History

Early Years

Alexandria Zoo, originally known as City Park Zoo, was established in 1926 at Bringhurst Park near its present location. The Zoo's animal collection began with discarded pets, such as rabbits, goats, and deer. Animals were housed in cages constructed of chain link fabric and iron bars with gravel, dirt or concrete floors.

As far as can be determined, the zoo changed very little until the late 1960's or early 1970's when it was threatened with closure by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture. In 1971, City Commissioner O'Hearn Mathews appointed the first zoo committee of concerned citizens, which evolved into Friends of the Alexandria Zoo (FOTAZ) under the direction of Mrs. Caroline Pitts and Dr. David McGraw, veterinarian for the Zoo.

1926: Alexandria Zoo opens.

1929: The Elks Club donates two black bear cubs.

1935: 110 young pine trees are planted in City Park.

1951: Two male monkeys and a young baboon arrive, bringing the zoo's monkey population to nine.

1955: Gus the lion arrives at the zoo.

1960s: The first snake exhibits are built and seals become part of the zoo's animal collection.

1970 - 1979

1970: The zoo's annual budget is 27,000. This includes salaries.

1971: The first full-time zoo keeper is hired.

1972: Friends of the Alexandria Zoo (FOTAZ) is incorporated.

1973 - 1976: Improvements include a perimeter fence, sewer line, gate house, park maintenance building, 35-vehicle parking lot, additional walkways, McDonald's Farm, public restrooms, and zoo kitchen. Robert Leslie Whitt is hired as the zoo supervisor. FOTAZ begins education efforts. The old 1930's cages are replaced with round Behlen wire cages with heated dens for the animals. Vietnam War Memorial and prairie dog exhibit are built.

1977: Voters turn down the recreation tax from which the zoo could have gained $1 million for improvements.

1978 - 1979: The zoo's budget is $106,512. This includes salaries, animal food, and maintenance of facilities.

1980 - 1989

1980: The Docent program is activated and the otter exhibit is completed.

1981: The first Zoo Boo is held.

1982: The Caroline Pitts Waterfowl Exhibit is dedicated during Safari Nite.

1983: The zoo acquires two endangered red wolves.

1984: The zoo perimeter fence is expanded to include the area along Babe Ruth Drive.

1985: The Animal Hospital building is completed in December. The Alexandria Zoo becomes one of the first small zoos in the country to have an on-site animal health facility and veterinary technician on staff.

1986: The zoo receives accreditation from the American Association of Zoos and Aquariums. With the help of a $10,000 contribution from Cenla Lions Charities, the old YMCA camp building was renovated to become our education classroom at the Zoo. Summer zoo classes for children are held for the first time.

1987: An admission fee is charged for the first time: $1 for adults and 50 cents for kids.

1988: The zoo master plan, which establishes the long-range goals of the Alexandria Zoo, is completed.

1989: The Japanese koi pond is constructed by FOTAZ. The Zoo's first education curator was hired.

1990 - 1999

1990: A new exhibit was built for Sumatran tigers and the Zoo became part of the Tiger SSP program.

1991: The zoo is accredited by the American Association of Zoological Parks and Aquariums. Gibbon exhibit and walkways are built in the Asian section. The zoo perimeter expands by 16 acres.

1992: The train ride is installed and the jaguar exhibit and jungle walk are built.

1993: The parking lot on Masonic Drive is completed and the capital campaign for the Louisiana Habitat Exhibit begins.

1994: The Zoo Explorer Post 2033 is established with 19 members.

1995: Construction of the front entrance, administration offices, restrooms, and Gift Shop is completed. Work begins on the Louisiana Habitat with the construction of the sawmill replica.

1996: Two Asian cat exhibits are built. The zoo is accredited by the American Association of Zoological Parks and Aquariums.

1997: The children's playground is built. The groundbreaking is held for the Louisiana Habitat Exhibit. Holiday Light Safari is held for the first time.

1998: The Louisiana Habitat exhibit opens, and wins Louisiana Contractor Best of 1998 Award for public buildings.

1999: The zoo reaches a record attendance of 204,269.

2000 - 2009

2000: FOTAZ funds the Picnic Pavilion and paved walkways in the commons area.

2001: The architectural concept for the African Experience is completed.

2002: The zoo is accredited by the AZA. The Australian Walkabout and Palm Cafe open.

2003: Phase I of the African Experience opens to the public. Red, White, and Blue in the Zoo is held to raise money for the police memorial. The zoo suffers the loss of 16 Chilean flamingos due to dog attacks.

2004: The zoo renovates two old buildings to become the new Education Center and constructs cages to house education animals.

2005: The education program called "Zoo School" is created.

2006: The zoo office is renovated. Two exhibits for small mammals are renovated. Jack Hanna presents programs for adults and kids.

2007: Improvements are made to the spider monkey islands. The quarantine building project is completed. The white-tailed sea eagle exhibit is constructed.

2008: The Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Zoo Director Robert Leslie Whitt passes away. Lee Ann Whitt is named Acting Zoo Director. Hurricane Gustav causes significant damage and tree loss at the zoo.

2009: The new Zoo Kitchen and Employee Complex is completed. Updates are made to the train crossings, flamingo exhibit, and white-tailed deer exhibit. Concepts for the Land of the Jaguar and Entertainment Plaza is created. The first media specialist is hired. Lee Ann Whitt is named Zoo Director.

2010 - Present

2010: Several improvements are made including renovations to the Andean condor and clouded leopard exhibits, and a new train building is constructed. The zoo breaks ground on the Festival Plaza.

2011: A record number of Summer Safari classes are held. The first staff veterinarian is hired. The ribbon cutting ceremony for the Festival Plaza is held. Over 7,000 attend Zoo Fest to celebrate the zoo's 85th Anniversary.

2012: Construction begins on the South American Area Renovation, Land of the Jaguar. Education Building A and the Estuary are renovated.