The gate above the zoo's entrance
|Slogan||America's First Zoo|
|Date opened||July 1, 1874|
|Location||Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, US|
|Land area||42 acres (17 ha)|
|No. of animals||~1,300|
|No. of species||340+|
|Annual visitors||1.2 million|
|Memberships||Association of Zoos and Aquariums|
|Owner||The Zoological Society of Philadelphia|
|Public transit access|| 34th Street:
SEPTA bus: 38
PHLASH Stops 12 & 14
The Philadelphia Zoo, located in the Centennial District of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on the west bank of the Schuylkill River, was the first true zoo in the United States. Chartered by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania on March 21, 1859, its opening was delayed by the American Civil War until July 1, 1874. The zoo opened with 1,000 animals and an admission price of 25 cents. For a brief time, the zoo also housed animals brought over from safari on behalf of the Smithsonian Institution, which had not yet built the National Zoo.
The Philadelphia Zoo is one of the premier zoos in the world for breeding animals that are difficult to breed in captivity. The zoo is consistently ranked as one of the top zoological destinations in the United States, alongside the San Diego Zoo and ZooTampa at Lowry Park. The zoo also works with many groups around the world to protect the natural habitats of the animals in their care.
The zoo is 42 acres (17 ha) and the home of nearly 1,300 animals, many of which are rare and endangered. Special features include a children's petting zoo, a paddleboat lake, a rainforest themed carousel, a balloon ride, and many interactive and educational exhibits.
When the Philadelphia Zoological Garden first opened its Victorian gates on July 1, 1874 to over 3,000 visitors, it was the only institution of its kind in the New World. The zoo began with varied exhibits containing 200 mammals including buffalo, deer, wolves, foxes, bears, and monkeys, as well as 67 bird species, and 15 reptiles. Reptiles and small mammals were housed in The Solitude, a mansion built by John Penn in 1785. A carriage house was located at the entrance for horses that had transported visitors to the zoo. The landscaping and architecture mimicked a Victorian garden atmosphere that is still represented in the present zoo grounds.
The 1876 Centennial Exposition was held in Fairmount Park, a few blocks from the 33-acre (13 ha) zoo. U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant had officiated at the Exposition and visited the zoo on April 23. Zoo attendance increased to nearly 680,000 visitors in 1876, a 36 percent increase over the preceding year, and set a record that would remain unmatched until nearly 858,000 visited in 1951.
The Penrose Research Laboratory was established in 1901. The first of its kind in any zoo, the Penrose Research Lab contributed to a reduced rate of disease among zoo animals, increased vigor, and longevity. In 1901, the lab began performing necropsies on every zoo animal that became ill and died. The lab's history of preventive medicine reflected the foresight of Dr. Charles B. Penrose and Dr. Cortland Y. White, professors at the Medical School of the University of Pennsylvania.
The zoo received railroad visitors at the Zoological Garden station on 34th Street and Girard Avenue from its opening in 1874 until the station was closed in 1902. Since 2013, zoo officials have been working to get the station restored and reopened, to potentially increase attendance and alleviate parking issues on their busiest days.
Philadelphia Zoo has developed a distinguished breeding program over the years and is credited with many "firsts" including: the first successful birth of an orangutan and a chimpanzee in a U.S. zoo in 1928, the first cheetahs born in a zoo in 1956, the first successful birth of an echidna in North America in 1983, and the first successful birth of a giant river otter in North America in 2004. The first recorded parent-reared Guam kingfisher was bred at the zoo in 1985.
Philadelphia Zoo also pioneered the first captive management of flamingos under the direction of curator emeritus John A. Griswold. Through innovative feeding techniques, the zoo was the first to gain the pink and red pigmentation of these birds. The zoo was the first to successfully breed Chilean and greater flamingos in captivity.
The brown tree snake was introduced to the island of Guam in the 1940s, and as a result, bird species endemic to the island were driven to extinction in the wild by the invasive serpent. In 1983, the Guam Bird Rescue Project was spearheaded by the Philadelphia Zoo in an attempt to save the Guam kingfisher and the Guam rail, two native species still present in large enough numbers to benefit from intervention. The rescue plan called for the capture of all kingfishers and rails on Guam, along with the development of a captive management program. The captive breeding was carried out in U.S. zoos in an effort to save the two species from extinction until reintroduction became feasible.
In the early morning of December 24, 1995, a fire in the World of Primates building killed 23 animals, including a family group of six western lowland gorillas, a family group of three orangutans, four white-handed gibbons, and ten lemurs (two ruffed lemurs, six ring-tailed lemurs, and two mongoose lemurs). All were members of endangered species. The animals died in their sleep from smoke inhalation (carbon monoxide poisoning); none were burned. Ten primates housed in an adjoining building, the Discovery House, survived. At the time of the fire, detection equipment existed in only 20 percent of the zoo buildings; the primates building, which had been constructed in 1985, was not one of them. In the ten months following the fire, the zoo installed fire detection equipment in all animal buildings.
On July 1, 1999, the zoo opened a new primate exhibit featuring 2.5 acres (10,000 m2) of indoor and outdoor areas with ten species of primates, including Sumatran orangutans, western lowland gorillas, lemurs, langurs, and gibbons. In 2006, the zoo opened a new big cat exhibit showcasing lions, Siberian tigers, Amur leopards, snow leopards, cougars, and jaguars in exhibit spaces reminiscent of their natural habitats. On May 30, 2009, the zoo opened a new aviary featuring two birds that are extinct in the wild: the Guam rail and the Guam kingfisher. In July 2009, the last two elephants, both African, were relocated to a sanctuary.
In 2010, a special exhibit called Creatures of Habitat was unveiled featuring ten animal stations throughout the zoo, with endangered animals represented by more than 30 life-size Lego brick statues. The statues were created by Lego-certified professional artist Sean Kenney.
Philadelphia Zoo opened Treetop Trail in 2011, the first component of its Zoo360 animal exploration trail system. Zoo360 is a network of see-through mesh trails, consisting of elevated and ground-level structures, along which animals can explore the zoo away from their enclosures. Subsequent additions to the system include the Great Ape Trail, Big Cat Crossing, Gorilla Treeway, and Meerkat Maze.
On April 13, 2013, the zoo opened KidZooU on the site of the old Pachyderm House. Also known as the Hamilton Family Children's Zoo and Faris Family Education Center, it is one of the largest projects undertaken by the zoo and replaces the old Children's Zoo open for over 50 years prior. KidZooU is notable for many ecologically conscious features, such as rain gardens and cisterns, geothermal wells, and green roofs, making it the first LEED-certified exhibit at the zoo.
On December 29, 2016, Zenda, the oldest African lion in the U.S. zoo population, was euthanized following a sudden loss of appetite and failing health. Zenda was 25. On February 20, 2018, Coldilocks, a 37-year-old polar bear was euthanized after declining health including potential liver and spinal problems. The average age for a polar bear in the wild is 23 years.
Special behind-the-scenes experiences are offered, as well as overnight stays for scout groups, families, and youth groups. A summer concert series and other events occur annually at the zoo, such as Boo at the Zoo (Halloween), the Summer Ale Festival, and the Global Conservation Gala.