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  St. Louis Zoo Created
Brief Description:  In 1913, 77 acres of Forest Park were set aside to house the animals left by their owners after the 1904 World´s Fair. These animals, along with the aviary donated by the Smithsonian for the World´s Fair, and the 77 acres were the foundation for a permanent zoo. As early as 1875, when Forest Park was being planned, St. Louis citizens had suggested having a zoo in the park. Such a zoo, park planners emphasized, should be open to all, free of any admission charg,e so it could best serve as "an institution of public instruction and amusement." Soon after the park opened in 1876, people began to donate animals to the park. The first major expansion of the park´s collection came in 1890 when zoo supporters responded to a plea from a park official to donate American bison, which were "in danger of being exterminated by the progress of civilization and the cultivation of the soil." A generous plot of land was set aside for the park´s newest residents so they could live "as nearly to a wild state as possible." Thus, even before the Saint Louis Zoo was officially established, the policies were set that have continued to guide it since: to be open to visitors free of charge; to both entertain and educate visitors; to serve as a survival center for endangered species; and to display animals in natural settings. The first exotic animals came to Forest Park in 1891 following the demise of a zoo at the St. Louis Fair Grounds. By 1904 there were about 150 animals on exhibit in the park, including fifty deer and six monkeys. For the 1904 World´s Fair, the Smithsonian Institution erected a large walk-through bird cage displaying hundreds of birds. After the fair the City purchased it. The bird cage and other animal exhibits attracted a great deal of attention and drew thousands of visitors to the park, eventually leading to the establishment of the Saint Louis Zoo in 1913. The Zoo´s first elephant, Miss Jim, was purchased in 1916 with pennies donated by St. Louis schoolchildren. Inspired by this example, the same year St. Louis voters approved a special tax to support the Zoo. From these small beginnings the St. Louis Zoo has grown into one of the world´s finest zoological parks, displaying more than 700 species in 90 acres. A progressive institution from the start, the Saint Louis Zoo was one of the first to build open, moated enclosures rather than barred cages. The Bear Pits, rocky grottos molded from bluffs along the Missouri River, became standards for zoos across the country when they were installed in 1922. Later that decade the Small Mammal Pits were cast from the same molds. In the 1930s the Hoofed Mammal Yards were constructed; expansive fields surrounded by walls that simulate natural granite formations in Graniteville, MO. Through the years the exhibition of animals in naturalistic settings has been a major emphasis in renovations and new construction. When the Primate House was renovated in 1977, the 33 existing cages were made into 13 enclosures with rocky outcroppings and branches to climb on. Fewer species could be exhibited than before the renovation, but the primates could live in the large social groups representative of their lives in the wild. The Lion House was replaced by Big Cat Country, with beautifully landscaped outdoor yards where lions and tigers could roam, and the original Ape House made way for Jungle of the Apes, an indoor "tropical forest" that replicates the jungle homes of the great apes. In 1989 the Zoo unveiled The Living World, a state-of-the-art education and exhibit center. Inside, classrooms and auditoriums provide a setting for the Zoo´s expanded educational programming. In two large exhibit halls, interactive computers, video displays, high-technology exhibits and live animals tell the story of the biological world and carry the message of conservation for all the world´s threatened wildlife and wild places. In 1993 the Zoo´s Endangered Species Research Center and Veterinary Hospital was completed, providing an expanded facility for veterinary care and research in reproduction and animal medicine and husbandry. One of only a handful of free zoos in the world, the Saint Louis Zoo receives annual tax support from the residents of St. Louis City and County. The innovative Zoo-Museum Tax District, still a national model, was created in 1968 for this purpose.
Year:  1913
Decade:  1910 - 1919

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St. Louis Zoo

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