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The gates at the Tulsa Zoo swung open 90 years ago.

Posted at 12:50 PM, Sep 16, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-16 13:54:35-04

The gates at the Tulsa Zoo swung open 90 years ago.

The zoo is celebrating that milestone this year. Here's a look back on how the zoo developed and how it's always been supported by the community.

It started in the 1920's as Mohawk Park, which was meant to be a reservoir. The first animals were birds and reptiles, the mammals came later. The superintendent of Tulsa Parks, wanted a "nature park" for animals like bison and elk deer, which were almost extinct then.

Josef Lindholm, Tulsa Zoo Curator

"In 1920 when Tulsa had a lot of money they brought in a park superintendent Will O. Doolittle and in 1927 he was authorized to bring in the parks first animals.

The peccary, was one of the first, it looks something like a razorback or wild hog. Monkey Island was built under Roosevelt's New Deal, built with shovels and wheelbarrows.

A rather innovative thing to keep monkeys out on a big island instead of in cages and that is currently our Chimpanzee Island"

In the 1950's and 60's, Tulsa Zoo Director, Hugh Davis, got voters involved in helping pay for their zoo. Bonds were approved which allowed the zoo to build it's first permanent facility and transition away from iron bars to moats to separate visitors from animals, and the zoo's master plan was developed.

The plan brought living museums, featuring animal habitats (1970's) elephants and a rainforest (1990's) and, penguins in the early 2000's. Decorated by local artists you'd see huge penguins all around town sold to local companies and families to help pay for a new exhibit (2002).

That master plan is still on track at the Tulsa Zoo. There's a commitment to education with the help of private partners in our community, they've always been there to make sure visitors and especially children, experience wildlife for themselves.

" I feel like almost every other time we come there's some little new exhibit or some little new feature"

And, that's the idea. To always keep the Tulsa Zoo new and interesting. A couple of facts about the zoo, it's open 363 days a year. It's home to about 400 species and more than 3000 animals.

Last year the zoo had more than 700-thousand visitors for the first time in it's 90-year history.

Lisa Jones, Two Works for You.

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