July 2012 - The New Jacksonville Zoo/The Jacksonville Zoological Society
Jacksonville Zoo History 1914-2014
Featured July 2012
Alan F. Rost, Biological Programs Registrar and unofficial Zoo historian
The New Jacksonville Zoo Begins – The Jacksonville Zoological Society
By 1969, our Zoo was reputed to have the largest collection of exotic animals in the Southeastern U.S., but the Zoo was not what it could or should have been.
Anheuser-Busch purchased 400 acres near their Dunn Street brewery. Although August Busch II was against creating a second zoological gardens in Florida, then Mayor Hans Tanzler, Jr. saw an opportunity. He named a seven-man committee to examine the possibilities and recommend improvements, which included retaining but moving the Zoo. During 1970, a well known zoo consultant, Robert Everly, was hired. After a four month in-depth study, Everly strongly recommended the formation of a zoological society. In September 1970, Ken McLean, director of the city department of recreation and public affairs made the public statement that the “…City Zoo should either be improved or closed.”
In response, the Jacksonville Zoological Society was formed in early 1971 with 85 of the city’s leading citizens, including the original seven member advisory committee appointed in 1969. On June 12, 1971, the Zoological Society launched its first membership drive. So much energy and high expectations were generated that the new Zoological Society asked to take over operation of the Zoo on June 1, 1971, which was four months earlier than expected. The city agreed. Although still owned by the city, all Zoo operations have been under the direction of the Zoological Society since June 21, 1971 (some sources list June 8, 1971).
Since at least June 21, 1971 all Zoo property has been owned by the City/County while all paychecks for Zoo employees have been issued by the Zoological Society.