All Zoo History

In 1882, local philanthropist and businessman, Jeptha Wade, donated 73 acres of land and 14 white-tailed deer to the city of Cleveland. This gift marked the start of Cleveland's first zoo. Two years later, the city built a Victorian-style deer barn and added a collection of animals: raccoons, foxes bears, and a flock of Canada geese. Soon, the Cleveland Zoo at Wade Park featured prairie dogs, ostriches, and even Minnie the elephant, acquired through the Zoo's Pennies from Children campaign in 1907.

In 1914, the Zoo moved from Cleveland's East Side near University Circle to its current location at Brookside Reservation on the West Side. Its first naturalistic habitat, Monkey Island, opened in 1936 with 150 rhesus monkeys and remained one of the Zoo's most popular attractions for years. After WorId War II, the Zoo began a period of growth, expanding the reptile exhibit and adding a bird building. In 1955, Zoo members traveled to Africa on safari, bringing back three young African elephants, two rhinos, two hippos, and three giraffes for the new Pachyderm Building.

The Zoo changed ownership from the Cleveland Zoological Society to Cleveland Metroparks in 1975, giving it the name Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. Other key events included the opening ofThe RainForest in 1992, which pushed annual attendance over one million, and the 2011 opening of African Elephant Crossing, a five-acre habitat and conservation center that quadrupled the space for the elephants and added several new species to the Zoo. Today, Cleveland Metroparks Zoo features 3,000 animals representing 600 species from six of the seven continents. As a leader in scientific animal management and in conservation, it has supported hundreds of projects around the globe.


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