Location: 830 Fifth Ave., New York
Wildlife Conservation Society‘s jewel-like zoo in Manhattan has existed only since 1988 - yet its full history stretches back to the last century. The evolution of this city landmark launched the modern trend in urban zoos around the nation: the transformation of cages and menagerie-style zoos into natural habitat exhibits that educate, involve, and connect people to our natural world.
Since the 1860‘s, animals could be found at Fifth Avenue and 64th Street in Central Park. At first, the collection was simply a growing group of donated animals - from 72 white swans to a black bear cub. In 1864, the State Legislature authorized the city Parks Commission to establish a zoo, and the more formal Central Park Menagerie was established. In 1934, then- Commissioner of Parks Robert Moses remodeled the Menagerie into the Central Park Zoo. A Works Progress Administration (WPA) project, this tiny storybook zoo set a standard for its time - but over the decades, became a woefully inadequate facility for its inhabitants.
In April of 1980, WCS signed an agreement with the City of New York to renovate and operate the zoo for the Department of Parks and Recreation. WCS animal and exhibit experts, and architects Kevin Roche, John Dinkeloo and Associates, led the project. Demolition of most of the buildings began in the winter of 1983 and continued in 1984; construction began in the spring of 1985. On August 8, 1988, the new Central Park Zoo opened to record crowds and enthusiastic reviews. Today, this newest, oldest zoo attracts nearly 1 million visitors a year.
From a steamy rain forest to an icy Antarctic penguin habitat, the zoo leads visitors through tropic, temperate and polar regions to encounter fascinating animals - from tiny leafcutter ants to tremendous polar bears. The Tisch Children‘s Zoo, added in 1997, lets little animal lovers meet gentle creatures up close. Year-round education classes and innovative public programs - including the zoo‘s Wildlife Theater -- encourage all ages to learn more about our natural world, and become involved in its protection.
Through the American Zoo and Aquarium Association‘s (AZA) Species Survival Program, the zoo is actively involved in helping endangered species, including rare tamarin monkeys, Wyoming toads, thick-billed parrots, and red pandas.
Central Park’s multi-disciplinary programs incorporate theater, the visual arts, and science for children and adults. Dynamic actors promoted an understanding of nature by sharing animal and conservation facts with more than 550,000 zoo visitors. In addition, more than 65,000 children and parents attended 2,000 performances at the Daniel Cowin Acorn Theater in the Tisch Children’s Zoo.Central Park Zoo Central Park’s multi-disciplinary programs incorporate theater, the visual arts, and science for children and adults. Dynamic actors promoted an understanding of nature by sharing animal and conservation facts with more than 550,000 zoo visitors. In addition, more than 65,000 children and parents attended 2,000 performances at the Daniel Cowin Acorn Theater in the Tisch Children’s Zoo.
The theater’s outreach program introduced WILD (Wildlife Integrated for Language Development) Achievements to more than 1,600 New York City schoolchildren. By providing pre-readers with vocabulary building and text comprehension, this program fosters an appreciation and respect for wildlife in children who have limited experiences with wild nature. Additionally, more than 600 Bronx schoolchildren benefited from performances of WILD Achievements classroom programs and auditorium plays.
This year, the Central Park Zoo Guides, a cohort of 130 strong, provided 126,542 zoo visitors with 16,000 hours of volunteer service.