A Walk on the Wild Side at the Atlanta Zoo
For many children and adults, a day at the zoo is as close as they will get to exotic animals. Come spend a day at Zoo Atlanta and take a mini world safari.
No Atlanta, Georgia travel would be complete without spending some time in the recently restored and renovated Zoo Atlanta. After all, what’s not to like about learning about the animals and seeing them in their natural habitat? Of course, for the granddaddy of southern zoos, beauty was not always the chose adjective. Today, however, it is a true Atlanta landmark worth any vacation itinerary.
History of Zoo Atlanta
Zoo Atlanta opened in 1889 and is the South’s oldest Zoo. It began when a circus came to town and its owner ran out of money resulting in bankruptcy. Local businessman, George Valentine purchased the animals at a public auction and relocated them to Grant Park. The zoo’s original animals were a jaguar, a hyena, a black bear, a raccoon, an elk, a gazelle, a Mexican hog, lionesses, pumas, camels, and snakes.
Originally called the Atlanta Zoo, the people of Atlanta began to donate time, money, and on occasion, more animals to the zoo. One of their biggest donations was that of an elephant in 1890. Then, in 1930 philanthropist Asa Candler, Jr. donated his menagerie provided the city to raise the funds to care for the animals. Soon, the zoo was home to elephants, leopards, water buffalo, elk, zebra, birds, a tiger, and a sea lion.
During the 1950s and 60s, much work was done to renovate the zoo due to a growing interest in worldwide zoological pursuits. It was during these years that famed gorilla, Willie B. arrived at the Atlanta Zoo. During these years, the Zoo was free to the public, and there were limited funds for upgrades to zoo conditions. Zoo supporters began encouraging and admissions fees in order to improve conditions.
Ultimately, the debate came to a head and an admission fee was charged. However, the admissions charge did not begin quickly enough and in 1984, a disappointing report by the Humane Society listed the Zoo as one of the 10 worst in the world. The city hired new management and began a multi-million dollar reconstruction. The animals were moved from their cages to more natural habitats and the zoo’s name was changed to Zoo Atlanta.
Exhibits & Habitats
If African adventure brings a smile, then visit the Ford African Rainforest where gorillas enjoy a 1 ½ acre clearing in the Cameroon Rain Forest. The banana trees and bamboos give the area a tropical feeling, where apes forage for food, wrestle, play, and take care of their young. At the Monkeys of Mokokow, there are black-faced baboons and Mona monkeys. Other animals include giraffes, zebras, impalas, lions, gazelles, ostriches, rhinos, and elephants.
Just beyond the gorilla habitat, is a simulated Indonesian rain forest known as Ketambe. Here is a large group of Sumatran orangutans playing with assorted objects, and climbing rocks, ropes, and tree. Like the gorilla population, the orangutans have many offspring, so there are also a number of young orangutans to be seen playing in this area.
The World of Reptiles is home to a variety of cobras, vipers, and other exotic snakes, and deadly snakes like the bushmasters, adders and urutus. The Reptile House is also home to giant salamanders, Mexican beaded lizards and poison dart frogs. Other zoo fun includes the Flamingo Plaza, a sea lion pool, and grottoes for the bears. Children will enjoy the Zoo Atlanta train, the Ark Smart Playground and the OK-to-Touch Corral petting zoo.
Zoo Atlanta, located in Grant Park, is open 361 days a year (closed New Years Day, Martin Luther King Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas) and is sure to provide one’s family with wonderful memories. So take a walk on the wild side at Zoo Atlanta. It’s so much fun it just might be the one activity the whole family can agree on.
800 Cherokee Ave SE, Atlanta, GA 30315