gondola lift used to transport guests from the Zoo Center to Asia Plaza, broke down when high winds caused one of the gondolas to derail. 37 guests, seven of which were children, were stranded for approximately five hours at heights ranging from 60-100 feet in elevation. A crane was brought into the zoo to evacuate the three guests in the derailed gondola, which was then repaired and operations resumed. No serious injuries occurred as a result of the incident. In January 2009, the Bronx Zoo removed the Skyfari due to high maintenance costs.[64][65]

2012 mauling

On September 21, 2012, David Villalobos, 25, jumped off the Wild Asia Monorail, and cleared the 16-foot-high perimeter fence around the area into the tiger exhibit. During the 10 minutes that he was in the enclosure, Villalobos was alone with an 11-year-old male Siberian (Amur) tiger named Bashuta, a three-year resident of the zoo at the time, before being mauled. Villalobos was attacked on his shoulder, arms, legs, and back, before he was rescued by zoo officials who used fire extinguishers to chase the tiger away and told him to escape by rolling under a wire. Villalobos was taken to an area hospital and reported in stable condition. He had petted the 400-pound animal and wanted to be "one with the tiger".[54] The tiger was not euthanized as a result of the incident, since it was clearly provoked and the mauling did not result in a fatality.[66][67]

Animal escapes

On March 26, 2011, the Bronx Zoo announced that the reptile house was closed after a venomous adolescent Egyptian cobra was discovered missing from its off-exhibit enclosure on March 25. Zoo officials were confident the missing cobra would be found in the building and not outside, since the Egyptian cobra is known to be uncomfortable in open areas.[68] The missing snake quickly sparked a popular Twitter parody account, @BronxZoosCobra,[69] which narrated the daily hijinks of the Egyptian cobra.[70] On March 31, zoo authorities found the snake in a non-public, non-exhibit area of the reptile house.[71]

On May 9, 2011, a female green peafowl escaped from the zoo before being caught on May 11.[72]

On September 11, 2011, a lesser kudu escaped from its enclosure for about half an hour, and then returned to its enclosure once a zoo worker opened the gate.[73]


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  • Bradford, Phillips Verner; Blume, Harvey (1992). Ota Benga: The Pygmy in the Zoo. New York: St. Martins Press.  
  • Smith, Ken (1998). Raw Deal: Horrible and Ironic Stories of Forgotten Americans. New York: Blast Books, Inc.  
  • Spiro, Jonathan Peter (2008). Defending the Master Race: Conservation, Eugenics, and the Legacy of Madison Grant. Burlington, VT: University of Vermont Press. pp. 43–51.  

External links

  • Official website
  • Wildlife Conservation Society: Bronx Zoo
  • Bronx Park Postcards featuring historical postcards from the Bronx Zoo and The New York Botanical Garden
  • The Bronx Zoo forum
  • Bronx Zoo Photo Gallery & Walking Tour
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