The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens (or Jacksonville Zoo) in Jacksonville, Florida, is the largest zoo between Atlanta, Georgia, and Orlando, Florida, on the eastern coast of the United States at the mouth of the Trout River. The zoo occupies approximately and has over 2,000 animals in its collection. The zoo has grown from its modest beginnings in Springfield to be considered one of the city's premiere attractions.
The zoo's marquee attraction is the Range of the Jaguar, which won the 2005 AZA Exhibit of the year award. The exhibits highlights animals native to Neotropical Rainforests. The zoo's other exhibits include the Plains of East Africa, highlighting African Savannah animals; Great Apes of the World, featuring 3 of the 4 Great Apes among other primates; the Australian Outback, including lorikeets, cassowarys, and kangaroos.
The zoo is active in animal conservation, participating in over 20 SSP (Species Survival Plans.) In 2004, the zoo reached an agreement with the nation of Guyana to help promote conservation in that country, particularly the Iwokrama Rainforest. Additionally, since 1999 the zoo has been home to a large breeding colony of woodstorks.
Over the course of the next forty years, the Zoo continued to grow in area and in terms of animals on display. By the end of the 1960s, the Zoo was reputed to have the largest collection of exotic animals in the Southeast, but it had fallen on hard times and a great deal of money was needed to save the zoo. Community leaders, under the direction of Mayor Hans Tanzler, appointed a seven member committee to search for an alternative to closing the Zoo.
A major redevelopment of the Zoo began in 1992. Through a combination of public funds and private donations, over $20 million was raised to complete Phase One of the Zoo's Master Plan. Projects completed include a new front entry gate and parking lot, the Main Camp entrance, Birds of the Rift Valley Aviary, Great Apes, an expanded train ride, an elephant and breeding complex, RiverBranch Foundation Animal Medical Center, the PepsiCo Foundation Education Campus, and redevelopment of the 11 acre Plains of East Africa.
In December 2003, the zoo's name was officially changed from the Jacksonville Zoo to the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens. Over the next five years, several new exhibits and services, including the famed Range of the Jaguar, the Savanna Blooms botanical garden, and the Children's Play Park successfully opened to the public. In addition, the zoo has endeavored to become recognized as a botanical garden.
Currently, the Zoo sits on 89 acres of land, over twice its original size on the Trout River location. The Zoo houses over 2,000 rare and exotic animals and over 1,500 unique plant species and participates in many preservation and breeding programs to ensure the survival of endangered and threatened species as well as local fauna and flora.
The City of Jacksonville contracts with the Society to manage all phases of the operation of the Zoo. All property, including land, animals and equipment, belong to the city; in turn, the city contributes an annual subsidy to offset some of the Zoo's operating expenses. All other Zoo expenses are paid through revenues earned from admissions, concession sales, memberships, the Animal Care Club program, the Annual Fund, sponsorships, as well as grants and several fund-raising events.
To the side of the main aviary is the Ruzizi Streambank. A milky eagle owl (or Verreaux's Eagle owl) along with other smaller African birds are found there.
Eastern bongos, impalas, and Leadbeater's ground-hornbills are found in a center pen that is spacious and tree-shaded. The zoo was the first in North America to successfully breed Leadbeater’s ground hornbills. In addition, this exhibit has become a home for a large breeding colony for the highly endangered Wood Stork, native to Florida.
The cheetah exhibit, a long, wide area is home to one cheetah. It lies across a water break from the larger exhibit containing southern white rhinoceroses, greater kudu, sitatungas, a Masai ostrich, black-crowned cranes, and goliath herons inhabit the areas at the end of the boardwalk. This exhibit allows plenty of room for the animals to roam. The zoo has been a successful breeder of southern white rhinos, with over a dozen successful births.
Further down the boardwalk is Mahali Pa Simba ("Place of the Lion" in Swahili), the one acre home of the Zoo's two male lions, Wakaiti and Mashoni. The exhibit was the first to be opened and has evolved over the years. The largest change was the addition of a third viewing area across a moat on the north side of the exhibit.
Leopards are along the southern end of the boardwalk. The exhibit is highlighted by the gigantic artificial tree in the center of the exhibit that the leopards love to sleep and play on. An interesting side note, the Leopards on exhibit are Amur leopards, a subspecies native to Eastern Siberia in Russia, despite their placement near an African Exhibit.
Great Apes of the World gives zoo visitors a look at the various primates that inhabit our planet. Although monkeys and prosimians are also featured, as the name suggests the apes are the stars of the exhibit. The exhibit opened in two phases in 1998 and 1999. Phase I included western lowland gorillas and bonobos, the first time the zoo had exhibited either species. In addition, the exhibit provided new homes for the zoo's siamangs and pygmy marmosets. The Marmosets have since been moved to the Range of the Jaguar exhibit. Phase II included a second gorilla yard, along with new exhibits for the Zoo's chimpanzees and mandrills, along with renovating the old monkey island area for a lemur exhibit.
The zoo is currently home for three male gorillas and family groups of mandrills and bonobos. Nearby a siamang is on display, while on the prosimian island, a troop of ring-tailed lemurs, black-and-white ruffed lemurs and red ruffed lemurs cavort.
According to a news story in the Florida Times-Union on October 4, 2006, the Zoo's chimpanzees were to be removed to make room for more bonobos as these are more critically endangered than the chimps. Zoo officials also believe that bonobos are more personable and less temperamental than the chimps.
In 2007, the old flamingo exhibit was renovated to accommodate the eagles, so that their exhibit could be used for a pair of whooping cranes the zoo acquired. The reptile house in the exhibit shows off the variety of reptiles and amphibians native to the region. Eastern diamondback rattlesnakes, cottonmouths, and indigo snakes are among the main attractions.
This exhibit won the 2005 AZA exhibit of the year award. The exhibit is the largest in terms of number of animals. The exhibit features the largest jaguar exhibit in North America, with many pools of water for the animals to play in. In the water is a school of giant pacu. Currently, the zoo has six jaguars in its collection. One of the rare scenes in the exhibit is to see a jaguar actually fish for food.
The Lost Temple serves as another animal exhibit. Constructed to look like an old Central American temple, the exhibit highlights Central and South American reptiles and amphibians such as anacondas, caiman lizards, poison dart frogs, Panamanian golden frogs, and bushmasters. In addition, Hoffman's two-toed sloths, pygmy marmosets, and cotton-top tamarins are also found in the exhibit.
The Emerald Forest Aviary is the largest aviary on zoo grounds. The aviary houses over 100 neo-tropical birds. The primary attraction in the aviary is the Harpy Eagles enclosure. The harpy eagle featured at the zoo is a young male named Supay. In the main aviary, visitors can see macaws, cuckoos, herons, ducks, Pudu, along with river otters, and one of the largest freshwater fish, the arapaima. As of November 2007, giant river otters have replaced the smaller otters in the aviary. Just outside the aviary are American flamingos and various swan species native to South America.
Animals included in this South Pacific attraction include the cassowary, Lories and lorikeetss, kangaroos, and wallabies. For a dollar, guests are given cups of nectar and are allowed to feed the lorikeets. The Kangaroo and Wallaby exhibit originally allowed for guests to walk through the area along a fenced in path, however, this was later discontinued due to safety concerns for the animals.
Koalas were part of the exhibit from its opening until December 2006. The Koalas were then sent back to the San Diego Zoo as per the terms of their lease. The Koala exhibit will become an Amphibian Conservation Center in February 16.
The exhibit is expected to be open through September 2008 and will close for the winter, as the rays will be housed in a different area. It is possible that the exhibit will reopen in Spring 2009.
Note: This seasonal exhibit was closed and replaced by Stingray Bay.
Additionally, picnic grounds are located at the south end of the Zoo's parking lot, near the Education Campus. Visitors are allowed to bring their own food and beverage into this area; food and drinks are not allowed to be brought into the Zoo. No open fire or grills are allowed. Seating is approximately 200, first come, first serve.
|Animal Group||Common Name||Scientific Name||Conservation Program, Significant Achievements|
|Jaguar||Panthera Onca||SSP, largest Jaguar exhibit in North America|
|Transvaal Lion||Panthera Leo Krugeri||SSP|
|Florida Panther||Puma concolor coryi||SSP|
|Amur Leopard||Panthera pardus orientalis||SSP|
|Bonobo||Pan paniscus||SSP, one of only zoos in North America to house species, 3 successful births|
|Western Lowland Gorilla||Gorilla Gorilla Gorilla||SSP|
|Chimpanzee||Pan troglodytes||SSP, note the zoo will be closing their Chimpanzee exhibit in the near future|
|Mandrill||Mandrillus sphinx||SSP, 2 successful births since 2003|
|Ring Tailed and Ruffed Lemurs||Lemur catta, Varecia variegata rubra, Varecia variegata variegata||SSP|
|Lion Tailed Macaque||Macaca silenus||SSP|
|Colobus Monkey||Colobus guereza||SSP|
|African Elephant||Loxodonta africana||SSP, one of few zoos to house Male Elephant|
|Southern White Rhino||Ceratotherium simum simum||SSP, over a dozen successful births have occurred since 1980|
|Eastern Bongo||Tragelaphus eurycerus isaaci||SSP, several Bongos born at the zoo participated in reintroduction in Zaire|
|Red Wolf||Canis rufus||SSP|
|North American River Otter||Lontra canadensis lataxina||SSP|
|Harpy Eagle||Harpia harpyja||SSP|
This first Themed Pocket Garden was completed in spring 2005. Nestled beneath the Giraffe Overlook, visitors will find acacia groves that flank two entrances into the one-half acre garden. This unique garden, fashioned after a South African oasis, transitions from soft grasslands and fine textured acacia leaves at each entrance into a bold contemporary garden at its core. Kopje outcrops erupt from the landscape, and a weep trickles down the face of the rocks. The spring feeds a serene pool that showcases African water lilies and water edge plants. Visitors rest beneath the curved trellis laden with fragrant flowering vines and view the garden’s splendor from an internal vantage point.