|Date opened||January 16, 1892
(Washington Park site)
May 13, 1961
|Location||10001 W. Bluemound Rd.
|Land area||200 acres (81 ha)|
|No. of animals||3,300 (March 2017)|
|No. of species||377 (March 2017)|
Apes of Africa/Primates of the World
Aquatic and Reptile Center
Small Mammal Building
Northwestern Mutual Family Farm
The Milwaukee County Zoo is a zoo in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, operated by the Milwaukee County Parks Commission. The zoo houses 1,800 animals and covers an area of 200 acres (81 ha). It is noted for the second birth of polar bears and siamangs in captivity and for their locally famous gorilla Samson, who lived from 1950 to 1981 and whose bones are now on display at the Milwaukee Public Museum. During World War I, a celebrity animal of the zoo was Gertie the Duck and her ducklings. The zoo is also home to one of the largest group of bonobos in one location outside their native Democratic Republic of the Congo, and has two cheetahs from the National Zoo in Washington, DC.
West Park Zoo opened in 1892, displaying small mammals and birds. The flowing year, the zoo added two cinnamon bears and created an iron bear den. In 1899, the zoo constructed a $2,137 herbivore building that housed a variety of animals. In 1900, West Park Zoo became Washington Park Zoo and two years later, the zoo was expanded to 23 acres (9.3 ha). Even with the Great Depression of the 1930s, the zoo prospered, creating a bear den that resembled bears' natural habitat. In 1931, the zoo's bear collection contained 37 specimens. By 1937, the Washington Park Zoo was beginning to show its age. A reptile exhibit was opened in the main zoo building in 1942. George Speidel, zoo director at this time, began planning a new zoo.
Although still located in Washington Park, the zoo changed its name to the Milwaukee County Zoological Gardens in 1953. Fundraising took place in 1956 to offset the estimated cost for building the new zoo of US$12.6 million. The Milwaukee County Zoo opened in 1958 with the primate building, monkey island, feline house, pachyderm mall, and grizzly bear den. The zoo also opened with a gauge miniature railway, the Zoo Line, which carried visitors around the zoo to view the exhibits and construction. The Zoo Line (now known as the Safari Train) has continued to run, operating with real steam locomotives. In 1959, construction started on the dall sheep mountain and the Alaskan bear exhibit. On May 13, 1961, the Milwaukee County Zoo officially opened to the public. Later additions included the aviary (1962), the Australian building (1963), the original animal hospital (1963), the small mammal building (1965), the aquarium (1968), and the reptile building (1968). In 1965, four Zoomobile tour trains were donated by Allis-Chalmers. This was followed by the children's zoo (1971), and the polar bear underwater viewing exhibit (1986). In 1986, the children's zoo was renamed the Stackner Heritage Farm, and a dairy complex was constructed as part of it, to celebrate Wisconsin as America's Dairyland. The complex included a cow barn, education center, and dairy store. In 1988, the Taylor Family Humboldt penguin exhibit, the education center, and the Peck Welcome Center opened. In the following years, the renovated sea lion exhibit, featuring underwater viewing, opened, and the aviary was renovated. More recent changes include the addition of the Sterns Family Apes of Africa exhibit (1992), the renovation of the aquarium and reptile building (now known as the Aquatic and Reptile Center), the renovation of the small mammal building (1998), and the addition of the Wong Family Pheasantry (1998). In 2002, Monkey Island was renovated to include a large deck for viewing, and was renamed Macaque Island. 2003 saw a newly remodeled animal health center; 2004, a new education center; and 2005 and 2006, the remodeling of the Heritage Farm, feline building, and giraffe exhibit.
The zoo's newest construction plan is a new West Entrance with a gift shop and a new North American river otter exhibit, due to the small size of the existing tank in the Small Mammal House building, in addition a new parking lot, in order to facilitate reconstruction and reconfiguration due to the rebuilding of the Zoo Interchange to the southeast of the zoo property by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.
The aviary contains over 60 species in a walk-through building. One section is a cage-less room where birds fly free. Species in the exhibit include the Caribbean flamingo, scarlet ibis, rhinoceros hornbill, Bali mynah, king vulture, rockhopper penguin, Gentoo penguin, the whooping crane and sunbittern, as well as various pigeons and herons.
This indoor building features a large troop of bonobos and gorillas. For many years, Samson, the largest gorilla in captivity, was showcased in the Apes of Africa building. The zoo maintains a bonobo breeding program with one of the largest collections of captive bonobos in the world. Both species have access to indoor and outdoor exhibits.
Adjacent to Apes of Africa, this exhibit showcases primates from the around the world, including mandrills, orangutans, siamangs, Black-and-white colobus, and black-handed spider monkeys in a gallery-style exhibit. The zoo featured the one of the first births of a siamang in captivity.
Macaque Island features a troop of Japanese macaques. It was remodeled in 2002 to include a large viewing deck for zoo guests and an expanded shelter for the resident macaques, with waterfalls and a larger mountain.
This building holds invertebrates, fish, reptiles, and amphibians including the zoo's Chinese alligator, green anaconda, Mexican beaded lizard and king cobra as well as various cichlids and rockfish and a giant Pacific octopus.
This building, located near the Aquatic and Reptile Center, features a special room for nocturnal species that is darkened in the day and brightened at night so the animals live on a schedule friendly to zoo visitors. Residents include the fennec fox, sugar glider, vampire bat, dwarf mongoose, potto, various small monkeys and tamarins and a larger exhibit for Two-toed sloth. Other species are sometimes rotated in and out, such as the zoo's red pandas during construction of the Florence Mila Borchert Big Cat Country building in 2004.
A series out of outdoor exhibits themed around the megafauna of the North American continent, primarily bears and deer, featuring the grizzly bear, American black bear, polar bear, American elk, harbor seal, prairie dog, Dall's sheep, moose, and reindeer. The sub-exhibit Wolf Woods contained Arctic wolves until its renovation in 1999, and it now contains the gray wolf, which is the focus of the zoo's Wolf Awareness Day Events.
The newly renovated children's zoo with a focus on native midwestern United States wildlife and educational presentations, featuring species such as the hedgehog, the domestic duck, the North American porcupine, the Florida box turtle, the red-tailed hawk and the bald eagle. It replaced the zoo's Stackner Heritage Farm in 2005.
A series out of outdoor exhibits featuring animals from three continents, sometimes in "panorama"-style displays in which predator and prey appear in the same exhibit due to hidden moats. The majority of the space is dedicated to animals from the African savannah, including the African elephant, black rhinoceros, hippopotamus, plains zebra, waterbuck, greater kudu and common eland exhibits. South American species include greater rhea, Baird's tapir and alpaca, and an outdoor yard for the jaguar. Asian species include the Asian black bear, Bactrian camel, and the zoo's aging Malayan tapirs. The Giraffe House, part of the same exhibit area, was renovated in 2006, allowing visitors to climb a deck and come face-to-face with the zoo's reticulated giraffe collection and even feed them. Holz Family Impala Country was later introduced, bringing impala and eastern bongo to the zoo's extensive collection of African animals.
The zoo's sixteen-thousand square-foot indoor Big Cat exhibit was renovated significantly in 2005, cutting down on many smaller or indoor-only exhibits such as the cougar to focus on significantly expanding the indoor and outdoor homes for the zoo's core cat collection, including the African lion, Amur tiger, snow leopard, and jaguar, as well as the addition of a new, permanent home for the zoo's red pandas and a new exhibit for the cheetahs and the caracals. Additional cat species are sometimes housed there.
This building features familiar Australian sights like the red kangaroo, the emu, Matschie's tree kangaroo, the kookaburra and native fish. It has also hosted koalas on loan from the San Diego Zoo in 1985, and again on a long-term from 1992 until 2004. The zoo paid $12,000 a year to import fresh eucalyptus twice a week for the animals.
The gauge rideable miniature railway, which is decades old, has continued to operate with four locomotives: two of which are diesel locomotives (including the oldest, a black and orange diesel), and two of which are live steam locomotives: #1916, a 4-4-2 locomotive built in 1961, and #1924, a 4-6-2 locomotive built for the zoo in 1977. The railroad formerly owned #82, a 4-4-0 locomotive built in 1957 at the request of the Milwaukee Journal for the zoo. The #82 was eventually withdrawn, due to being too small to pull the longer trains the zoo needed to handle the crowds, and was placed on display. In 1989, the zoo loaned #82 to the recently rebuilt Riverside and Great Northern Railway, and later traded the engine to the R&GN for one of the current diesels. The Safari Train operates from Memorial Day through Labor Day, transporting guests around the zoo.