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Thursday, Sept. 27, 2012

It’s a Jungle Out There: The Milwaukee County Zoo

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Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! These and many other species of animals can be found at the Milwaukee County Zoo. Growing from humble beginnings, the Milwaukee County Zoo has been a delight to locals for more than 130 years.

Founded in 1882, the West Park Zoo (located at West Park in Milwaukee) began with some miniature animal and bird displays that proved popular among Milwaukeeans. By 1902, the zoo expanded onto 23 acres of land and contained 800 animals. It was around this time the park changed its name to Washington Park—and the zoo became the Washington Park Zoo. Washington Park still exists on Milwaukee’s West Side, with playgrounds and an ecological center.

The zoo would be incorporated into the newly created Milwaukee County Park Commission in 1934, along with many other parks in the city, granting the county control of the daily and administrative functions. The zoo would receive funding in the 1930s from the New Deal to build a new elephant house and make improvements to the facilities.

The zoo moved to its present location in 1958, on a tract of 200 acres off of Bluemound Road in a vast woodland area. The new location would allow for the zoo to expand greatly. The next few decades would see the addition of a primate building, aquarium, Monkey Island and habitats for many new animals.

Since the 1970s, many other attractions have been built at the zoo to entertain patrons young and old. The zoo train, Sky Safari and Zoomobile offer visitors different ways to explore the vast number of exhibits. The zoo has added a number of interactive attractions—including the sea lion show, “Giraffe Experience” and the birds of prey show—that allow visitors to get up close and personal with some of the zoo’s inhabitants.

The Milwaukee County Zoo now contains an impressive 2,283 specimens representing 333 different species from around the world. Improvements continue at the facility through conservation, education and better animal health. A visit to the Milwaukee County Zoo, which is open year-round, is an interactive, entertaining and educational experience.