Dallas Zoo

Dallas Zoo
Dallas Zoo

Entry Plaza-Dallas Zoo fountain with logo
Date opened 1888
Location Dallas, Texas, USA
Land area 106 acres (43 ha)
Coordinates 32°44′39″N 96°48′51″W / 32.7441223°N 96.8141537°W / 32.7441223; -96.8141537Coordinates: 32°44′39″N 96°48′51″W / 32.7441223°N 96.8141537°W / 32.7441223; -96.8141537
Number of animals 1,800
Number of species 406
Memberships AZA,[1] WAZA[2]
Major exhibits Gorilla Research Center, Endangered Tiger Habitat, Chimpanzee Forest, Australian Outback, Penguin Cove, Giants of the Savanna
Website www.dallaszoo.com

Dallas Zoo is a 106-acre (43 ha) zoo located 3 miles (5 km) south of downtown Dallas, Texas in Marsalis Park. Established in 1888, it is the oldest and largest zoological park in Texas[3] and is managed by the non-profit Dallas Zoological Society. The zoo is home to 1,800 animals representing 406 species. Another 375 species of marine and freshwater animals are represented in The Dallas Aquarium at Fair Park, which is also managed by the Dallas Zoological Society. The Dallas Zoo is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), and is a member of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA).



The Dallas Zoo was established in 1888, when the city purchased two deer and two mountain lions for $60 from a private seller in Colorado City, Colorado. The animals were placed in pens and put on display in City Park. In the 1890s, the Dallas City Council approved funding for the zoo and more animals were purchased and added to the zoo's collection. The zoo called City Park home until 1910, when it was relocated to Fair Park. In 1912, the zoo moved to 36 acres (15 ha) in Marsalis Park which the city had purchased in 1909, from which it has expanded to it's current size. Under the leadership of Zoo Commissioner William H. Atwell, the zoo acquired many more animals as well as exhibits. In the 1920s, a special Zoo Commission was created by the city and the collection was further developed with the acquisition of numerous specimens from game hunter and trapper Frank Buck. In the Depression Era of the 1930s, the facilities at the zoo underwent extensive renovation funded by the Works Progress Administration.[4][5]

One of two male lions at the Dallas Zoo

The Dallas Zoological Society was established in 1955 to support the Dallas Zoo. For the past twenty years, DZS has successfully managed all fundraising, membership, marketing/public relations, special events, food services, retail operation and volunteer programs for the zoo under management contract with the City of Dallas.[6]

By the 1960s, the Dallas Zoo was a popular and profitable attraction. In 1966, the zoo displayed over five hundred species of animals. However, by the 1980s, attitudes began to change from the profit driven display of animals toward science and the humane treatment of animals strongly advocated by the AZA. More emphasis was put on saving endangered species and breeding animals in captivity. The Dallas Zoo cooperated with this program and was accredited in 1985. Around the same time, Zoo Director Warren J. Iliff proposed an addition to be known as the Wilds of Africa. Herbert W. Reimer, a New York architect, designed the Wilds of Africa with a "zoogeographic grouping" of African animals. In addition to a nature trail, he further envisioned a slow moving monorail that visitors could ride and observe as if on safari. Two bond measures, amounting to $30.4 million, brought the expansion from the drawing board in 1983 to its opening in June 1990.[4]

On June 14, 1996, rail and bus service arrived at the Dallas Zoo. Dallas Zoo station opened on the first phase of the Red Line. The connection to DART made getting to the Dallas Zoo significantly more convenient than ever before.[7]

In 1997, the Chimpanzee Forest exhibit opened to the public.

On September 3, 2008, the zoo announced it had received the largest gift in its 120-year history, a $5 million donation from Harold Simmons. This donation, as well as other factors, allowed the zoo to fast track the construction of the Giants of the Savanna habitat.[8]

On August 12, 2009, the Dallas City Council voted unanimously to turn the zoo over to private management. On October 1, the Dallas Zoo's management responsibilities, animals and employees were officially turned over to the Dallas Zoological Society.[9]

On May 28, 2010, the Giants of the Savanna habitat opened to national acclaim.[10]


The zoo is divided into two major regions: ZooNorth and Wilds of Africa.[11] ZooNorth is the original and oldest section of the zoo. The Wilds of Africa region was constructed seventy-eight years after ZooNorth and is accessed from ZooNorth via a tunnel beneath Clarendon Drive. Within the Wilds of Africa, lies the Giants of the Savanna, phase two of Wilds of Africa and the most recent major addition to the zoo.


ZooNorth is home to most of the traditional zoo animals. Within recent years, the Dallas Zoo has added several new exhibits to ZooNorth including the Otter Outpost, Galápagos tortoises, and Bug U!. Older exhibits, such as Wings of Wonder and the Australian Outback, have been expanded and redesigned. The ExxonMobil Endangered Tiger Habitat is a large habitat that resembles a forest in the process of regrowth after logging. A glass viewing area and pathways allow the visitor to observe a Sumatran tiger and an Indochinese tiger. The tigers' lush exhibits feature waterholes and heated rocks for napping. Opposite the tiger exhibit, Primate Place features monkeys, with species from Africa and South America. ZooNorth is also home to the Pierre A. Fontaine Bird & Reptile Building where visitors are encouraged to learn about endangered amphibians and what can be done to save them.

Tiger in ExxonMobil Endangered Tiger Habitat in ZooNorth
Wilds of Africa Entrance with Monorail Safari overhead

The Large Mammal Building features a black rhino and $5 camel rides. The Hill, one of the original parts of the zoo, was closed as many of the animals there were moved to the new Giants of the Savanna exhibit. One of the more recent additions to ZooNorth is the Wildlife Amphitheater. The Wildlife Amphitheater is home to SOAR! A Festival of Flight.

Lacerte Family Children's Zoo

The Lacerte Family Children’s Zoo in ZooNorth is home to the Nature Exchange, the JC Penney Discovery House, the UnderZone, a petting zoo, and pony rides. It also features an artificial creek that children are encouraged to splash around in on a warm spring day or hot summer day.

Wilds of Africa

The other half of the Dallas Zoo is the Wilds of Africa. Opened in 1990, it was the first exhibit to feature all of the major habitats from Africa. Visitors can visit the Rain Forests, Mountains, Woodlands, Rivers, Deserts, and Bush of Africa. The Nature Trail takes visitors through the Rain Forest past two large, naturalistic gorilla habitats. Nile Crocodiles, wattled cranes, and a few other animals are seen before the Forest Aviary. In 1997, the Chimpanzee Forest Exhibit was added to the Wilds of Africa. In the middle of the Forest is the Kopje, home to rock hyraxes, klipspringers, and meerkats. The Rain Forest is also home to okapi, which the Dallas Zoo is famous for in both its breeding and research. About 20 percent of okapi in zoos in the U.S. and Japan can trace their lineage back to the Dallas Zoo.[12]

Tunnel to Wilds of Africa and Giants of the Savanna
Giants of the Savanna Entrance
Dallas Zoo Monorail
Gorilla Conservation Center
Dallas Zoo Monorail

The Monorail Safari takes visitors through the portions of Wilds of Africa not accessible via the Nature Trail. The Monorail is a 20 minute, one-mile, narrated ride, which travels around the Rain Forest (okapi), Mountain (Nubian ibex), Woodlands (Grevy's zebra), River (waterbuck, greate white pallicans, Goliath herons, blue cranes), Arid Desert (scimitar-horned oryx, Addra gazelle), Semi-Arid Desert (addax, gemsbok, ostrich) and Bush (gerenuk, red-crowned cranes, greater kudu, Thomson's gazelle, Marabou storks) exhibits. The Monorail Safari features aerial views of the Chimpanzee Forest, Nile Crocodile, and Penguin Cove exhibits, which are also accessible via the Nature Trail.

Giants of the Savanna

Phase II of the Wilds of Africa, Giants of the Savanna, opened Memorial Day weekend 2010. This is an 11-acre (4.5 ha) expansion to the current Wilds of Africa, and features six female African elephants, a large herd of giraffes, lions, cheetahs, impala, zebras, ostriches, warthogs, and red river hogs. The Giants of the Savanna exhibit shows several species of herbivores roaming the grasslands together. Visitors can feed lettuce leaves to the herd of giraffes at the Giraffe Feeding Station. The Serengeti Grill offers lunch and a close-up view of the lion pride through the floor-to-ceiling windows.[13]


On October 6, 2011 the Dallas Zoo received special recognition from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums for the Giants of the Savanna Habitat. The $32.5 million habitat is the first in North America, as well as one of the first on the planet, to combine a variety of large species in a single exhibit in order to re-create the landscape of the African savanna.[10]


The Dallas Zoo is highly proactive in species preservation and conservation efforts and participates in over 40 Species Survival Plans (SSP) with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. The following is a list of the Species Survival Plans (SSP) that the zoo is involved with: Addax, Chinese alligator, mandrill, bongo, kori bustard, fishing cat, cheetah, chimpanzee, Lake Victoria Cichlids, Andean condor, wattled crane, African elephant, Addra Gazelle, White-cheeked gibbon, gorilla, great hornbill, rhinoceros hornbill, spectacled langur, ring-tailed lemur, ruffed lemur, Mona monkey, swamp monkey, Bali mynah, ocelot, okapi, Arabian oryx, scimitar-horned oryx, Oriental small-clawed otter, thick-billed parrot, African penguin, Mauritius pink pigeon, Aruba Island rattlesnake, black rhinoceros, Louisiana pine snake, black-handed spider monkey, cottontop tamarin, golden lion tamarin, Indochinese tiger, Sumatran tiger, Puerto Rican crested toad, radiated tortoise, Swainson's toucan, and Grevy's zebra.[14]

The zoo supports many conservation projects including Okapi Conservation - Epulu Research Station, Zaire, International Rhino Foundation, Chimp Haven, Bushmeat Crisis Task Force, Gray's Monitor Lizard In The Philippines, Taxon Advisory Groups (Tag), Bowling For Rhinos, and the Thailand Hornbill Project - Adopt A Hornbill Nest.[15]

Cell Phone Recycling

The Dallas Zoo collects and recycles cell phones through a program called ECO-CELL. The objective of both the Dallas Zoo and ECO-CELL is to reduce coltan mining. Coltan is a raw material used in the manufacturing process of cell phones and it is mined almost exclusively in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The mining results in a loss of habitat for gorillas, elephants, okapi and many others. For every cell phone recycled through ECO-CELL, the zoo receives a donation to its conservation fund.[16] ECO-CELL has partnerships with over 110 zoos and is a member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).[17]


Dallas Roars! is an annual multi-weekend celebration of spring at the zoo. The event features shows, music, games, crafts and bounce houses.

Running For Rhinos is a 1k or 5k run to raise money to help protect rhinos in the wild. The event features door prizes, massages, awards, and foods.[18]

Halloween Nights at the Dallas Zoo is a three night event held every October just days before Halloween and is a howling good time for children.

Zoo To Do is the zoo's annual fundraising gala. Patrons of this exclusive event have the opportunity to view the animals, enjoy food from some of Dallas’ top chefs, bid on auction items, and dance the night away in the Wilds of Africa.

Dollar Day at the zoo is held one day in July and one day in November. The Dallas Zoo shows its appreciation to the community for its support with $1 admission all day. Families can look for dollar deals on food, drinks and gifts throughout the zoo.[19]

The future

The Dallas Zoo has announced the addition of a Koala Habitat in the Australian Outback exhibit of ZooNorth, expected to open in spring 2012.

The Dallas Zoo Conservation Education & Science Center is a proposed 70,400-square-foot (6,540 m2) facility that will be located adjacent to ZooNorth. The facility will be a teaching laboratory for conservation of the world ecology systems and will be LEED certified silver level category. It will include research, teaching and interpretive facilities, and will become the new entrance to the zoo. This project is currently in the design phase and on hold pending funding.[20]

The Dallas Zoo Long Range Development Plan contains includes a zoo shuttle to transport visitors between the ZooNorth and Wilds of Africa regions. The proposed route would make a circle in the central area of ZooNorth, then proceed south through ZooNorth and through the tunnel on its way to the Wilds of Africa. Once inside the Wilds of Africa, the shuttle would make a circle in the central area of Wilds of Africa, proceed to the Giants of the Savanna exhibit, make a central circle, then proceed back to ZooNorth.[21]


  • The Dallas Zoo grows their own bamboo to function as part of the landscape. The overgrowth is harvested and used as food for some of the zoo's herbivores.[22]
  • The Dallas Zoo iPhone app is free and provides information about zoo hours, admission, parking, directions, animals, membership, educational programs, and special events,as well as zoo maps. The zoo is the first in the United States to offer visitors such an app in both English and Spanish.[23]


The nearest DART station is Dallas Zoo on the Red Line. The zoo is also served by bus routes 19, 515 and 522.[24]


On March 18, 2004, a gorilla named Jabari scaled a retaining wall and injured three visitors. He was fatally shot by a police SWAT team after being pursued by zoo employees through the Wilds of Africa exhibit.[25] This incident prompted several zoos to create or enhance Emergency Response Teams to deal with escaped animals. The Jake L. Hamon Gorilla Research Center was redesigned with new landscape, taller walls, and expanded viewing areas for visitors, including an air conditioned visitor center with floor-to-ceiling windows, videos, and on-site “gorilla guides” to answer questions and point out interesting facts. The exhibit is home to two gorilla troops.

On October 25, 2011, a chimpanzee named Koko escaped from her enclosure. Zookeepers were cleaning her area when they realized she got out of her bedroom and wandered out into a hallway. Although Koko never left the chimpanzee house, officials at the zoo evacuated the Wilds of Africa exhibit as a precaution. Koko was tranquilized and returned to her bedroom. There were no injuries to Koko or anyone else.[26]


Downtown Dallas from the Trinity River.jpg Dallas-Fort Worth portal
  1. ^ "List of Accredited Zoos and Aquariums". aza.org. AZA. http://www.aza.org/current-accreditation-list/. Retrieved September 18, 2011. 
  2. ^ "Zoos and Aquariums of the World". waza.org. WAZA. http://www.waza.org/en/site/zoos-aquariums. Retrieved October 22, 2011. 
  3. ^ "Your Visit". dallaszoo.com. Dallas Zoo. http://www.dallaszoo.com/yourvisit/yourvisit.htm. Retrieved October 20, 2011. 
  4. ^ a b McComb, David G. (2008). Spare Time In Texas: Recreation and History in the Lone Star State. University of Texas Press. p. 50–55. ISBN 978-0-292-71870-8. 
  5. ^ "Dallas Zoo". atlas.thc.state.tx.us. Texas Historical Commission. http://atlas.thc.state.tx.us/shell-kword.htm. Retrieved October 21 2011. Search on keywords "dallas zoo"
  6. ^ "Dallas Zoo Management Agreement". dallascityhall.com. Dallas City Hall. http://www.dallascityhall.com/council_briefings/briefings0809/DallasZooManagementAgreement_080509.pdf. Retrieved October 26 2011. 
  7. ^ "DART History". dart.org. Dallas Area Rapid transit. http://www.dart.org/about/history.asp. Retrieved November 8 2011. 
  8. ^ "Dallas Zoo receives largest private gift in its 120-year history". pegasusnews.com. Pegasus News. September 3, 2008. http://www.pegasusnews.com/news/2008/sep/03/dallas-zoo-receives-largest-private-gift-its-120-y/. Retrieved November 20, 2011. 
  9. ^ Bush, Rudolph (August 12 2009). "Dallas Zoo turned over to private zoological society". dallasnews.com (The Dallas Morning News). http://cityhallblog.dallasnews.com/archives/2009/08/dallas-zoo-turned-over-to-priv.html. Retrieved October 21, 2011. 
  10. ^ a b Tomaso, Bruce (October 6 2011). "Dallas Zoo's 'Savanna' wins national honor". dallasnews.com (The Dallas Morning News). http://thescoopblog.dallasnews.com/archives/2011/10/dallas-zoos-savanna-wins-natio.html#. Retrieved October 20, 2011. 
  11. ^ "Attractions". dallaszoo.com. Dallas Zoo. http://www.dallaszoo.com/attractions/attractions.htm. Retrieved October 20, 2011. 
  12. ^ "Baby okapi starts exploring habitat at Dallas Zoo". wfaa.com. WFAA-TV. March 11 2010. http://www.wfaa.com/news/local/Baby-okapi-starts-exploring-habitat-at-Dallas-Zoo-87371597.html. Retrieved October 20, 2011. 
  13. ^ "Dallas Zoo Map". dallaszoo.com. Dallas Zoo. http://www.dallaszoo.com/attractions/images/DallasZooMap2011.pdf. Retrieved October 26, 2011. 
  14. ^ "AZA SSP Projects". dallaszoo.com. Dallas Zoo. http://www.dallaszoo.com/conservation/cs2_aza.htm. Retrieved October 22, 2011. 
  15. ^ "Conservation Programs". dallaszoo.com. Dallas Zoo. http://www.dallaszoo.com/conservation/cs4_conservation.htm. Retrieved October 22, 2011. 
  16. ^ "Dallas Zoo Support Us". dallaszoo.com. Dallas Zoo. http://www.dallaszoo.com/supportus/s3_other.htm. Retrieved November 7 2011. 
  17. ^ "ecocell". eco-cell.com. http://www.eco-cell.com/. Retrieved November 7, 2011. 
  18. ^ "Start the Stampede on October 22 for Running for Rhinos". dallaszoo.com. Dallas Zoo. http://www.dallaszoo.com/subnav/pressroom/10.14.2011%20START%20THE%20STAMPEDE%20RUNNING%20FOR%20RHINOS.htm. Retrieved November 3, 2011. 
  19. ^ "Dallas Zoo Events". dallaszoo.com. Dallas Zoo. http://www.dallaszoo.com/events/ev3_events.htm. Retrieved October 30, 2011. 
  20. ^ "Dallas Zoo Conservation Education Science Center". oglesbygreene.com. Ogelsby-Green Architects. http://www.oglesbygreene.com/planning/dzoocesc.pdf. Retrieved October 26, 2011. 
  21. ^ "Dallas Zoo Long Range Development Plan". dallascityhall.com. Dallas City Hall. http://dallascityhall.com/pdf/Bond/Zoo.pdf. Retrieved October 27, 2011. 
  22. ^ "10 Things Zoos Won't Tell You". smartmoney.com. The Wall Street Journal-Smart Money. http://www.smartmoney.com/spend/travel/10-things-zoos-wont-tell-you-1306528026434/#articleTabs. Retrieved October 27, 2011. 
  23. ^ "Want to check out the Dallas Zoo on the go? There's an app for that.". dallaszoo.com. Dallas Zoo. http://www.dallaszoo.com/subnav/pressroom/iPhoneAppReleased.html. Retrieved October 27, 2011. 
  24. ^ "Dallas Zoo Station". dart.org. Dallas Area Rapid transit. http://www.dart.org/riding/stations/dallaszoostation.asp. Retrieved October 26, 2011. 
  25. ^ "Gorilla Escapes, 4 Injured". cbsnews.com (CBS News). March 19, 2004. http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2004/03/19/earlyshow/living/petplanet/main607290.shtml. 
  26. ^ "Dallas Zoo exhibit evacuated after Chimpanzee escape". wfaa.com (WFAA). October 25, 2011. http://www.wfaa.com/news/local/Chimp-escapes-from-Dallas-Zoo--132537333.html. 

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