The Central Park Zoo has only been around for a couple of decades, having been constructed in 1988, yet the history of the landmark actually dates back to the previous century. As the culture of zooming evolved, transforming cages into true-to-life natural habitats for the animals, so did the need to create an attractive animal feature in Central Park.
The Park has for decades been home to a display of animals of some sort, but in the 1980s it was decided to change the focus of the animal display and transform it into an attraction and sanctuary for endangered species while providing visitors with the opportunity to view animals living in an almost natural habitat.
These days visitors are treated to over 130 different species from polar bears to spiders, all just a few meters from New York’s Fifth Avenue. The various animal homes are well-planned and carefully-designed ‘natural’ habitats to give both the animals and the visitor a taste of authenticity.
The Tisch Children’s Zoo
Located on the northern edge of the Central Park Zoo is the Tisch Children’s Zoo, which is any young animal-lovers delight. This magical and enchanting place offers children and adults a rewarding and educational experience through year-round programs, exhibitions, and shows.
The highlight of the children’s zoo is the Enchanted Forest which features giant insects floating overhead and an enormous ‘spider web’ climbing extravaganza for adventurous souls. Children are able to purchase animal snacks and let the furry creatures nibble food from their hands. A large petting corner provides children the opportunity of coming very close to goats, sheep, cows, and pigs, while several species of birds waggle and fly in and out.
The zoo’s Acorn Theatre features daily shows about the lives and habits of several animals. This allows the children to learn about the animals in a fun and educational manner.
The Polar Zone
The Polar Zone is the zoo’s most renowned area because it is the home of the resident stars – Ida and Gus, two world-famous polar bears. The bears were born in 1985 and have never lived in their natural habitat. Due to their risk of extinction, the bears are safely cared for in the Central Park Zoo.
The Polar Zone also features an exhibition of harbor seals as well as an ice-pack building which is the attractive home of dozens of Gentoo and Chinstrap penguins, as well as tufted puffins. Visitors will delight in seeing these Polar friends and grabbing a view of their ‘cool’ living quarters.
The Tropic Zone
This exotic zone is home to a wonderful collection of tropical birds such as the Fairy Bluebird from Asia and the Scarlet-chested parrot from Australia. The zone also features frogs, lizards, snakes, and other delightful creatures that will entertain any young mind’s squirmy fantasy. The Tropic Zone is also home to Colobus monkeys and three types of Tamarins and some other cute primates.
The Temperate Territory
This section can be found towards to the back of the zoo and boasts a California Sea Lion on its central stage. Visitors will also be delighted to find Red Pandas, Japanese Macaques, and the cute North American River Otter. Our feathered friends in this zone include the Mandarin Ducks and Swan Geese.
The zoo is located in the heart of Central Park on 830 Fifth Avenue. On the zoo’s premises is a new café which offers healthy and imaginative food for both adults and children. Visitors can also purchase souvenirs and gifts from the ZOOTIQUE gift shop, in order to remember their fun day at the zoo. The zoo is wheelchair accessible and allows guide animals onto its premises.
The zoo is also a great place for school groups, tour groups, birthday parties, and other events. School groups do not need to make reservations and are always welcomed at a discounted price. In addition, there are continuous educational programs and displays available for students and children.
History of Central Park Zoo
The zoo’s history is one of chance and convenience for New York residents. It began with the city’s residents’ habit of dumping unwanted animals at the arsenal – ranging from swans to bears. In 1864, the city’s legislature gave the go-ahead for the construction of some permanent structures to house the ever-increasing collection of animals, and finally, by 1934, funds were made available for the construction of a (then) state-of-the-art facility. The location quickly became a major attraction for visitors to and within the city.
Over the decades, as the zoo’s popularity increased and it became clear that the present construction was insufficient for the city’s needs. In the early 1980s, the Wildlife Conservation Society and New York’s Parks Department undertook to jointly fund the renovation and reconstruction of the zoo’s facilities. In 1985, the improved and modernized zoo was opened which focused on keeping animals in their natural habitat as much as possible, while promoting conservation and animal protection.
Visiting Central Park Zoo
The Central Park Zoo is dear to the hearts of New Yorkers. Many a resident will feel that they have grown up with the zoo and that it has played an important part in their childhood memories. Adapting to the current needs and trends of society, the Central Park Zoo is a great escape from the hectic pace of downtown Manhattan and an opportunity to see animals and wildlife in their near-natural environments.
Location: 64th Street and Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, New York, NY
Click here to visit Central Park Zoo official website.