The building of the Saint Louis Zoo began in 1904 when the city of St. Louis purchased the 1904 World's Fair Flight Cage after the Fair's closing. That touched off an interest in creating a zoo and park in St. Louis. That interest came to fruition in 1910 with the establishment of the St. Louis Zoological Society and the Zoological Park. In 1916, the citizens of St. Louis voted to fund the zoo through a mill tax, making it the first zoo in the world to be supported by the citizens by the passing of a tax specifically for the building and upkeep of a zoo.
From those small beginnings, the St. Louis Zoo has grown to international recognition as a leader in animal management, conservation and research. The Zoo has been named the #1 Zoo the U.S. Travel Guide published by Zagat's in conjunction with Parenting magazine. It hosts over 3,000,000 visitors per year and is home to over 18,000 animals between 700 different species. The animals are housed in natural habitats built in the center of Metropolitan St. Louis.
The habitats include the River's Edge, an exhibit that spans four continents in an immersive environment that covers 10 acres. Visitors follow a trail along a winding river that gradually shifts environments from the South American rain forest through the African Savanna, to the African Nile to Asia and then to North America. The exhibit is a one-of-a-kind experience that takes visitors to such diverse venues as a back porch along the Missouri River for a lesson on big river floods and global warming or an Asian ranger base where visitors follow the adventures of a ranger finding ways that villagers and elephants can co-exist.
The River's Edge is only one of the intricate, mixed species exhibits whose purpose is as much education as entertainment. Rather than focusing on one particular animal or species, many of the exhibits at the Saint Louis Zoo tell the story of an entire bio-community. In the Red Rocks area, for instance, zoo staff mix and manage some of the world's most powerful predators and its most beautiful and graceful prey in an environment that is home to them both - an African savanna. They do this by separating the animals into two territories - Big Cat Territory and Antelope Territory. The Antelope Yards house such exotic animals as oryx, addax, gorals and giraffes. Among the residents are Grevy's zebra, an endangered species.
In addition to the exhibits, the St. Louis Zoo offers numerous programs for individuals, families and groups. They include a unique "Keeper for a Day'' program in which 2nd to 8th graders join the zookeepers for a day of work, including a staff meeting, feeding the animals and cleaning out cages. Children can also spend a day with the stingrays in the Rays of the Caribbean exhibit, or work with the sea lion trainers for a day. Other programs include more typical fare like overnights at the zoo and outreach classes with animal ambassadors.
The Saint Louis Zoo is open year round except Christmas and New Years Day. Hours are seasonal, with variations for special events. General admission is nominal, but some attractions require a separate admission. A Safari Pass is available that includes most of the featured attractions for one price. For more information about admissions, hours and special events, contact the zoo at 800-966-8877.