September 2012 - Internationally Infamous
Jacksonville Zoo History 1914-2014
Featured September 2012
Alan F. Rost, Biological Programs Registrar and unofficial Zoo historian
Recently the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens has begun to gain more and more national and international recognition for its work with highly protected species such as bonobos, whooping cranes, Jamaican boas, reticulated flatwoods salamanders, elephant semen collection and shipping, and the management of male gorillas. Recently we even hosted the International Okapi meeting here at our Zoo.
However, this has not always been the case. There was a period in the 1960s and early 1970s when the Jacksonville Zoo was “infamous” for two curiosities. These curiosities were amusing to the public of the 1960s and early 1970s, but would have been frowned upon just a few years later when the 1970s and 1980s saw the beginning of the evolution of zoos, as we now know them.
The first item of note was our exhibit of “green” polar bears. The Jacksonville Zoo acquired polar bears in 1957 and unfortunately did not have the appropriate facility to manage them without a lot of algae problems…thus, we had green polar bears.
The second item came about because someone at the Jacksonville Zoo decided to prove that you could breed a male Mexican donkey with a female Grant’s zebra. They succeeded – at least twice. One foal was born in about August of 1965 and the other was born in March of 1971. In both cases we do not currently have a record of what happened to the offspring, called a “Donze” or a “Dozeb”. I received a picture of one of the offspring from a colleague in the 1990s and discovered that it came from an earlier Italian publication. Below is a photo of mother and foal from 1965.