31 Interesting Facts About The Bronx Zoo

When the Bronx Zoo first opened its gates to the public in 1899, the US had just witnessed the Great Blizzard of 1899, William McKinley (the 25th US President) was in the White House, voting machines were approved by the U.S. Congress for use in federal elections, the first city subway line was being dug, and the paperclip had just been patented. So much has happened since, but the Bronx Zoo remains an integral part of New York City’s character. Let’s have some fascinating facts about this iconic zoo of New York:Bronx Zoo New York
Image: Wikimedia

1. The Largest Metropolitan Zoo

Bronx Zoo Map
Bronx Zoo Map

Comprising 265 acres (107 ha) of area, the Bronx Zoo is considered the largest metropolitan zoo in the United States.
Source: newyork.cbslocal.com, Image: bronxzoo.com

2. A Big Family of Animals

The Bronx Zoo, one of the largest wildlife conservation parks in the United States, houses more than 4,000 animals representing more than 650 species.
Source: nycgovparks.org, Video: Animal Planet

3. One of the Most Visited Zoos

Bronx Zoo Visitors
Bronx Zoo Visitors

On average, the zoo welcomes more than 2.15 million visitors each year (as in 2009).
Source: NY Daily News, Image: Flickr

4. An Integrated System of Zoos

Bronx Zoo Entrance
Bronx Zoo Entrance

Accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA)and managed by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), the Bronx Zoo is the part of an integrated system of four zoos and one aquarium.
Source: nycgovparks.org, Image: Flickr

5. Key People Behind The Zoo

Boone and Crockett Club Logo

The emergence of the Bronx Zoo is largely credited to a group of people; most of who were the members of the Boone and Crockett Club. Founded by Theodore Roosevelt in 1887, the club is an American nonprofit organization that advocates fair chase hunting in support of habitat conservation. The biggest credit goes to club members Madison Grant and C. Grant LaFarge.
Source: First Annual Report of The New York Zoological Society, Image: boone-crockett.org

6. What’s in a Name?

 

Earlier known as the ‘New York Zoological Park,’ the Bronx Zoo is sometimes also called the ‘Bronx Zoological Park’ and the ‘Bronx Zoological Gardens.
Source: timesmachine.nytimes.com

7. The Opening Day

New York Zoological Park

When the zoo opened its doors to the public on November 8, 1899, it featured 843 animals in 22 exhibits.
Source: NY Daily News, Image: nycgovparks.org

8. Sir, You Deserve a Salute!

William Temple Hornaday in 1920 Feeding a Greater Kudo in Bronx Zoo
William Temple Hornaday in 1920 Feeding a Greater Kudo in Bronx Zoo

The first director of the Bronx Zoo was the eminent naturalist, William Temple Hornaday. He served nearly 30 years at the zoo in the triple role of Director, General Curator, and Curator of Mammals.
Source: The New York Times, Image: Wikimedia

9. Built on a University Land

Double Page Plate No. 23, Part of Sections 11 & 12, Borough of the Bronx
Double Page Plate No. 23, Part of Sections 11 & 12, Borough of the Bronx

Most of the land on which the Bronx Zoo is built previously belonged to Fordham University. Fordham sold it to the city for only $1,000.
Source: NY Daily News, Image: picryl.com

10. Houses an Official New York City Landmark

The Rockefeller Fountain Bronx Zoo
The Rockefeller Fountain Bronx Zoo

The Rockefeller Fountain, which was designated an official New York City landmark in 1968, was once a famous landmark in Como, Italy. Originally sculpted by Biagio Catella in 1872, William Rockefeller bought it in 1902 for 3,500 lire (around $17,600 today) and installed at the Bronx Zoo in 1903.
Source: nycgovparks.org, Image: Flickr

11. A Natural Habitat for Animals

Bronx River Flowing Through the Bronx Zoo
Bronx River Flowing Through the Bronx Zoo

The Bronx Zoo offers a natural habitat for animals through the combination of the terrain of Bronx Park and the Bronx River, which flows directly through the park.
Source: bronxzoo.com, Image: Wikimedia

12. Cage-free Exhibits

When the zoo was opened on November 8, 1899, it offered a rather different experience to visitors. Instead of having animals in cages, it adopted cage-free exhibits, which created a sense of visitors being able to feel like they were in the natural habitat of these animals. These cage-free exhibits were revolutionary for their time, and many other zoos soon began to follow the exhibit structure of the Bronx Zoo.
Source: bronxzoo.com, GIF: j.gifs.com

13. The First Predator-Prey Exhibit in America

It’s the first zoo in America to open a predator-prey exhibit set in an open, natural setting where lions and antelope roam an African veldt as real as Kenya.
Source: bronxzoo.com, GIF: tumblr.com

14. Once Home to a Rare Majestic Animal

Thylacine
Thylacine

The Bronx Zoo was once the proud owner of the now-extinct thylacine (one of the largest known marsupials). With the arrival of the first male thylacine on December 17, 1902, the Bronx Zoo became one of the seven zoos outside of Australia, and one of only two in the United States, to house this majestic animal. The zoo’s final thylacine died on September 13, 1919. Upon seeing the animal, the director of the Melbourne Zoo, Mr. Le Souef, who was on a visit to the zoo, said-

I advise you to take excellent care of that specimen; for when it is gone, you never will get another. The species soon will be extinct.

Source: lostspeciesday.org, Image: Flickr

15. The Postcard Animal

Sultan the Barbary Lion
Sultan the Barbary Lion

In early 1903, the zoo received a pair of Barbary lions, which are extinct in the wild- a female named Bedouin Maid and a male named Sultan; they went on to become one of the most popular animals of the Bronx. Sultan went on to be the focus of many of the zoo’s postcards and it was also the model for the lion which sits atop the Rainey Memorial Gates.
Source: Wikipedia, Image: Wikimedia

16. World’s First Animal Hospital

A Veterinary Staff Holding a Cub inside the Bronx Zoo Animal Hospital
A Veterinary Staff Holding a Cub inside the Bronx Zoo Animal Hospital

When the Bronx Zoo built an animal hospital in 1916, it became the world’s first animal hospital inside a zoo.
Source: NY Daily News, Image: wcs.org

17. What’s This? A Zebra, a Donkey, or a Giraffe?

Well, it’s Okapi. From that back, it looks like a zebra; in the middle, it looks like a donkey; and upfront, its face resembles its closest relative – the giraffe. In 1937, the Bronx became the first in North America to exhibit Okapi.
Source: wcs.org, GIF: giphy.com

18. The Zoo Housed an Extinct Species of Flamingo

James Flamingos
James Flamingos

In 1960, when the Bronx Zoo exhibited James’s flamingo, a species of flamingo which had been thought to be extinct until 1957, it became the first in the world to keep them.
Source: Wikipedia, Image: Wikimedia

19. Eco-friendly Rest Rooms

The Bronx Zoo always strives to focus on environmental conservation and to add in the list, it opened up brand-new eco-friendly restrooms outside the Bronx River Gate in November 2006.
Source: clivusmultrum.com

20. The Zoo is Open Year-round

Bronx Zoo Entrance
Bronx Zoo Entrance

Except for Christmas Day, Thanksgiving Day, New Year’s Day, and Martin Luthar King Day, the Bronx Zoo is open year-round.
Source: bronxzoo.com, Image: Wikimedia

21. Can’t See in One Day

Different Exhibits at the Bronx Zoo
Different Exhibits at the Bronx Zoo

The zoo is so sparsely spread in 265 acres of area that it’s difficult to see the entire zoo in a single day. However; some of the most popular exhibits of the zoo can be covered in a two-hour tour, like Tiger Mountain, Himalayan Highlands, Congo Gorilla Forest, and World of Reptiles.
Source: bronxzoo.com, Image: Wikimedia

22. You Can Get a Free Entry on This Day…

Bronx Zoo Donation Day
Bronx Zoo Donation Day

The Bronx Zoo doesn’t charge any admission fee on Wednesdays, but the admission is a pay-what-you-wish donation.
Source: bronxzoo.com

23. Some Animals Can Only Be Seen on This Ride..

Bronx Zoo Monorail
Bronx Zoo Monorail

Inaugurated in 1977, the Bronx Zoo Monorail provides an enthralling ride to visitors. The uniqueness of this ride is that one can see some animals such as Przewalski’s horse, Indian elephant, and a plethora of even-toed ungulates; only through this ride.
Source: schwagerdavis.com, Image: Wikimedia

24. Beware of Dinosaurs Spitting on You!

Well! We are not talking about real dinosaurs but animatronic dinosaurs, which are featured in the Dinosaur Safari of the zoo. This spine-chilling experience, which runs roughly 15 minutes, encourages riders to “think like a paleontologist” as they watch dinosaurs battle each other, care for their young and snack on plants. These dinosaurs move, triggered by motion detectors, roar and often look right at the passersby. Even Dilophosaurus spit water at visitors just like the acid-spitting dinosaur in Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park film.
Source: amny.com, Video: NY Daily News

25. You Can’t See These Exhibits Anymore!

A Banner in Bronx Zoo Showing The World of Darkness is Closed
A Banner in Bronx Zoo Showing The World of Darkness is Closed

After the 1990s, the Bronx Zoo closed certain exhibits such as ‘World of Darkness,’ Rare Animal Range,’ Skyfari,’ ‘Monkey House,’ and ‘Amazing Amphibians;’ due to budget cuts and high cost of running.
Source: dailyfinance.com, Image: Flickr

26. The First Fatality

Robin Silverman Bronx Zoo
Robin Silverman Bronx Zoo

On July 29, 1985, when zookeeper Robin Silverman, 24, was trying to clean the pen of two Siberian tigers, she was attacked and fatally mauled by them. Silverman’s death was the first fatality in the zoo’s history
Source: NY Daily News, Image: nbcnewyork.com

27. I wanted to be “one with the gorillas”

In 2001, a person named Peter Vitique, 32, entered the gorilla enclosure and stripped down. After his arrest, he told police that he wanted to be “one with the gorillas.”
Source: NY Daily News

28. I wanted to be “one with the tiger”

David Villalobos Mauled by a Tiger in Bronx Zoo
David Villalobos Mauled by a Tiger in Bronx Zoo

On September 21, 2012, a person named David Villalobos, 25, jumped off the Wild Asia Monorail to enter a tiger enclosure, where he was mauled by an 11-year-old male Amur tiger named Bashuta. He sustained injuries on his shoulder, arms, legs, and back before he was rescued by zoo officials.
Source: Chicago Tribune News, Image: pressreader.com

29. The Worst Zoo for Elephants

Bronx Zoo protesters demand the release of Happy the elephant
Bronx Zoo protesters demand the release of Happy the elephant

The Bronx Zoo has to face the ire of many multiple animal rights organizations for supposedly mistreating an elephant named Happy. Happy was he zoo in 1977 along with Gumpy. Both went on to live together for the next 25 years. After several attempts went futile to mix Happy with other elephants, the zoo had decided to keep Happy in solitary confinement, and this was the reason that the animal rights organizations were crying for the zoo. In Defense of Animals (IDA) went on to name the zoo the “Hall of Shame Winner” on their 2015, 2016, and 2017 ‘Ten Worst Zoos for Elephants.’
Source: idausa.org, Image: New York Post

30. The Ota Benga Controversy

Ota Benga at Bronx Zoo
Ota Benga at Bronx Zoo

In 1906, when the American businessman and explorer Samuel Phillips Verner brought Ota Benga, a Mbuti pygmy, to the zoo, it attracted controversy. Ota Benga was allowed to roam the grounds freely and was exhibited in the zoo along with an orangutan named Dohong. African-American clergymen immediately protested to zoo officials about the exhibit. James H. Gordon said,

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.”

Source: The New York Times, Image: Wikimedia

31. World’s Biggest Home to Snow Leopards

The Bronx Zoo offers a natural habitat to snow leopard, and it has bred more snow leopards in captivity than any other zoo in the world. Around Halloween, the zoo officials let the snow leopards play with hollowed-out pumpkins.
Source: NY Daily News, GIF: tumblr.com