Location: 53-51 111th St., Flushing
The Queens Zoo, a tribute to American animals, opened to the public on June 25, 1992. It was the second of three city zoos to be renovated and operated by Wildlife Conservation Society, through a partnership with the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. Unlike the much older Central Park and Prospect Park zoos (which were renovated and reopened by WCS in 1988 and 1993, respectively), the Queens Zoo had only existed since 1968. That year, the Flushing Meadows Zoo opened on the grounds of the 1964 World‘s Fair. However, advances in zoo technology and animal management rapidly left the zoo in need of an update. The new zoo is the result of a $16 million reconstruction.
Exhibit updates have given the Queens Zoo the feel of a national park - albeit a small one. The zoo perimeter is a pathway that leads visitors to pockets of wild habitats, from the Great Plains to the rocky California coast to a Northeast forest.
At home in these naturalistic settings are spectacular American species: American bison, mountain lions, California sea lions, American bald eagles, Roosevelt elk, and more. South America is represented as well; the Queens Zoo is also the only New York home to spectacled bears, endangered natives of the Andes Mountains.
Of special note are both the structures and inhabitants. The aviary is in fact a geodesic dome, designed by Buckminster Fuller and used in the 1964 World‘s Fair in Queens. And the zoo‘s animal residents include Otis, the famous coyote rescued in Manhattan‘s Central Park in 1999.
More than 8,000 students and teachers attended programs and tours to learn about zoos, endangered animals, and conservation education. At the second annual Alternative Augmented Communication (AAC) picnic, 25 children and adults who are unable to speak used computerized decoding devices to learn and communicate about owls, alligators, bison, prairie dogs, and other animals.
As the fiscal year came to a close, it became evident that New York City’s budget woes would dramatically affect the future of the Prospect Park Zoo and Queens Zoo education programs. The coming year will see major changes in programming and re-structuring at these facilities.