On May 12, 2014, the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens will be celebrating its centennial anniversary.
Yes, that’s 100 years!
In preparation for our centennial celebration, we will feature a small sliver of Jacksonville Zoo history each month for the next 36 months. We invite you to share your own memories and to help us learn more about your Zoo!
Jacksonville Zoo History 1914-2014
Featured February 2013
Alan F. Rost, Biological Programs Registrar and unofficial Zoo historian
Zebras at the Jacksonville Zoo
Probably one of the most recognized zoo animals, the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens has historically managed two kinds of zebra – the Common, or Plains, Zebra (Equus burchellii) and the Grevy’s Zebra (Equus grevyi). There is a hint in our records that the Zoo might have had a zebra in 1916, but it cannot be found on our inventory from either December 31, 1915 or December 31, 1916. The next record we have of a zebra here is 1955.
Our first possible zebra in 1916 was most likely a Plains Zebra. Historically, that is the most common zebra found in North American zoos. Depending on whether the subspecies was known, they may have been recognized under several different names. In our case they have all been either Plains Zebras (subspecies unknown or crossed) or Grant’s Zebras (Equus burchellii boehmi). We do have a record of some Plains Zebras arriving in Jacksonville on November 24, 1955. The next arrival was a female Grant’s Zebra in November 1961. Since then, we have had some form of zebra in our animal collection, meaning that zebras at the Jacksonville Zoo go back to at least November 1961, and maybe to November 1955. We do not have a record of what happened to the 1955 arrivals. We have had at least eight Plains Zebra births and 38 Grant’s Zebra births that we can document. Our last Plains or Grant’s Zebra left in 2007.
We also have a history with the much rarer and endangered Grevy’s Zebra, which is the zebra currently in our collection. Our first Grevy’s zebra arrived in September 1966 and the species was part of our animal collection until September 1972. Grevy’s came back to the Jacksonville Zoo in February 2007. We produced our first foal in February 2011. The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens has been a financial supporter of the Grevy’s Zebra Trust and, in September 2012, was recognized along with 26 other AZA institutions with the AZA’s 2012 International Conservation Award. The Saint Louis Zoo submitted the application on the group’s behalf for the Grevy’s Zebra Trust and AZA: A Model of Collaborative Endangered Species Collaboration.
Pictured Above: Grant’s Zebras (no longer at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens), Photo Credit Rex Turner
See below for more Zoo history tidbits to get those memory juices flowing!
World War II Questions
Most Important Zoo Dates - Featured May 2011
Before there was a Zoo - Featured June 2011
The Springfield Park Zoo opens - Featured July 2011
Early Animal Collection Inventory - Featured August 2011
The Night the Zoo Almost Washed Away - Featured September 2011
William S. Cruzan, Zoo Superintendent - Featured October 2011
Miss Chic the Jacksonville Zoo’s First Elephant - Featured November 2011
Longest Resident Species - Featured December 2011
Updates to Date - Featured January 2012
Late 1920s through the Early 1950s - Featured February 2012
Gus Basford and the Jacksonville Zoo - Featured March 2012
“Doc” and the 1960s – Featured April 2012
Questions, Questions, Questions - Featured May 2012
Jacksonville Zoo Animal Acquisition in the 1960s - Featured June 2012
The New Jacksonville Zoo/The Jacksonville Zoological Society - Featured July 2012
Jacksonville Zoological Society Objectives 1971 - Featured August 2012
Internationally Infamous - Featured September 2012
Jacksonville Zoo Trains - Featured October 2012
Giraffes at the Jacksonville Zoo - Featured November 2012
Hippo History at the Jacksonville Zoo - Featured December 2012
Rhinos in Jacksonville – Successes and Failures - Featured January 2013
Zoo History Basics
The Zoo opened in the Springfield section of Jacksonville on May 12, 1914, with the donation of one red deer fawn. Several domestic animals were added later and a “monkey island” was established. On July 19, 1925, the Municipal Zoo, as it was then known, relocated to its present site bordering on the Trout River. Starting with 37.5 acres, the Zoo continued to grow, reaching about 89 acres when an 11-acre tract of land adjoining the Zoo to the east was acquired in January 1992. On October 20, 1993, the Zoo name was officially changed from the Jacksonville Zoological Park to the Jacksonville Zoological Gardens.
The first major animal purchase of the Zoo was a female Asian Elephant bought in 1926 with money raised by local school children. By the end of the 1960s, the Zoo is reputed to have had 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.
The Jacksonville Zoological Society subsequently came into being in April 1971, having grown from the seven-member committee to 85 of the city’s most influential leaders. The Society began managing the Zoo on June 21, 1971.
The city of Jacksonville contracts with the Society to manage all phases of the operation of the Zoo. All property, including animals and equipment, and all improvements, belong to the city, which in turn contributes an annual subsidy to offset some of the Zoo’s operating expenses. All other Zoo expenses are paid through revenues earned from admission and concession sales, membership and adoption, and group sales. The Jacksonville Zoo serves a two-state area within a 100-mile radius of the facility.
A major redevelopment of the Jacksonville Zoo began in 1992. Through a combination of River City Renaissance funds and donations from the private sector, $22.5 million was raised to complete Phase One of the Master Plan. Projects completed include a new front entry gate and parking lot, the Main Camp Safari Lodge, Birds of the Rift Valley Aviary, Great Apes of the World, an expanded train ride, an elephant and breeding complex, River Branch Foundation Animal Medical Center, the PepsiCo Foundation Education Campus and redevelopment of the 11-acre Plains of East Africa. The last project of the 1992 Master Plan, a Florida wetlands attraction, “Wild Florida,” opened in March 2001.
In March 2002, the Zoo opened the Outback Steakhouse Australian Adventure. Range of the Jaguar, the Zoo’s national award winning premier attraction, opened March 5, 2004. In March of 2005, the Wildlife Carousel opened to the public for the first time, with its 34 hand-painted animals. In April of 2005 the redesigned viewing area for the Giraffes called Giraffe Overlook and the first botanical gardens, Savanna Blooms, opened. As part of this development the main path was redesigned and widened for guest comfort. Play Park, an exciting environment providing children learning opportunities, opened in the late spring of 2006. In September, 2007, the latest addition to the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, the Gardens at Trout River Plaza opened. The plaza serves as the gateway to the Asian Bamboo Gardens that opened in the spring of 2009 with the new komodo dragon exhibit.
The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is an accredited institution of the American Zoo and Aquarium Association.