Since the 1860s, exotic animals could be observed at Fifth Avenue and 64th Street in Central Park. The collection was a growing group of donated animals that started with 72 white swans and a black bear cub. In 1864, the state legislature authorized the city parks commission to establish a zoo. That was when the more formal Central Park Menagerie was established.
In 1934, Commissioner of Parks Robert Moses remodeled the menagerie to become the Central Park Zoo. A Works Progress Administration (WPA) project, the tiny "storybook" zoo set a standard for its time but over the decades, it became a woefully inadequate facility for its inhabitants.
In April 1980, the Wildlife Conservation Society signed an agreement with the City of New York to renovate and operate the zoo for the Department of Parks and Recreation. New construction began in the spring of 1985. On August 8, 1988, the new Central Park Zoo opened to record crowds. Today, this "newest, oldest" zoo attracts nearly one million visitors a year.
Visitors can transition from a steamy rain forest to an icy Antarctic penguin habitat. They will encounter fascinating animals from tiny leafcutter ants to powerful polar bears. The Tisch Children's Zoo, added in 1997, lets little animal lovers meet gentle creatures up close. The Zoo offers year-round education classes and innovative public programs.
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The Central Park Zoo by Joan Scheier.
Countless New Yorkers, as well as visitors from all parts of the world, have experienced an oasis just a few feet off Fifth Avenue in the heart of Man...