Founded in 1965 by Gene Reid of the Arizona Parks and Recreation Department, the Reid Park Zoo in Tucson, Arizona is a small, family-oriented zoo accredited by the Association of Aquariums and Zoos. The zoo's 500 animals are housed in four zones that include natural habitats and enclosures as well as viewing areas for visitors.
The zoo features Asian, African and South American animals in naturalistic habitats. In addition, there is an Adaptation Zone that features animals like the Polar Bear and capybaras which are on the endangered species list.
The stars of the South American Zone are undoubtedly Worf and Lucy, the Reid Zoo's pair of Andean mountain bears. Listed as an "at risk'' species, the pair are part of the Captive Breeding Project which aims to preserve species that are at risk of extinction by breeding them in captivity. Giant anteaters, which are also part of the breeding program, have become the symbol of the Reid Park Zoo. Pairs of anteaters bred at Reid Park now live in zoos and natural habitats all over the world.
Other popular exhibits at the Reid Park Zoo include the exhibits of Asian cats, which include Malayan tigers, and the Asian sun bear. The African Zone includes giraffes, elephants, white rhinos, lions and zebras. In the South American Zone, visitors may encounter jaguars, tapirs, llamas and a wide variety of other animals native to the South American jungles and mountains.
The Adaptation Zone houses an eclectic collection of animals that include flamingos, giant tortoises, mandrills and macaques. The Adaptation Zone features a stage where docents and zoo experts offer educational programs on the various animals housed at the zoo and their habitats in the wild, as well as on the importance of animal conservation. The Lee H. Brown Family Conservation Center offers hands-on and interactive lessons in animal conservation, as well as a behind the scenes peek at how the animals of the world are being protected by conservation efforts.
A day at the Reid Park Zoo isn't complete without a ride on the Zoo Choo, a train that makes its way around the park on a regular schedule. On hot days, children can get wet at the Kenya Get Wet splash park, within easy view of the river otters housed in their own little splash park nearby.
In 2006, the Tucson Zoological Society announced plans to expand the zoo over the next several years. The first leg of the transformation is an expanded and updated elephant habitat. This expansion came about in part because of activist efforts to have the zoo's elephants moved to a more appropriate environment. In 2008, the Zoo opened the Lee H. Brown Family Conservation Center, a 10,000 square foot building that has qualified for the LEED Green Building Rating Platinum Rating, the first zoo building of any kind to be awarded a LEED Platinum Rating. The Brown Center houses a small collection of animals, and the Zoo's education staff. It hosts over 50,000 people a year.
Reid Park Zoo is open year round except Christmas, with early closing on Thanksgiving. Admissions are nominal, and include discounts for children, senior citizens and school groups. For more information about activities, schedules and admissions, contact the Reid Park Zoo at 520-791-4022.