The Saint Louis Zoological Park, commonly known as the St. Louis Zoo, is a zoo in Forest Park in St. Louis, Missouri. It is recognized as a leading zoo in animal management, research, conservation, and education. Admission is free based on a public subsidy from a cultural tax district, the Metropolitan Zoological Park and Museum District (ZMD); fees are charged for some special attractions. A special feature is the Zooline Railroad, a small passenger train that encircles the zoo, stopping at the more popular attractions.
The city purchased its first exhibit, the Flight Cage, from the Smithsonian Institution following the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair. After the zoo was established, new exhibits, areas and buildings were added through the decades to improve care of the animals, the range of animals and habitats shown, as well as education and interpretation.
The early years
The 1904 St. Louis World's Fair is credited for the birth of the St. Louis Zoo. The Fair brought the world's attention to St. Louis and Forest Park. The Smithsonian Institution constructed a walk-through bird cage for the World's Fair. Ten days after the World's Fair closed, the citizens of St. Louis chose to buy the 1904 World's Fair Flight Cage for $3,500, rather than have it dismantled and returned to Washington, D.C. This was the first piece of what would become the St. Louis Zoo.
By 1910, increased interest in a zoo brought together some concerned citizens, and they organized the Zoological Society of St. Louis. In 1914 it was incorporated as an independent civic organization of people interested in a zoo. Meanwhile, the citizens of St. Louis and surrounding municipalities expressed diverse opinions as to the appropriate location of a zoo if there should be one. Fairgrounds Park, Carondolet Park, the Creve Coeur area and Tower Grove Park were some of the places suggested in newspaper articles and letters to the editors and to civic groups. Some concerned citizens residing near Oakland Avenue, south of Forest Park, expressed their displeasure with a zoo in the park because of the smell of the animals. The head of the Parks Department, Dwight Davis, voiced his opinion against Forest Park—that is, until the city set aside 77 acres (310,000 m2) in the park in which to establish a zoological park. A five-man board was appointed to act as the Zoological Board of Control.
The number of board members was increased to nine in 1916, the same year the citizens voted to create a tax for the construction of the Saint Louis Zoo, with a 1/5 mill tax. It is said that this was the first zoo in the world which the citizens of a community supported by passing a mill tax.
1920 through 1969
Expansion of the zoo started in 1921 when the Bear Pits were built. The zoo continued to expand with construction of the Primate House in 1923 and the Reptile House in 1927.
The new Bird House was built in 1930. With the coming of the Great Depression, revenues were down and construction of new exhibits slowed at the zoo. In 1935, the Antelope House was built with the help of the Civil Works Administration (CWA), a program of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal. This burst of construction ended in 1939 with the addition of the Ape House. In 1939 the zoo acquired two giant pandas. Their names where Happy and Pao Pei. Happy died in 1945 and Pao Pei in 1954.
The Stupp Memorial Pheasantry and the lion arena, now the Sea Lion Arena, were built in 1954. Three years later, the Elephant House and its arena and moated yards were constructed.
Major construction started on the zoo again in 1961 when the Aquatic House was built. It continued with the opening of the Zooline Railroad in 1963, and the Charles H. Yalem Children’s Zoo and animal nursery in 1969.
1970 through 2010
In 1972 the Zoo joined the Metropolitan Zoological Park and Museum District and began to receive revenue from a public sales tax of 8 cents for every $100 assessed. This enabled continued improvements and upgrades of exhibit areas. Two major areas of the zoo, Big Cat Country and Jungle of the Apes, were constructed in 1976 and 1986, respectively.
In 1989, the Living World, a two-story building including classrooms, a reference library and teacher resource center, an auditorium, two exhibit halls emphasizing evolution and ecology, a large gift shop, a restaurant, and offices was built.
In 1993, the zoo received a donation of the 355 acres (1.44 km2) Sears Lehmann farm, located west of St. Louis. It is to be used for the breeding of endangered species and for educational purposes.
In 1998, new areas were added with the Emerson Children’s Zoo. Phase I of River’s Edge, which opened in 1999, represented Asia: featuring Asian elephants, cheetahs, dwarf mongoose, and hyenas.
In 2000 the Monsanto Insectarium, including the Butterfly House, was built. The North America (Missouri and Mississippi rivers) portion of River’s Edge opened in 2001. In 2002 the third phase, featuring habitats of South America and Africa, opened with hippos, rhinos, warthogs, carmine bee-eaters, capybaras and giant anteaters.
In 2003 the Penguin and Puffin Coast opened with both outdoor and indoor exhibits. Also new that year was the Mary Ann Lee Conservation Carousel, featuring one-of-a-kind hand-carved wooden animals representing endangered species at the St. Louis Zoo. The Donn and Marilyn Lipton Fragile Forest opened in 2005. The newest addition of Caribbean Cove, which features sting rays, opened in 2009.
Internationally prominent animal experts have served as directors of the zoo:
- George P. Vierheller (1922–1962),
- R. Marlin Perkins (1962–1970), who gained fame for the Zoo as host of Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom,
- William J. Hoff (1970–1973),
- Robert T. Briggs (1973–1975),
- Richard D. Schultz (1975–1982),
- Charles H. Hoessle (1982–2002), and
- Dr. Jeffrey P. Bonner (2002—present).
- Caribbean Cove: Open during the warmer months, the Caribbean Cove is a shallow touch-pool underneath a large tent that features Cownose Rays, Southern stingrays, Nurse Sharks, Bamboo Sharks, and Horseshoe Crabs. It is one of the only parts of the Zoo requiring an admission price, but is free during the first hour the Zoo is open.
- South entrance
- Welcome desk
- Guest services
- Hermann Fountain
- Food services
River's Edge exhibits
- African Savanna: Black rhinos, Sacred Ibises, bat-eared foxes, red river hogs a colony of carmine bee-eaters.
- African Nile: Hippos, Cheetahs, Spotted hyenas, and a colony of dwarf mongoose.
- The hippos are in a unique exhibit called Hippo Harbor where just a few inches of glass separate the visitors from 3,000-pound hippos in a 60,000-gallon pool that is also filled with hundreds of African Tilapia.
- Asia: Adult Asian elephants Raja (the male), and females Donna, Pearl, Sri, Ellie, and Rani. In addition, there are currently three calves: Maliha (daughter of Ellie), Jade (daughter of Rani), and Kenzi(daughter of Rani and sister of Jade). Ellie was also due in summer 2011, but miscarried.
- North America: the fish and wildlife of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers, including a 33,000 aquarium containing numerous large fish, and is viewable from the side in a covered area resembling a Missouri cave. The aquarium waterfalls into a replica Missouri stream, containing numerous minnows, crawfish, Bullfrog, and Channel Catfish, and ends at a cabin that details the damage of the Flood of 1993.
- South America: bush dogs, capybaras, and giant anteater.
Discovery Corner exhibits
- Children's Zoo
The St. Louis Children's Zoo has many fun and educational features, such as the see-through slide through the otter pool and many birds, snakes, frogs, and other animals that volunteers and staff bring out for the kids to see up close. This is one of the only exhibits at the Zoo that requires an admittance fee; however admission is free for the first hour the zoo is open during the summer.
- Monsanto Insectarium and butterfly garden
Most of the Zoo's Invertebrates are found in this indoor facility. Represented species include Giant Centipede, Leafcutter Ant, Flower Mantis, Vietnamese walking stick, Atlas Beetle, American Burying Beetle, Sunburst Diving Beetle, Water Scorpion, Brown Widow Spider, Brown Recluse Spider, Cobalt blue tarantula, Texas brown tarantula, and Egyptian Fattail scorpion.
- Education department
The education department includes exhibit halls, guest services, a movie theater, a café, and a gift shop.
The Wild exhibits
- Bear Pits: The St. Louis Zoo replaced barred cages with open, moated exhibits. Built in the 1920s, the former exhibits represented some of the earliest examples of moated enclosures. Made from molds taken locally of the limestone bluffs along the Mississippi river, there currently are four bear species on display - pairs of spectacled bears and sun bears, an individual grizzly bear, and as of 2010 an individual sloth bear.
- Conservation Carousel: features carved animals representing protected and endangered species.
- Fragile Forest: The Donn and Marilyn Lipton Fragile Forest was opened in 2005. It features gorillas, chimpanzees, and orangutans in a naturalized outdoor setting. Large glass windows allow visitors to look into the habitat furnished with live trees and tall grasses. The Lichtenstein Chimpanzee Refuge features Beauty, Rosebud, Minzi, Tammy, Holly, Jimiyu, Bakhari, and dominant male Hugo. The Dana Brown Orangutan Refuge features the critically endangered Sumatran Orangutans, Merah, her baby Rubih, and Robert B. The Ann & Paul Lux Family Gorilla Habitat features an all-male group of Western Lowland Gorillas. Wild gorillas may choose to live in all-male societies.
- Penguin and Puffin Coast: displays a variety of water birds. Humboldt penguins of coastal Peru and Chile are outside at the Dennis & Judy Jones Humboldt Haven. The exhibit is enclosed by a glass wall, and includes a pool and 22-foot (6.7 m) waterfall. The penguins can survive the extremely hot St. Louis summers; however, all of the Humboldts' water enclosures are constantly refrigerated. The Saint Louis Zoo is involved in research to protect Humboldt penguins' native habitat. The inside of the exhibit is the first walk-through exhibit of penguins in North America. A window-like half wall separates visitors from King, Rockhopper and Gentoo penguins. There are pools on either side of the walkway and two tunnels that go underneath the walkway, allowing the birds to swim from one side of the exhibit to the other. Taylor Family Puffin Bay houses Horned Puffins and Tufted Puffins.
- Individual habitat: Also included in The Wild are individual habitats for Red Pandas and Black-tailed Prairie Dogs.
Historic Hill exhibits
- Bird House, where guests and birds are separated by piano wire, features birds as varied as Bald Eagle, Rhinoceros Hornbill, Hyacinth Macaw, Burrowing Owl, Toco Toucan, Cape Thick-Knee, Golden Pheasant, Kookaburra, Mariana Fruit-dove, King Vulture, Horned Guan, Superb Starling, Tawny Frogmouth, and the Guam Kingfisher, which is Extinct in the Wild.
- Bird garden
- Herpetarium which houses most of the Zoo's reptiles and amphibians, including the Critically Endangered Jamaican Iguana, Chinese Alligator, McCord's Box Turtle, and Arakan Forest Turtle. Other species include the Komodo Dragon, Green Anaconda, Mountain Chicken, Alligator Snapping Turtle, False Gharial, King Cobra, Gila Monster, Frill-necked Lizard, Aldabra Giant Tortoise, Tuatara, Reticulated Python, Tiger Salamander, Three-toed Amphiuma, Pancake Tortoise, and over two dozen species of Pit Vipers from around the world.
Spectacled caymans at the Herpetarium
- The Chain of Lakes and the Sea Lion Arena.
- 1904 Flight Cage and Cypress Swamp. In 1904, it was the largest bird cage ever built, and is still one of the world's largest free-flight aviaries. The 228 feet (69 m) long, 84 feet (26 m) wide, and 50 feet (15 m) high cage was built for the St. Louis World's Fair. The Flight Cage is one of the few structures that remains from the Louisiana Purchase Exposition. Local pride in the giant cage motivated St. Louis to establish a zoo in 1910. The Cypress Swamp is dedicated to North American Birds found it the Cypress Swamps of the southern Mississippi River. Among the birds in the aviary are Black-crowned Night Heron, Blue-winged Teal, Bufflehead Duck, Cattle Egret, Double-crested Cormorant, Great Egret, Wood Duck, Northern Bobwhite, Roseate Spoonbill, Snowy Egret, and American White Ibis.
- Primate House is home to the Zoo's Monkeys and Lemurs. Species included are Allen's Swamp Monkey, Coquerel's Sifaka, Golden-headed Lion Tamarin, Lion-tailed Macaque, Pygmy Marmoset, Ring-tailed Lemur, and White-faced Saki.
The Bird House, Herpetarium, and Primate House all feature outdoor enclosures that are connected to the main buildings.
Red Rocks exhibits
Somali Wild Ass
St. Louis Zoo, 2005
- Big Cat Country: Home to several species of Big Cats. As of 2011, the represented species are the African Lion, Amur Leopard, Amur Tiger, Jaguar, and Snow Leopard.
- Antelope House: the primary species found in the Red Rocks are Ungulates. Among the species currently present are the Addax, Babirusa, Bactrian Camel, Gerenuk, Grevy's Zebra, Indian Muntjac, Lesser Kudu, Mountain Bongo, Okapi, Reticulated Giraffe, Somali Wild Ass, Speke's Gazelle, Sichuan Takin, Soemmerring's Gazelle, Transcapsian Urial, and Visayan Warty Pig. Non-ungulates found in the Red Rocks include the marsupials Red Kangaroo and Tammar Wallaby, as well as several birds in mixed-exhibits with the ungulates, such as the Ostrich, Stanley Crane, and Grey Crowned Crane. Some exhibits are mixed to include several species of mammals as well as birds.
- Bella Fontaine County Park
- General Daniel Bissell House County Park
- Bon Oak County Park
- Castlepoint County Park
- Champ County Park
- Endicott County Park
- Fort Belle Fontaine County Park
- King County Park
- Kinloch County Park
- Larimore County Park
- McDonnell County Park
- Sioux Passage County Park
- Spanish Lake County Park
- St. Vincent County Park
- Veterans Memorial County Park
- Bee Tree County Park
- Black Forest County Park
- Bohrer County Park
- Buder County Park
- Cliff Cave County Park
- Clydesdale County Park
- Jefferson Barracks County Park
- Laumeier Sculpture Park
- Lemay County Park
- Mathilda-Welmering County Park
- Ohlendorf County Park
- Simpson County Park
- Suson County Park
- Sylvan Springs County Park
- Unger County Park
- George Winter County Park