The oldest zoo in Texas, the Fort Worth Zoo was founded in 1909 with one lion, two bear cubs, an alligator, a coyote, a peacock and a few rabbits. From these humble beginnings, the zoo has grown into a nationally ranked facility, housing more than 5,000 native and exotic animals.
From 1909 to October 1991, the Fort Worth Zoo was owned and operated by the City of Fort Worth. During the city’s tenure, a long-standing tradition began of collecting money from the community to purchase animals for the zoo. In 1939, the Zoological Society (now the Fort Worth Zoological Association) formed as a non-profit organization to help raise additional funds to purchase even more animals.
In October 1991 — with the Zoo facing decreasing city support, demands to replace outdated animal housing and declines in attendance — the association assumed management of the zoo’s day-to-day operations under a contract with the City of Fort Worth. Since 1991, the Association has raised more than $20 million from private entities, foundations and corporations for zoo improvements and new exhibits.
In 1992, the zoo hosted a grand re-opening, unveiling two new exhibits and numerous improvements. Within the first year, zoo attendance soared to approximately one million visitors in a fiscal year — almost double the previous year — and has maintained ever since.
Since 1992, the zoo has opened 16 permanent exhibits and support facilities, virtually creating a new zoo. In addition to these new exhibits, substantial improvements have been made to zoo facilities, including handicap accessibility as well as improvements to restrooms, shade structures, walkways, food outlets, picnic areas, animal areas and exhibit space.
Public reaction to the Zoo’s renaissance has been tremendous, making the Fort Worth Zoo one of the most popular attractions in the DFW area. The Fort Worth Zoo has been ranked the #5 zoo in the nation by USA Travel Guide, a top zoo by Family Life magazine, the Los Angeles Times and USA Today, one of the top zoos in the south by Southern Living Reader’s Choice Awards, and named the #1 attraction in the Metroplex by Zagat Survey U.S. Family Travel Guide.
Colonel, a 22-year-old Asian elephant, joined the Fort Worth Zoo’s herd in March 2013. He weighs 9,100 pounds and is known to splash around in the elephant exhibit’s 3,200-gallon pool in the mornings. Colonel is unrelated to any elephants in U.S. zoos and will be a valuable asset to the country’s managed collection of Asian elephants.
The Zoo has maintained its local and international commitment to elephant conservation since building its current state-of-the art elephant breeding facility in 1986. The zoo’s elephant exhibit in Asian Falls provides more than four acres of space for its herd, including a large indoor facility and a swimming pool where they can bathe and play. The Fort Worth Zoo is home to five Asian elephants: males Colonel and Casey; and females Angel, Rasha and Bluebonnet.
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