The Philadelphia Zoo
, located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on the west bank of the Schuylkill River
, was the first zoo
in the United States
. Chartered by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
on March 21
, its opening was delayed by the American Civil War
until July 1
The Philadelphia Zoo is one of the premier zoos in the world for breeding animals that have been found difficult to breed in captivity. 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 and is home to more than 1,300 animals, many of which are rare and endangered. The zoo features a children’s zoo, a balloon ride, a paddleboat lake, and many interactive and educational exhibits.
- In 1995, a fire in the World of Primates building in the early morning of December 24 killed 23 animals, including a family group of six lowland gorillas, a family group of three orangutans, four white-handed gibbons, and ten lemurs (2 ruffed, 6 ringtail, and 2 mongoose). 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% 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.
- In 2000, the zoo opened a new primate exhibit, the PECO Primate Reserve. It features of indoor and outdoor exhibits with ten species of primates, including Sumatran Orangutans, lowland gorillas, lemurs, langurs, and gibbons.
- In 2006 the Philadelphia Zoo opened a new, $20-million big cat exhibit, Big Cat Falls, sponsored by Bank of America. This exhibit showcases the animals in scenes reminiscent of their natural habitats, and allows visitors to get very close to the cats—sometimes separated only by a panel of glass. Visitors can see 12 endangered big cats from around the world, including three new Snow Leopard cubs, three new cougar kittens, and a new black jaguar cub.
- On May 25, 2007, 3 Amur Tiger cubs were born at the Philadelphia Zoo to mother, Kira, and father, Dmitri (also spelled "Dimitri"). The 3 female cubs, named Changbai, Koosaka, and Terney, were introduced to the public August 16,2007.
- On June 9, 2008, Petal, the oldest African elephant in a United States zoo, died at the age of 52.
Features of the zoo
- The Dodge Rare Animal Conservation Center: Interactive graphics and up-close views of some of the world's most endangered animals: giant Rodrigues fruit bats, naked mole rats, blue-eyed lemurs, tree-kangaroos, and more.
- The Reptile and Amphibian House: Features over 125 species of amphibians and reptiles, including giant tortoises and the venomous King Cobra.
- "Bank of America: Big Cat Falls" Features numerous species of wild cats including African Lions, Black Jaguars, Amur Tigers, and Pumas.
- Carnivore Kingdom: Features a family of six rare, playful Giant Otters, Snow Leopards, Red Pandas, and Clouded Leopards in unique naturalistic environments.
- African Plains: warthogs, Sable Antelope, Mhorr Gazelle, reticulated giraffes, hippos, and zebras.
- Exotic South American animals: such as Giant Anteaters and capybaras.
- Educational programs are offered at reasonable cost for children age three and older. Summer camps are offered throughout the summer months for grade school aged children.
- The Animal Health Center: The Philadelphia Zoo hosts one of the nation’s busiest and most comprehensive animal hospital and health-care facilities.
- The Channel 6 Zooballooon, a tethered helium balloon, rises in the air to offer a view of the Zoo, the Schuylkill River, and the Philadelphia Center City skyline. The balloon is sponsored, in part, by WPVI-TV.