Each year on April 8, National Zoo Lovers Day is observed, and there are great ways to celebrate this wonderful holiday! You could sign up to volunteer at your local zoo, taking in the exotic animals they keep there in a first-hand experience. You could take a tour of the zoo and have a picnic on the green in sight of gorillas and the giraffes! If you’re feeling particularly ambitious, you could even organize a fund-raiser to help support your local zoo! Most zoos run on a limited budget, relying on the ticket sales to supplement their yearly funding. Whatever you would like to do, this would be a perfect day to visit a zoo and be one of the millions of people who visit them each year. Enjoy seeing your favorite animals having fun in their zoo’s environment.
Zoo is actually short for Zoological Garden, and is mostly used to refer to the modern concept of a zoo. Prior to this, the term Menagerie was used for hundreds of years. Just to show you how old zoos are, an archeological dig in Hierakonpolis Egypt in 2009 showed an impressive array of hippos, elephants, baboons, wildcats, and hartebeests in the found fossils.
The oldest modern styled zoo was established in 1752 at the order of Emperor Francis I, in the beautiful city of Vienna, Austria. It was intended solely for the viewing pleasure of the imperial family, but was extended to the public in 1765. The next zoo to open was in 1775 in Madrid, and then another in Paris in 1795. There was an intense desire for Zoo’s, because they represented the power that a nation could have by being able to have such strange and exotic animals from far off lands available for their peasantry’s viewing.
What’s amazing is that while they started out as a demonstration of power and majesty among the royalty and nobility, and then became a symbol of a country’s wealth, these organizations have become instead a bastion for some of the lost species of the world. In captivity in some zoos are the last remnants of species to be found nowhere else in the world, as those caring members of the zoological staff work day and night to keep them in comfort, health, and attempt to nurse the species along to where they could potentially exist in the wild again!
Here are some fun facts that you might not know:
- The Vienna Zoo is the oldest existing zoo and was opened to the public in 1765.
- The United State’s first public zoo, Central Park Zoo, opened in 1874 in New York.
- There are 350 zoos in the United States
- Approximately 175 million people visit a zoo each year.
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom has had more than 9.8 million annual visitors.
- More than 3.2 million people visit the San Diego Zoo each year.
Famous Zoos in the United States
San Diego Zoo
One of the top attractions in San Diego is its zoo — home to over 4,000 animals across 100 acres. The zoo houses three giant pandas — Bai Yun, Gao Gao, and Xiao Liwu — which you can watch play around on a live Panda Cam. Located north of downtown San Diego in Balboa Park, the zoo also has tigers, koalas, camels, and a rhinoceros.
The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium first opened with a small collection of animals in 1927, and has grown to house 9,000 animals representing 650 species today. Some of the animals include an African lion, Asian elephant, blood python, okapi, and red panda. The zoo is also home to Stingray Bay, where visitors can see the marine animals up close and even pet them if they’re feeling daring.
Smithsonian National Zoo
Since the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. is part of the Smithsonian Institution, admission is always free. Currently, there are about 1,800 animals from around 300 different species spread throughout the 163 acres. If you can’t make it to the zoo, you can watch various animals on live web cams, including those in the lion habitat. Cheetahs, gazelles, sloth bears, and Komodo dragons are a few of the animals housed at the zoo. Through an agreement with the China Wildlife Conservation Association, giant pandas Mei Xiang and Tian Tian will be at the zoo through the end of the year.
The Bronx Zoo is located in the Bronx borough of New York City on 265 acres. It’s home to around 6,000 animals representing about 650 species, some of which include a bald eagle, grizzly bear, king cobra, and snowy owl. Experiences offered at the zoo include camel rides, sea lion and penguin feedings, and a monorail ride through the Asian animal area.
So on this Zoo day, patronize your local menagerie and take the time to appreciate the glorious variety of animals that are found in this wide and well explored world. Even with all the exploration and discoveries we’ve made throughout the years, there are still places left to be discovered in the ocean deeps and the darkest jungles. So go and see what the world has discovered so far, and prepare yourself for the wonders we will discover as the years go on.
Who knows, maybe one day our zoos will be full of exotic and alien creatures from worlds other than our own! Either way, it’s time to head on down and support your local zoos, you may just help to save a species from extinction!