Brandywine Zoo Logo
|Location||1001 North Park Drive, Brandywine Park, Wilmington, Delaware, United States 19802|
|Land area||12 acres (4.9 ha)|
|No. of animals||150|
|No. of species||58|
Brandywine Zoo is a small 12-acre (4.9 ha) zoo that opened in 1905 in Brandywine Park in Wilmington, Delaware, United States. It is located on the banks of the Brandywine River. The zoo is managed by the Delaware Division of Parks and Recreation and supported by the Delaware Zoological Society, and is open daily weather permitting.
In March 1883, the Delaware State Legislature passed a law forming the Wilmington Board of Park Commissioners. Ten unpaid men were appointed to the Board to plan and build Wilmington parks. Eventually their effort yielded Brandywine, Rockford and Canby parks.
The Commissioners hired Frederick Law Olmsted, the famous landscape architect to find the best places to house these parks. He suggested the City purchase land on both sides of the Brandywine River. Olmsted planned the park as he planned Central Park in New York City and the Boston Commons in Massachusetts. In 1886, the land was purchased and Olmsted went to work.
Right across the river from where the current zoo is located lived an Irishman named Archibald Rowan. He made the first printed cloth in Delaware. On the land where the zoo now stands, there was a public amphitheater where people would go to hear famous orators of their time. Among them were Daniel Webster, John C. Calhoun and Henry Clay. It is even said that George Washington mustered his troops on the field above the zoo near the Washington Street Bridge during the American Revolution. In 1904, Dr. James H. Morgan came to the Board of Park Commissioners with the idea of starting a zoo in Wilmington. He was able to donate some animals if the Commission would pay for the shelters and fences. The boundaries of the zoo were very different from today. The main area of the zoo was the area of the old bear pit (across from the current Andean condor exhibit) and the Exotic Animal House, and extended down the river. Ducks and geese, Belgian hares, a sea turtle, and a sea gull were among the original collection.
The residential area behind the zoo was considered Washington Heights and its civic association helped to manage the zoo. In 1905, the organization changed its name to the Wilmington Free Zoological Association, and the Wilmington Zoo was born.
Many different animals came and went from the zoo family. Between the years of 1921-1928, the zoo had donations of eleven elk, three buffalo, two eagles, five monkeys, goats, two black bear, ducks, parrots, two raccoons, one groundhog, and three alligators. In 1928, the old bear pit was filled in and three new bear cages were built. They still stand today in the Main Zoo, next to the Administration Building. During this time, the comfort station (Exotic Animal House) was changed into a monkey house with big wire cages housing mangabees, macaques and squirrel monkeys among others.
The next big change happened in 1950 when the Society decided to build a children's zoo. The children's area was to be built on a storybook theme with aquariums, little houses and a bird sanctuary. R.R. Carpenter raised funds by donating the profits from family night at the Philadelphia Phillies professional baseball game.
The ground was broken in 1952. The Wilmington Lions Club was also a major fund-raiser on the project. There were eleven little buildings, each centering on a different Mother Goose character. All of the exhibits were brightly painted and housed farm animals collected each spring from area farmers willing to donate them. This area was located up in the far section of the zoo where the capybara and otters are now kept. In the first year of the Children's Zoo there were 46,000 visitors. The themed section survived until the late 1970s in its original fashion.
By 1963, the main zoo had fallen into horrible disrepair and was forced to close while the Children's Zoo remained open. 1971 marked the year that New Castle County took over the zoo and hired Hans Rosenberg as "Zoo Supervisor." He added to the zoo collection but kept the Monkey House closed to the public even though animals were still housed there.
In 1979, Tom Skeldon took Hans Rosenberg's place and developed the Delaware Zoological Society. During this time the Administration Building with offices and a kitchen were built. The tiger exhibit was built where an old duck pond had been.
Nancy Falasco became zoo director in 1981. She originally joined the zoo staff in 1978 as zoo curator. She served almost 37 years at the Brandywine Zoo through to her retirement in April 2013. She planned and implemented significant changes.
A new master plan was conceived and put into action. The old Children's Zoo facades were torn down and new exhibits were developed. A North and South American and Temperate Asian theme was adopted. Capital improvements continued with the construction of the river otter exhibit, new animal hospital, expansion of the tiger exhibit, new entranceway, and new restrooms. Improvements continued to be made.
The Brandywine Zoo marked its 100th anniversary in 2005. Many generations of the regional community celebrated by revisiting the zoo and sharing sentiments of their affection for the animals and the importance of the Brandywine Zoo in their formative years for introducing them to the role that people have in species survival and environmental conservation.
Today, the Brandywine Zoo covers almost 13 acres of land and has two red pandas, river otters and more.
Additionally, the Brandywine Zoo runs with the help of numerous volunteers and docents. In any given year, the zoo has about 50 to 70 community volunteers serving in the education department, physical plant programs, as general guides, and contributing professional services.
Bald eagles are once again being exhibited at the zoo, when two female eagles that were injured in the wild came to the zoo in early 2014. The zoo also exhibited red pandas for the first time beginning in the summer of 2014.
The Brandywine Zoo is part of the Delaware State Parks and is managed by the Delaware Division of Parks and Recreation with the support of the Delaware Zoological Society.
The zoo has, on average, 90,000 visitors a year.
The Delaware Zoological Society is the non-profit membership organization that supports the mission of the zoo. Members of the Brandywine Zoo become members of this organization. Contributions support the conservation education programs and overall mission of the zoo. Many local citizens are active volunteers of the Delaware Zoological Society and some serve as the board of directors. The leaders of the organization work closely with zoo management and volunteer time and expertise in service to the zoo.
The zoo has Andean condors, a variety of felines such as bobcat and serval It features numerous animals from Central and South America, such as llamas, capybara, toucans, a two-toed sloth, parrots, and more. Some animals are not on exhibit in the winter.
The zoo features river otters, sandhill cranes, and other animals native to the Americas and the temperate areas of Asia. This facility is home to a variety of species of mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians. They also exhibit the world's largest rodent: the capybara.
The Brandywine Zoo participates in a variety of projects to promote conservation both in Delaware and abroad. They have initiated a kestrel population study in Delaware and support other conservation projects that support wildlife and habitat that includes, Amur tigers, lion tamarins, and Andean condors among others. In addition, they work closely with other local state organizations to promote wildfire conservation in the state and region.