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Zoo History

What began in a small downtown park in Montgomery, Alabama has now grown, expanded and become a premiere American zoological facility. The Montgomery Zoo started with humble beginnings as a small children’s zoo as a part of a local community park in the 1920s. While at Oak Park, the zoo housed alligators, monkeys, bears, and assorted other animals. There was a small train and carousel for the children.

As the years passed and dreams grew, in 1972 the Montgomery Zoo relocated to the quickly expanding north section of town, and still its current location. The Zoo began with six acres, a small petting zoo for the children, assorted monkeys, a flight cage designed after the 1906 St. Louis World’s Fair and chimpanzee named Benji.

In 1976, the Montgomery Zoo hosted its first fundraising event entitled Zoo Day. This initial event grew to become an annual event and even take on a new name: Zoo Weekend. Today, an average Zoo Weekend will play host to over 18,000 guests. In 1989, ground-breaking took place expanding the Zoo to 40 acres.

After two years of hard labor, the community welcomed a new Zoo in 1991. Barrier-free and multi-species exhibits highlighted the expansion, as well as, the Zoo being divided into five continental realms: Africa, Australia, Asia, North America and South America.

Since then the Zoo has continued to grow and expand. In 1992, the cougar and lynx exhibit was opened in North American realm, the Reptile House, jaguar, and ocelot exhibit were completed in South America, as well as, the new chimpanzee and siamang exhibits opened in the Africa realm. In 1993, the bengal tiger exhibit opened in the Asian realm with one white and one orange tiger. In 1995, the bald eagle exhibit opened in North American realm and Monkey Island was completely renovated in South America.

In 1996 , the new American black bear exhibit opened and our first baby cheetah was born. A few years later in 1998, the maned wolf and Indian rhino exhibit opened. In 1999, the new front gate entrance and gift shop opened. In 2003, the Mann Wildlife Learning Museum was completed and opened on Zoo property. In 2004, probably our largest undertaking began: the building of our African elephant exhibit.

After a year of hard work and sweat, the exhibit opened housing three female elephants. And almost two years to the date of opening the exhibit, our first African elephant was born. This is the first African elephant born in the State of Alabama. In the same year (2007), we also experienced the first Indian rhino to be born at the Montgomery Zoo: a male calf. In March of 2008, the North American River Otter exhibit opened featuring two river otters and an addition habitat for a North American Alligator Snapping Turtle.

In June 2010, the Zoo opened the Giraffe Encounter and feeding stations at the river otters and koi fish ponds. The following year, the both Parakeet Cove and Horse Trail Rides were added to our list of animal encounters. In August 2012, the Zoofari Skylift Ride set sail atop the Zoo providing guests with spectacular views of the many exhibits and animals below.

Zoo Timeline

1920 41 acres was set aside in Oak Park for the citizens of Montgomery
1935 Oak Park received the first animals
1960 Oak Park closed for the next 11 years due to racial violence
1967 New zoo location, 6 acres set aside for new zoo (current land)
1971 Jim Amon appointed 1st Zoo Director
Paul Foster hired as 1st Zookeeper
Changed name of facility to “Montgomery Children’s Zoo”
Zoo Office/Concessions building, flight cage , and monkey island completed
1972 John Heidger appointed Zoo Director
Zoo officially opened on May 6
1st Zoo Education Officer hired
Bengi (6 month old chimp) came to the Zoo
1973 Education/Administration building on Vandiver Blvd completed
1974 Name changed to “Montgomery Zoo”
C.B. Rogers appointed Zoo Director
1975 Alligator Exhibit, Chimp House, Safari shelter constructed
1976 1st Zoo Day fundraiser
Dixieland Zoological Society incorporated
Robert Cooper appointed Zoo Director
1979 Chuck Clift appointed Zoo Director
1983 Mark Sabel appointed to work on Master Plan for New Montgomery Zoo
1988 Zoo Society name changed to Montgomery Area Zoological Society
1989 Official ground breaking for The New Montgomery Zoo
1990 Bill Fiore appointed Zoo Director
Construction on new 40 acre zoo begins
1991 Grand opening of The New Montgomery Zoo on September 21 with 5 realms & multi- species exhibits
Montgomery Area Zoological Society adopts nickname “Zoo Friends”
1992 Cougar/Lynx exhibit in North American Realm completed
Reptile House, Jaguar, & Ocelot exhibit completed
Chimpanzee & Colobus Monkey exhibit opens in African Realm
1993 Bengal Tiger exhibit opens in Asia Realm with 1 white and 1 gold tiger
1995 Bald Eagle exhibit opens in North America
Monkey Island renovated in South America
1996 New American Black Bear exhibit completed
Spectacled Bears arrived
First baby cheetah born
1998 Maned wolf and Indian rhino exhibit opens
Paul Foster appointed Zoo Director
1999 New Front Entrance Complex opens
Spectacled Bear exhibit opens
2001 Doug Goode appointed Zoo Director
First Annual Earth Day Safari
Old World Aviary opens
2003 Mann Wildlife Learning Museum was completed and opened
2004 Construction began on the African Elephant Habitat
2005 African Elephant Habitat opened with three female elephants
2006 Broke ground for North American River Otter Habitat
2007 First rhino born at the Montgomery Zoo born October 1, male calf
First African elephant born in the State of Alabama at the Montgomery Zoo, born November 9, female calf
2008 North American River Otter exhibit opens
2009 New playground equipment is added
New Toucan and Emperor Tamarins exhibit opens
Sloth bear
2010 Birth of a male giraffe
Opening of Giraffe Encounter Post, June 6
Birth of two white Bengal tiger cubs, male and female, June 9
Three record fundraisers: Zoobilation, ZooBoo and Christmas Lights Festival
New attraction approved: Zoofari Skylift Adventure Ride, construction begins in late 2011
2011 Special needs playground opens Spring 2011
Zoofari Skylift Adventure Ride, construction begins late 2011
Horse Trail Rides, opens Zoo Weekend 2011
Parakeet Cove, construction begins in Fall 2011
2012 Parakeet Cove, opens Winter 2012
Inaugural ZooBrew, May 4
40th Anniversary of Zoo (Northern Blvd location), May 6
Opening of Zoofari Skylift Adventure Ride, August 31
2013 Petting Zoo, opens Summer 2013
Construction begins on new Alligator habitat, late Fall 2013
2014 Birth of two jaguar cubs, July 28, 2014
New Alligator habitat opens, August 2014
2015 Birth of Connye, female Reticulated giraffe, March 2015
2016 Birth of male African pygmy hippo, Monty, April 2016
Birth of two jaguar cubs, Todd and Scott, May 2016
2017 New display in South American realm, capybaras, January 2017
New display in South American realm, ring-tailed lemurs, January 2017
Construction began on state-of-the-art Stingray exhibit
2018 Birth of male African pygmy hippo, March 2018
Stingray Bay opens, March 2018
Doug Goode, Zoo director retires, March 2018
Marcia Woodard appointed new Zoo Director, April 2018
Doug Goode receives Golden Egg Award, April 2018