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Celebrating 150 Years

A Message from Our President & CEO

This summer at Philadelphia Zoo, we’re celebrating 150 years of you! On July 1, 1874, the Zoo held its grand opening. On that day, more than 3,000 guests experienced the first zoo in America. Since then, we’ve welcomed nearly 100 million guests from our city, region, country, and around the world, connecting them to the wonders of wildlife and inspiring action to protect what is precious on our planet. If you’re a regular visitor, a member, someone who has visited many years ago, or a traveler to Philly this summer, we invite you to celebrate with us as we mark this milestone in our story. We have a number of great ways for you to become part of the history, and future, of America’s First Zoo. – Dr. Jo-Elle Mogerman

1859

Philadelphia Zoo is established

Philadelphia Zoo is established

The Zoological Society of Philadelphia was chartered on March 21, making history as the very first zoo established in the United States.

1874

Philadelphia Zoo opens

Philadelphia Zoo opens

Though it was chartered in 1859, the Zoo’s official opening to the public was delayed due to the Civil War. The gates officially opened on July 1 with admission prices of $0.25 for adults and $0.10 for children. In the first eight months, 227,557 visitors arrived by foot, horse carriage, steamboat on the Schuylkill river, and passenger train—a number unparalleled in the history of similar institutions.

1901

First-of-its kind animal health laboratory established

First-of-its kind animal health laboratory established

The Penrose Research Laboratory was the first of its kind in the world, and the achievements in combating disease and pioneering balanced diets for zoo animals by Charles B. Penrose and later scientists led to the lab receiving the Gold Medal from the Royal Zoological Society of Belgium in 1969. It was the first American institution to be honored with this prestigious award.

1928

First successful births of an orangutan & a chimpanzee in a U.S. zoo

First successful births of an orangutan & a chimpanzee in a U.S. zoo

Born to Maggie and Chief Utan on September 25, Lucky was the first orangutan successfully birthed in the United States. Maggie was a remarkable and proud mother, holding up Lucky for her keepers to see and making her bed at the front of the cage where the crowds could admire her baby. Not even a month later on October 1, Julius the chimpanzee was born, adding to the list of first successful births in the country.

1931

Leo, the MGM lion, retires to the Zoo

Leo, the MGM lion, retires to the Zoo

After a 15-year movie career, Leo retired and spent his remaining years at the Zoo until his death in 1935. Leo was collected in the Nubian Desert at one year old and was nicknamed "Lucky Leo" after surviving 2 train wrecks, a flood, a fire, an earthquake, a studio explosion, and an airplane crackup.

1932

Mommy the Galapagos tortoise arrives at the Zoo

Mommy the Galapagos tortoise arrives at the Zoo

On April 23, Milton W. Holden of Philadelphia presented a 40-pound Western Santa Cruz giant tortoise to the Zoo. Records indicate she “may have been collected on South Albemarle Island” in the Galapagos archipelago. Holden went on an extended trip to the islands with Vincent Astor on Astor’s boat. Named “Mommy,” she has been at the Zoo ever since, and can be seen by guests today.

1935

Zoo develops first scientifically controlled diets, the “Zoo Cake”

Zoo develops first scientifically controlled diets, the “Zoo Cake”

Dr. Ellen P. Corsen White spent over a decade researching and developing scientifically-controlled animal diets, the first formulated food for zoo animals that later became known as Zoo Cake. Longevity records soared after the cakes were introduced, and records proved that the animals were less susceptible to disease, looked healthier, and reproduced more often.

1974

Philadelphia Zoo officially accredited by Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA)

Philadelphia Zoo officially accredited by Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA)

The Philadelphia Zoo and the Portland Zoo became the nation's first officially accredited zoological gardens on October 3. The accreditation process was established by the American Association of Zoological Parks and Aquariums (later shortened to Association of Zoos and Aquariums) in keeping with its desire for self-improvement and the public's rightful concern for the well-being of captive animals in zoos.

1979

“Rocky” proposes to “Adrian” in front of the Carnivore House

“Rocky” proposes to “Adrian” in front of the Carnivore House

The proposal scene between Rocky and Adrian is filmed at the Zoo—directly in front of the Carnivore House! Scenes were also filmed in front of the Monkey and Ape House.

2004

First successful birth of a giant river otter in North America

First successful birth of a giant river otter in North America

Named Primero ("first" in Spanish), the first surviving giant otter pup born in North America was born to Nina and Banjo at the Zoo on March 30.

2011

First extensions of Zoo360 open

First extensions of Zoo360 open

These pioneering animal exploration trails offered the animals more opportunities for long-distance travel, greater environmental variety, and an increased ability to determine their own experiences while simultaneously enhancing the visitor experience.

Two Philadelphia Zoo members stand in front of the iconic elephant statue located near the front gate.

Anniversary Ticket Giveaway

Be among the first 150 people to enter the Zoo on the anniversary of our first opening! Enter for a chance to win tickets to the Zoo for you and three friends or family members—plus receive a special giveaway!

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150th Anniversary Celebration Weekend

From Friday, June 28–Sunday, June 30, the Zoo invites guests to come and experience the Zoo with a 150th flair! The first 150 guests on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday will receive a commemorative “150 Years of Philly Zoo” pin. The Zoo’s animal habitats will have additional 150th-themed animal enrichment and the Conservation Education team will be hosting additional activities, including a daily history tour starting at 10:30 am on Impala Plaza.

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Anniversary Ticket Bundle

Celebrate the Zoo's 150th anniversary with a special $150 ticket bundle, which includes: parking, 2 adult tickets, 2 children's tickets, 2 Nature Blazer scavenger hunt wristbands, and an All Attractions Pass. Available June 7 through September 2.

Select a visit date and time for the Anniversary Ticket Bundle option to appear. Available to purchase from June 7 through September 2. Tickets can be used to visit from June 10 through September 2. Tickets are not valid for use before June 10 or after September 2.

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