When the Tulsa Zoo opened in 1927, the original director could hardly have foreseen its eventual success, but the Tulsa Park Superintendent Will O. Doolittle had every intention of "building a prominent and adequate zoological garden and animal preserve''. The original zoo opened with about 35 animals, including a black bear named Bozo, a brown bear called Boxer and a rhesus monkey named Waco. The staff of the zoo consisted of just 5 people.
In the eighty years since, the zoo's animal population has grown to over 1,500 mammals, reptiles, birds and amphibians. The zoo staff numbers in the hundreds, and the zoo hosts around 600,000 visitors each year, including 80,000 schoolchildren from the Tulsa area. The road from the 1929 Tulsa Zoo to today's modern showplace which is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums has been a long one of steady progress.
The improvements to the Tulsa Zoo began early in its life. In 1929, the Zoo opened the Bird Hall and Museum to display reptiles and birds to the public. The unrivaled star of the Bird Hall was the zoo's Humboldt penguin. That year, the Tulsa zoo averaged up to 2,000 visitors per weekend. In the 1930s, the Zoo benefited from the CCC and the WPA, large scale projects to combat the effects of the Depression by building civic projects. The Crane Depot was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1935, and the Koi Pond was built in 1939 by the Works Progress Administration. Both structures are still in use today, lending an air of history to the modern zoo and garden.
Since the early 1990s, development at the Tulsa Zoo has been guided by a master plan which calls for aggressive construction of both public exhibits and back-end updates that increase the capability of the zoo to care for its animals. The most recent updates to the Tulsa Zoo include a penguin exhibit completed in 2002 and a state-of-the-art veterinary hospital for the benefit of all the animals.
A visit to the zoo might include a walk through the Zoo's most popular geo-zoological area, the Tropical American Rain Forest. The exhibit allows visitors to wander along an enclosed path along the jungle floor, watching such exotic species as jaguars, toucanets, caimans, black howler monkey and anacondas. Birds fly overhead, taking advantage of a building that is 50 feet high at its center.
Other exhibits at the zoo include the North American Living Museum, which consists of four buildings that represent the major regions on the North American continent, and the Africa Area, which includes a full-size replica of a typical Masai village.
In addition to the animals and natural living exhibits, the Tulsa Zoo also features a snack plaza and a train that takes riders through the zoo for a different point of view on the animal displays.
The Tulsa Zoo and Living Museum is open every day year round except for Christmas Day and the third Friday in June, from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM. Admission is $8.00 for adults, $6.00 for seniors and $4 for children 3-11. Admissions are subject to change, and discounts may be available for groups. For more information on Tulsa Zoo hours and admissions, contact the zoo at 918-669-6600.
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