Kansas City Zoo logo
|Date opened||December 13, 1909|
Kansas City, Missouri, USA
|Land area||202 acres (82 ha)|
|No. of animals||1,300+|
Kansas City Zoo is a 202-acre (82 ha) zoo founded in 1909. It is located in Swope Park at 6800 Zoo Drive Kansas City, Missouri, in the United States. The zoo has a Friends of the Zoo program. It is home to more than 1,300 animals and is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).
In 2008, the Kansas City Zoo was voted one of America's best zoos. It was ranked number one in the nation for "African Animals and Exhibits," with the authors, Allen W. Nyhuis and Jon Wassner, praising its 95-acre (38.4 ha) Africa exhibit as representing five nations with "one of the most extensive collections of African animals we've ever seen." The Zoo was also ranked among the top 10 in the nation for "Australian Animals and Exhibits" and for "Pachyderms: Elephants, Rhinos, Hippos". In addition, the authors re-quoted famed ape expert Jane Goodall's compliment that Kansas City has "one of the finest chimpanzee exhibits in North America." "America's Best Zoos 2008" ranks the Kansas City Zoo as the number one zoo in the nation for viewing both chimpanzees and kangaroos.
Planning for the zoo started in 1907, and its gates opened on December 13, 1909. The zoo evolved slowly during its first 40 years, while it added exhibits such as the Bear Grotto in 1912. It gained more momentum when it added a monkey island and a children's zoo in the 1940s. In the 1950s, the sea lion pool, African Veldt, giraffe house, and flamingoes were all added; and the zoo added an otter pool, elephant house, and the Great Ape House in the 1960s. The early 1970s brought a dairy barn, the Great Catwalk, and gibbon islands. Approximately twenty years later (in 1991), after voting and financed from a grant, the zoo expanded to the current size of 202 acres (82 ha), adding Australia in 1993, International Festival in 1994, and Africa in 1995. The opening of the Africa section drew in approximately 40,000 visitors in first 2 days. A new building was added for the first IMAX in a zoo, the Sprint IMAX Theater. The improvements resulted in record attendance of 700,000 zoo guests, and 400,000 IMAX visitors, in 1998. The zoo has grown from a small building and 60 acres (24 ha) to a large, 202-acre (82 ha) zoo with over 1,300 animals. The Orangutan Primadome opened in 2002 as a part of new management when the zoo changed from a city-operated organization to a public-private partnership with Friends of the Zoo (FOTZ for short).
A 20-year plan plots the zoo's future, including new improvements. The Discovery Barn opened in 2006 along with a short-cut path to Africa. In 2007, an endangered species carousel was added to KidZone. The Zoo closed the Sprint IMAX Theater on September 4, 2007. New admission gates to the zoo were opened in May 2008 featuring new parking and animals.
In 2006, the Kansas City Zoo was selected to become a breeding facility for African elephants and baboons.
Extensive renovations of the zoo began in late 2005. The Discovery Barn opened in 2006, formerly the Red Barn. It contains many exhibits, and slides for children. Outside, there is a Peek-a-Boo Tree, that is fun for children to play in and get a sky-high view at the top of the tree, and like the Discovery Barn, it also contains a slide. The Promenade was also added in 2006, which is a wide path straight to the African elephants exhibit, which allows guests to reach Africa much faster. The new entrance admission gates opened in May 2008, with an educational center and a North American river otter and trumpeter swan exhibits. In early 2009, the Tropics House opened behind the Sea Lion pavilion in the 1909 Building, and the polar bear exhibit opened in August 2010, located near the entrance, in the location formerly occupied by stroller rental. In October 2013, the Helzberg Penguin Plaza opened, funded by an ongoing series of fundraising events as well as a 1/8th cent sales tax collected from the 2 county Zoological District.
The zoo, which was founded in 1909, is 202 acres (82 ha) and is home to more than 1,300 animals. It is located in Swope Park, the 29th largest municipal park in the United States. The zoo is divided into five areas of the following themes: Africa, Australia, Tiger Trail, KidZone, and The Valley.
The admission gates and facilities (such as restrooms, gift shop, and food) are located in the entrance to the Kansas City Zoo. In 2010, polar bears were re-introduced to the zoo near the existing North American river otter and trumpeter swan pool just inside the World Gate. The entry plaza also features an educational center and stops for both the zebra tram and train.
This exhibit opened on August 8, 2010, with the introduction of a polar bear named Nikita, who was given to the Kansas City Zoo by the Toledo Zoo. The $10 million exhibit features a 140,000 US gallons (530,000 l) pool serviced by a massive waterfall, multiple indoor and outdoor viewing angles with 2.25-inch-thick (57 mm) glass windows, and space for up to two additional polar bears. In early 2013, a second polar bear was added to the exhibit, a female named Berlin, who was loaned to the zoo from Duluth, Minnesota's Lake Superior Zoo in hopes that the two bears would breed. At the end of 2015, Nikita was transferred from the zoo to the North Carolina Zoo for breeding purposes.
The Africa section is broken up into Botswana, Kenya, Tanzania, the Congolese Rainforest, and Uganda. Several snack bars are located throughout Africa, as well as the Rafiki Restaurant and Equator gift shop in the Nanyuki Market (Kenya). Nanyuki Market also has a small aviary for masked lovebirds and a white-cheeked turaco. A zebra tram station and boat house are located in the Nanyuki Market. Tanzania features a pier for the boat ride on the other side of Africa.
Botswana contains seven African elephants (six female, one male) in an exhibit of 4.5 acres (1.8 ha) stretching 0.25 miles (0.40 km) with a water pool at one end. The elephants do paintings and demos during weekends. The elephant walk features a flamingo pool, home to Chilean flamingos and black-necked swans. The Promenade leads guests into Botswana, and a large bridge then connects Botswana to the rest of Africa.
Kenya has cheetahs (with an observation building), warthog, and a deck with a view of some springbok, lesser kudu, common eland, scimitar-horned oryx, and gray crowned cranes that roam across an African plain. saddle-billed storks and southern ground-hornbills make up the wetland-themed exhibits on the opposite side of the walkway. A bomas area, with huts to simulate a Kenyan village has lappet-faced vultures housed with white-necked ravens, Aldabra tortoises, bateleur eagles, red-flanked duikers, and blue duikers are worked into small exhibits. The walk-through Scrubland Aviary is home to several species of birds, including a white-cheeked turaco, white-faced whistling ducks, cattle egrets, a bare-faced go-away-bird, marbled ducks, lilac-breasted roller, taveta weavers, superb starlings, and a white-headed buffalo weaver, as well as side exhibits for red ruffed lemurs and silvery-cheeked hornbills.
Tanzania features an African lion exhibit with 9 lions visible from a climate controlled observation building as well as a covered deck. Small exhibits that appear carved or surrounded by rock simulate a natural kopje; these include serval, bushbaby, meerkat, black-footed cat, rock hyrax, masked and Fischer's lovebird, bat-eared fox, and black-throated monitor. A log-themed bridge crosses to the black rhino exhibit and a top-notch 3 acres (1.2 ha) enclosure housing chimpanzees.[page needed] The chimpanzee observation building allows guests to view a very large area for a troop of 12 chimps to play and explore, and allows visitors to become educated on chimpanzees with a connected classroom. This side of the African plains features Masai giraffes, Grant's zebras, gray crowned cranes, and ostriches. Nearby are some ground birds, kori bustard and secretary bird, leopard tortoises, a small house with slender-snouted crocodiles, and a hippo pool.
Uganda section has a small outdoor theater stage (Ruwenzori Theatre), and is home to spacious enclosures with African wild dogs and a troop of Guinea baboons, which sit adjacent to one another. A reservation-only campsite is located off into the woods from Uganda.
The Congolese Rainforest is located across a historic swinging bridge from Kenya. Animals on exhibit include red-capped mangabey, black mangabey exhibits. A female Amur leopard is featured in an exhibit with an overhead area that visitors walk under. A raised pathway crosses through exhibits containing bongo, gray crowned crane, red river hog, and yellow-backed duiker exhibits nestled in the dense forest. A single bachelor western lowland gorilla and a separate breeding group of one male and three female western lowland gorillas [page needed] can be viewed from a lookout building and from a renovated shelter with opportunities for up-close through-glass viewing.
Australia lies in the northernmost part of the zoo; there you can find a large field that is home to free-roaming red kangaroos. It features a walk-through Woodland Aviary, which includes black swans, tawny frogmouth, straw-necked ibis, pied imperial pigeon, silver gull, smew, magpie goose, cockatiel, eclectus parrot, plumed whistling duck, long-billed corella, chestnut teal, wompoo fruit dove, Australian shelduck, white cockatoo, and sulphur-crested cockatoo. Beside the exit to the aviary is an emu exhibit. A pair of New Guinea singing dogs live beyond that, in an enclosure formerly home to dingoes. Also featured are parma wallaby, Bennett's wallaby, and Matschie's tree kangaroo. A replica of an Australian sheep farm features a farmer's home, a building with various animal hides and preserves, spotted python, green tree python, a pair of laughing kookaburras, and a hands-on sheep pen. An exhibit with dromedary camels is just past the sheep farm as visitor's are finishing the loop around Australia. Overlooking the kangaroo field is a train station and snack bar.
The Tiger Trail has been home to many types of animals over the years; and recently, the area was renovated to center around the return of tigers to the Kansas City Zoo, and its native Asia. The entire trek is filled with oriental plants, lanterns, statues, and various pictures of Asian animals. The Francois langur is featured in the first enclosure. The path leads to a tunnel with Bali mynah and red panda. The langurs and the pandas swap exhibits according to outdoor conditions (pandas are outside in fall and winter, while in tunnel during spring and summer). The focal point of the Tiger Trail is the critically endangered Sumatran tiger exhibit, which is home to two male tigers. Other animals on exhibit are the, wreathed hornbill, demoiselle crane, and the tufted deer. Near the former ape house, Asian waterfowl, such as red-crowned crane, Mandarin duck, and common shelduck can be viewed in a wetlands exhibit.
After moving from the outdated Great Ape House in 2002, the Bornean orangutan were relocated to a new exhibit in Tiger Trail that featured a large outdoor "primadome." Originally intended only as a temporary home, work eventually began on August 17, 2014, on a $6 million new orangutan exhibit called Orangutan Canopy. The Zoological District along with many donors helped make Orangutan Canopy possible. The 3,400 square foot exhibit, which houses six Bornean orangutans in a more naturalistic outdoor environment than their previous two enclosures offered, opened to the public in May 2015.
The KidZone area features a large cage for rainbow lorikeets, with three daily feedings that guests may participate in. There is a large sea lion pool, which has several shows daily. The original 1909 building is located behind the sea lions, which has seen many renovations over the years and was most recently reopened in early 2009 as the Tropics House. Farm animals make up the majority of the exhibits in KidZone, including micro pig, llama and alpaca, and fallow deer. It also features an outdoor stage for the Wild Wonders animal show, which focuses primarily on birds and includes animals in its lineup that aren't in regular exhibits (such as the African fish eagle). The Discovery Barn opened in 2006 replacing the outdated Red Barn. Pygmy goats, donkeys, and camel rides are all located in the area next to the barn. Within KidZone there is the Carousel Cafe, a snack bar, a snake house, and an endangered species carousel.
In the Discovery Barn, scarlet macaw, green-winged macaw, White's tree frog, hourglass tree frog, squirrel monkey, marine toad, American toad, radiated tortoise, Prevost's squirrel, meerkat, ring-tailed lemur, and poison dart frog are housed alongside educational and fun features for children (including slides).
Tropics is housed in the zoo's original building. The structure opened in summer 1909, and it was built at a cost of $32,000. It housed the zoo's entire collection. Originally known as the "Bird and Carnivora House", it featured a gabled roof heavily ornamented with architectural terra cotta and a large arching window. The gabled ends and eaves featured decorative carved stone bird heads - kingfishers, owls, and parrots. The original roof was removed in 1969, because the wood framing was deteriorating badly. The building was closed in the 1990s, before reopening after a minor renovation in 2002. The building, used at that time for a traveling reptile exhibit, closed again in 2004 before undergoing much more extensive renovations. Following extensive renovation, the building reopened as Tropics in May 2009.
In the Tropics House, saki monkeys, golden lion tamarin, white-cheeked gibbon, blue monkey, small-clawed otter, capybara, prehensile-tailed porcupine, mona monkey, crested screamer, green aracari, and freshwater stingray are housed in a 13,000 square feet (1,200 m2) building. Exotic plants species and a vaulted glass roof for natural light are also included. The enclosure's first birth came when Abby and Indigo, the zoo's blue monkey couple, welcomed their newborn baby on November 4, 2009.
The Helzberg Penguin Plaza opened on October 25, 2013. The 19,000 square feet (1,800 m2) facility features a 100,000 US gallons (379,000 l) cold water tank built for cold water penguins and a 25,000 US gallons (95,000 l) pool for warm weather penguins. Four species of penguins -- king, gentoo, rockhopper and Humboldt -- are housed in the building alongside smaller aquarium exhibits featuring fish, jelly fish, and a coral reef display.
The Valley area of the zoo opened in 1912, and it served as a primary portion of the zoo for many years. The first exhibits were a bear pit and a duck pond on the east side of the Valley. In 1914, a grizzly bear named Nemo was brought to the zoo from Yellowstone National Park. Nemo escaped from his enclosure in the Valley after bending the bars around his exhibit and scaling the rock bluff. The bear was eventually found 18 days later in a pool at a local cemetery.
In 1932, the Works Progress Administration funded a major expansion project in the Valley. The project was never fully completed, but it was used as a small grotto for smaller mammal exhibits. Through the years, the small grotto was home to various animals including Arctic foxes, hyenas, colobus monkeys, binturong, coatimundi, river otters, aardwolf, red pandas, maned wolves, white-tailed sea eagles, and king vultures. Most of the structural work completed by the WPA remains intact, and the zoo planned to preserve the historical elements of the original 1912 bear pit, the 1932 WPA small grotto, and Monkey Island by incorporating them into the construction of a new polar bear exhibit. Other issues with the location forced the new polar bear exhibit to be relocated to the Front Entry Plaza. The old structures in the Valley remain unused until a new development plan is announced that will incorporate their historically significant features.
Monkey Island was the centerpiece of the Valley. The island was surrounded by a moat 20 feet (6.1 m) wide and 6 feet (1.8 m) deep. The Monkey Island exhibit opened in June 1946 with rhesus monkeys. Fifteen years after the exhibit opened, 30 mangabeys escaped. Many of the mangabeys were lured back to the exhibit with food; however, eleven remained loose for the entire summer until they were eventually captured as the weather began to turn cooler. Monkey Island was demolished in 1992 and replaced by a new exhibit for red pandas, musk deer, and maned wolf.
Most of the Valley was closed in 2002, and it was entirely closed by 2005. A flamingo pond borders the outside edge of the valley, and it remains in use. The old aviary row is now Beaks and Feet Boulevard, with exhibits for Indian peafowl, green iguana, military and green-winged macaws, spectacled owl, Swainson's toucan, black-billed magpie, golden lion tamarin, red-handed tamarin, and bobcat.
The zoo's Great Ape House was a distinctive architectural landmark in Kansas City since it was completed in 1966. At the time of its construction, it was heralded as a modern marvel. At the time it was opened, the 55 feet (17 m) tall circular building was home to seven gibbons, five chimpanzees, two orangutans and two gorillas. Eventually the apes were all relocated to different areas of the zoo with only orangutans remaining in the exhibit by the time it was closed in 2003, with the opening of their new enclosure in Tiger Trail. Following its closure, supporters have pushed for its redevelopment for other uses due to its iconic architectural significance as a recognizable landmark. Discussion of the ape house's demolition began as early as 2001; however, the possibility of redevelopment has emerged as support for the zoo has increased dramatically since then. While it was still in operation, former zoo director Ernest Hagler suggested moving out the animals and turning the building into a gift shop or restaurant. It was never re-purposed and after sitting empty for over a decade, the building was ultimately demolished in September 2015, to make room for a new addition to the zoo, tentatively titled Predator Canyon.
The Great Ape house's distinctive mid-century design had been compared to structures in Disney's Tomorrowland, as well as the Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral. In its earlier years, the ape house served as a central identity for the zoo, appearing on postcards and numerous zoo souvenirs.
A modified ski lift that goes over the middle of the Africa section from the marketplace to the chimpanzees. Riders may choose to ride a round-trip or get off on the other side. The Sky Safari opened to the public in the summer of 2011. 
On February 19, 2012, two adult gorillas escaped from their enclosure when their door was accidentally left open. The gorillas were quickly captured after they wandered around the building they were housed in for a few minutes and no one was injured or threatened.
On April 10, 2014, seven chimpanzees escaped from their enclosure when one of the animals used a log to scale the wall. The zoo was put on lockdown and visitors were kept safe inside designated buildings throughout the zoo until all seven chimpanzees had been returned to their exhibit.