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Rockefeller Fountain was relocated from its original spot near the Sea Lion Pool to Fountain Circle in 1910.

1899

The Bronx Zoo opens

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Reptile House (now World of Reptiles) opens to the public.

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Dr. William Reid Blair (center), was the Bronx Zoo’s first full time veterinarian.

1901

Pioneering the first veterinary department

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1903

WCS’s 100+ year legacy of snow leopard conservation work begins, as the Bronx Zoo becomes the first zoo to exhibit snow leopards. The zoo has had 80 snow leopard births (more than any other zoo in North America).

1907

Saving bison from extinction

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1913

Bronx Zoo director William Hornaday helps write language in the 1913 Tariff Act, prohibiting the importation of bird plumage for use in hats.

1916

A fully-equipped animal hospital takes the place of the Bronx Zoo’s previous makeshift clinic. Its 2,111 square feet included space for a surgical room, animal holding areas, a morgue, offices, and a small museum.

Helen Adams Keller was an American author, disability rights advocate, political activist and lecturer.

1922

Helen Keller visits the Bronx Zoo.
Accompanied by her young nieces, Keller delighted in all aspects of the zoo and met orangutans, giraffes, and snakes. But for Keller, the “climax of happiness” came from meeting Alice, one of the Zoo’s Indian elephants.

1928

Conserving Galápagos tortoises

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1929

The Bronx Zoo opens its first wildlife education department, teaching zoology, conservation, and natural history to visitors and students.

Bronx Zoo President Fairfield Osborn writes, “A turning point in the development of the Zoo has not only been reached but passed.”

1941

Innovating with African Plains

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The Bronx Zoo's original Children's Zoo opens.

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Père David’s deer, also known as milu, are thriving at the Bronx Zoo.

1946

The Bronx Zoo becomes the first U.S. zoo to exhibit Pere David’s deer, and begins a breeding program for the species, which is extinct in the wild. Captive breeding and reintroduction programs ultimately save this species from total extinction.

1956

William Conway begins legacy of transforming zoos

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1963

Creating a groundbreaking design department
WCS’s Exhibition and Graphic Arts Department becomes the first of its kind in any zoo or aquarium—uniquely combining architecture, landscape and exhibit design, and interpretation—to create exhibits that allow visitors to observe animals behaving as they would in nature.

1969

The Bronx Zoo’s World of Darkness opens
It is the first zoo exhibit to feature nocturnal animals on a reverse light cycle, with darkness arriving at the same time the zoo opened for the day. This made it possible for visitors to see many darkness-dwelling creatures such as bats at their most active, and understand the need to protect these animals and their habitats.

Immersive displays boasted advanced features and exhibit technologies, such as a massive 120 X 50 ft fiberglass cliff, molded after the New Jersey Palisades.

1972

World of Birds premiers

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1977

The 43-acre Wild Asia Monorail exhibit opens
For decades, the monorail has continued to elicit delight from visitors while also educating them about the challenges several of the exhibit’s species face in the wild.

Highlights in the history of Wild Asia’s animal collections

1981

A baby gaur is born to a Holstein dairy cow at the Bronx Zoo - the first successful use of a domestic animal as a surrogate mother via embryo transfer for a different, endangered species.

1990

Debut of Rapunzel, the first Sumatran rhino to live at the Bronx Zoo. Today, this species is among the world’s most endangered, and WCS works to protect it in Indonesia.

2014

Another endangered species, Turkmenian flare-horned markhor, debuts at the Bronx Zoo in the Wild Asia Monorail exhibit.

1981

Children’s Zoo is renovated and re-opens

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1982

Carter Giraffe Building opens

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Dr. Janet Stover and veterinary volunteer Russell Cohen examine a snake with ultrasound equipment.

1985

Wildlife Health Center opens
WCS establishes the Bronx Zoo’s Wildlife Health Center, a state-of-the-art teaching and research hospital for zoological medicine. The Center’s pathology department, one of the first for any zoo, includes an in-house molecular diagnostics laboratory, which supports research in our parks and in the field.

Gharial baby
The first-ever successful birth of a false gharial (aka Sunda gharial) at a zoo occurs at the Bronx Zoo. We take part in a number of animal breeding programs for critically endangered species, so a lot of our time is dedicated to making sure that these animals have everything they need to produce healthy offspring. For the false gharial, that means recreating the rainstorms, flooding, and food increases typical of the monsoon seasons of Peninsular Malaysia.

JungleWorld opens

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JungleWorld is, above all, a treasury of life, a special tribute to the earth’s riches. It is a compelling educational tool meant to convey how beautiful as well as valuable and interesting life is in all its forms. It is meant not as a last refuge but as an intervention of hope for the future.”

William G. Conway

1986

Himalayan Highlands opens
This award-winning exhibit influenced the design of other snow leopard exhibits in zoos around the world. In addition to snow leopards, this area of the park showcases wildlife native to the mountains and grasslands of Central Asia, including the iconic red panda and graceful white-naped cranes.

Jim Doherty with a small herd of Père David’s deer to be returned to a protected park in China.

Pere David’s Deer return to China
General Curator Jim Doherty travels to China to advise wildlife officials on husbandry prior to the reintroduction of Pere David’s deer to their ancestral habitat.

1990

Gelada Reserve opens
Originally called Baboon Reserve, this two-acre recreation of the Ethiopian highlands was, at the time of its opening, the largest primate exhibit in the United States. Visitors can watch the geladas from multiple viewpoints along with Nubian ibex and rock hyrax, all of which are mixed together in the hilly enclosure.

1999

Congo Gorilla Forest debuts

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A decade prior, WCS initiates the first ever zoo-based field veterinary program.

Tracking West Nile Virus
Bronx Zoo veterinarians and veterinary pathologists play a pivotal role in identifying West Nile Virus in local wild bird populations and documenting the virus’ spread in the Western Hemisphere.

2000-2012

Racing to save the Kihansi spray toad

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2001-2018

Blue Iguanas restored
Bronx Zoo and partners begin the reintroduction of the Critically Endangered blue iguana to its native habitat on Grand Cayman Island. By 2018, the program releases their 1,000th blue iguana.

2003

Premiering Tiger Mountain

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2005

Butterfly Garden opens
This indoor butterfly conservatory lets visitors walk through gardens and meadows and watch the butterflies up close, observing them at different stages of their life cycles.

The Bronx Zoo’s first director William Hornaday (center) and others launched the American Bison Society in 1905.

The Bronx Zoo and Indigenous partners restart the American Bison Society.

2006

Beavers back in the Bronx
A beaver is spotted on the Bronx River near the Bronx Zoo for the first time in over 200 years. This beaver was joined by a mate a few years later, and they had kits in 2013. The restoration efforts of the Bronx Zoo and Bronx River Alliance resulted in a cleaner river and the return of the beavers.

2008

Madagascar! opens

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Twenty-first Century Success Stories by the Numbers

10,000+

Kihansi spray toads returned 
to their native habitat in Tanzania since 2012

81

African gray parrots treated and cared for after being rescued from the pet trade in 2017, with 60 being released back into the wild

264

Eastern hellbenders released into the Upper Susquehanna River Watershed by 2021

36

Rote Island snake-necked turtles eave the Bronx Zoo in 2022 destined to return to their native Indonesian habitat

1,000

Health exams for blue iguanas released into their native habitat on Grand Cayman Island by 2018

6

more bison introduced to the Osage Nation herd in Oklahoma in 2022

2012

Saving Kihansi spray toads

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The majority of bison alive today have small amounts of domestic cattle genes.

The first genetically-pure bison born by embryo transfer is born at the Bronx Zoo.

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2013

Hell-bent on helping Hellbenders
Bronx Zoo begins working with partners on a multi-year program to save the eastern hellbender, an aquatic amphibian species and one of the world’s largest salamanders. As part of this conservation effort, 38 eastern hellbenders raised at the Bronx Zoo are released into streams in the Upper Susquehanna River Watershed by 2013, 102 in 2017 and 124 in 2021.

2014

Komodo dragon and Aldabra tortoise exhibits open at the Bronx Zoo
The new exhibits are located both in and outside of the zoo’s iconic Zoo Center. The grand opening marks the first time the Bronx Zoo has exhibited Komodo dragons since the 1950s.

2016

Bison milestones

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2017

THE ZOO premiers on Animal Planet
Over five seasons, this successful docuseries provides an inside look at the Bronx Zoo and WCS’s other New York City parks, and brings our critical conservation message to more than 200 markets around the world, with an average of more than 1 million viewers in the US per episode. THE ZOO provided an in-depth, behind-the-scenes look at how our expert staff care for thousands of animals, and focused on the relationship between the animals and the people who care for them.

There has to be a higher purpose. And for us, it’s conservation of species in the wild.”

Jim Breheny

These birds are social, intelligent, and have the ability to mimic all kinds of sounds, including human speech.

Parrot emergency

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2017-2022

Breeding and rewilding bison

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2018

WCS launches its Career Lattice, formalizing a longstanding program for youth from historically under-resourced NYC communities to gain expanded opportunities at the Bronx Zoo and our other parks. WCS is committed to diversifying science fields, and our work with youth is central to this mission; in 2022, 85 percent of youth who completed our programs said they planned to pursue a career in science.

2019

Turtle Propagation Center is created
The Bronx Zoo creates a bio-secure facility to breed and raise some of the world’s most endangered turtle species—ensuring these species will not go extinct, and preparing many of them for release into the wild. Conserving freshwater turtles and tortoises is a major priority for the Bronx Zoo.

2020

Discovering COVID-19 in big cats
One of our tigers becomes the first known wild animal to contract COVID-19 from a person (who was asymptomatic). Four other tigers and three lions also contract COVID in the days that follow. All animals fully recover, and WCS experts are able to share what they learned with the world, illuminating more about the virus’s impact on animals.

2020-2021

The Bronx Zoo lends a hand to help our community at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, serving as a COVID testing site and a base for 250 ambulances from around the country. In 2021, the Bronx Zoo partners with New York State to become a COVID vaccine administration location, distributing complimentary zoo tickets to people who receive their vaccine at the site.

2022

Rote Island snake-neck turtles reintroduced
Thirty-six zoo-bred turtles leave the Bronx Zoo, bound for Mandai Wildlife Group’s Singapore Zoo as part of a collaboration that will eventually introduce the animals to their native range in Indonesia where the species is functionally extinct.

Jason George (left) with Bronx Zoo’s Pat Thomas observing the bison herd on the Osage Nation Ranch.

Rewilding Bison

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125 Years of the Bronx Zoo

Join us in celebrating the Bronx Zoo’s 125th birthday with special events and an all-new immersive eco-sculpture experience!

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