There’s one place that really sticks out in case you want to visit a large number of animal species in New York City, and that’s the largest metropolitan zoo in the United States.
In this article, you’ll discover some of the most interesting facts about the Bronx Zoo, one of the most amazing zoos in the world that is visited by millions of people every year.
1. It’s located inside a huge public park in the Bronx
The Bronx Zoo is a huge zoo located in the Bronx Park, a large public park in the Bronx, one of the 5 boroughs that make up New York City.
This park is situated alongside the Bronx River and is bounded by Southern Boulevard to the southwest, Webster Avenue to the northwest, Gun Hill Road to the north, Bronx Park East to the east. It’s huge as it covers an area of 718 acres (291 hectares) just northeast of Manhattan.
The zoo isn’t the only major tourist attraction at the park, though, because it’s also home to the New York Botanical Garden, a botanical garden that covers 250 acres (100 hectares) in the northern end of the park.
The zoo covers 265 acres (107 hectares) in the southern end of the park. This makes it the largest urban zoo in the United States.
2. It’s the home of over 4,000 animals and 650 animal species
The largest urban zoo in the United States also holds a wide variety of animals that are native all over the world. Over 4,000 animals, made up 650 animal species, call the Bronx Zoo their home. Many of these animals are endangered in their natural habitat as well.
This means that just about any type of animal can be found here, ranging from large mammals in an exhibit called the “African Plains” to insects in another exhibit called the “Bug Carousel.”
While most of the exhibits can be accessed after purchasing a general admission ticket, some renowned special exhibits have additional fees.
3. The zoo opened its doors in the late 19th century under a different name
The collection of animals and animal species at the zoo didn’t grow to this number overnight. A law passed in 1884 called the “New Parks Act” set things in motion because the land ended up being donated by the Fordham University on the condition that it was to be used to develop a botanical garden and zoo.
It would take until 1895 that members of the Boone and Crockett Club founded the original version of the zoo which they named the “New York Zoological Society.”
The zoo eventually opened its doors 4 years later on November 7, 1899, and was referred to as either the “Bronx Zoological Park” and the Bronx Zoological Gardens.”
4. The fountain inside the zoo once decorated a city in Italy
The original zoo was built around pavilions referred to as “Astor Court.” These Beaux-Arts buildings were designed by New York-based architectural firm Heins & LaFarge.
Even most of these original buildings are closed to the public today, the former Lion House of the zoo was renovated and turned into an exhibit known today as the “Madagascar Exhibit” which opened in 2008.
The other historic feature of the zoo is the circular sea lion pool which is home to plenty of California sea lions. The original zoo was built around this circular structure.
Another remarkable architectural feature inside the zoo is the so-called “Rockefeller Fountain,” located just inside the Fordham Road entrance gate.
Even though it was only installed at the zoo in 1903, it was created in 1872 and once decorated a square in the Italian city of Como. The fountain was purchased by William Rockefeller in 1902 and ended up being declared a New York City historic landmark in 1968.
5. The zoo plays an important role in worldwide animal conservation
Apart from being an amazing zoo to visit for tourists, it’s much more than just another tourist attraction. It plays a major role in the conservation of a wide variety of animals, ranging from American bison to Chinese Alligators.
The American Bison Society was created in 1905 with just this goal in mind. More recently, 3 Chinese alligators were successfully released into the wild in the Yangtze River in China in 2007.
This kind of emphasizes the work that the organizations behind the zoo are putting in to protect endangered animals. That’s why it has been an accredited facility by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) as well.
More interesting facts about the Bronx Zoo
6. When the Bronx Zoo first opened its doors in the late 19th century, it only had 22 exhibits that were home to 843 animals. Today, the number of exhibits has multiplied and so have the number of animals living at the zoo.
Some of the most popular exhibits include the Congo Gorilla Forest, JungleWorld, Wild Asia Monorail, Madagascar!, Tiger Mountain, the World of Birds, and the world of Reptiles.
7. The Astor Court pavilions really take you back to the time that the zoo first opened its doors. Even though it took a lot longer, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission finally declared it a New York City landmark in 2000 when the building was already a century old.
8. Even though William Rockefeller was one of the richest men in the United States in the early 20th century, he didn’t spend a fortune to buy the monument now known as the “Rockefeller Fountain.”
He just spent 3,500 lire in 1902, the equivalent of $637 back then and nearly $20,000 today. That’s quite remarkable because this fountain actually decorated the Piazza Cavour for 3 decades already by then. This is the main square in the city of Como which is located just next to the lake of the same name.
9. Gorillas need quite a bit of space, and that’s why the Congo Gorilla Forest is huge. It opened its doors in 1999 and this simulated rainforest covers an area of 6.5 acres (2.6 hectares).
This might not sound like a lot, but less than 20 western lowland gorillas actually live here. They are joined by several other animal species, including the Angolan colobus, Wolf’s guenons, the pygmy marmosets, and multiple mandrills.
10. One of the best ways to explore large parts of the zoo is by hopping on an attraction called the “Wild Asia Monorail,” a ride that travels a distance of about 1.6 miles (2.6 kilometers).
While onboard one of the six 9-car monorails, you can see a wide variety of animals, including tigers, Przewalski’s horses, Indian rhinoceros, Indian elephants, red pandas, and a large number of deer species.