WCS's Bronx Zoo Celebrates 110 Years of Innovation, Conservation, and Community Impact

  • WCS’s Bronx Zoo Has Welcomed More Than 236 Million Visitors Since Its Gates Opened November 8, 1899
  • WCS’s Bronx Zoo is a Cornerstone New York City Cultural Institution and Headquarters for Global Conservation Efforts
  • WCS’s Bronx Zoo Continues Award-Winning Tradition of Forward Thinking Exhibit Design

Bronx, N.Y. – November 8, 2009 – Today, the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Bronx Zoo celebrates the 110th anniversary of its opening.  Since November 8, 1899, more than 236 million guests have visited the zoo – an average of 2.15 million visitors per year. Over that span, WCS’s Bronx Zoo has continued to be recognized for dynamic, innovative exhibits,  global conservation, wildlife health sciences, and environmental education.  

“WCS’s Bronx Zoo has a rich history and has been at the forefront in conservation and exhibit design since inception,” said Jim Breheny, Senior Vice President of Living Institutions and Director of the Bronx Zoo.  “For 110 years, the Bronx Zoo has been a leader in naturalistic exhibit design that provides stimulating environments for our animals, while educating our guests about the challenges of conservation and saving wildlife and wild places around the world.”

In addition to being a New York City cultural staple, it is an economic cornerstone in the Bronx.  On average, WCS’s Bronx Zoo employs over 750 full-time staff per year and is the largest employer of youth in the borough, providing employment opportunity, job skills training, and scholarship opportunities for more than 700 teenagers each year.

WCS’s Bronx Zoo is recognized world-wide for its care and breeding of rare and endangered species, ranging from spectacular Indian rhinoceroses, to majestic snow leopards, to diminutive Kihansi spray toads no bigger than a thumbnail.

The Wildlife Conservation Society, the Bronx Zoo’s parent organization, works in 65 countries protecting more than 200 million acres of wild places – more than the U.S. Park Service. Global conservation programs implemented by WCS have contributed to the protection of countless species and their habitats.

WCS’s Global Health Programs include departments in clinical medicine, pathology, nutrition, and field medicine, with 30-plus staff members providing care to thousands of animals each year across WCS’s Bronx Zoo, Central Park Zoo, Prospect Park Zoo, Queens Zoo, and New York Aquarium.

The zoo’s education department has developed award-winning K-12 life-science curricula that enrich the learning of students throughout New York City, all 50 states, and in dozens of countries around the world.

A Brief History:

The Wildlife Conservation Society, then known as The New York Zoological Society, first opened the doors to the Bronx Zoo in 1899.  From the beginning, this grand addition to New York’s cultural institutions included an amazing group of animals from around the world as well as native species such as the American bison.

By 1905, uncontrolled hunting had reduced the great herds of bison to fewer than 1,000 animals. Theodore Roosevelt, who helped found WCS, along with William Hornaday, the Bronx Zoo’s first director, were founding members of the American Bison Society (ABS), an organization formed at WCS’s Bronx Zoo to preserve this icon of America’s prairies. In 1907 the Bronx Zoo sent a group of zoo-born bison to Oklahoma to provide the core of a new herd that would help re-establish the species throughout the plains.

Always a leader in innovative exhibit design, WCS’s Bronx Zoo opened the African Plains exhibit in 1941. This exhibit allowed guests for the first time to view predator and prey in a naturalistic setting. An exhibit so unique for its time, it drew tens-of-thousands of guests each day when it first opened and continues to be one of the most popular exhibits.

Today, WCS’s Bronx Zoo hosts more than 2 million visitors each year, giving them the opportunity to learn about wildlife by experiencing animals in dynamic, immersion exhibits that recreate wild areas from around the globe.  The zoo is home to more than 6,000 animals representing more than 600 species.  At 265 acres in size, WCS’s Bronx Zoo is one of the world’s largest urban zoological parks.

Over the years, WCS’s Bronx Zoo has been well recognized for its innovative exhibits. It was awarded the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Exhibit Award for the Children’s Zoo (1982); JungleWorld (1986); Himalayan Highlands (1987); Baboon Reserve (1991); Butterfly Zone (1997); Congo Gorilla Forest (2000); and Tiger Mountain (2004).

Other key points in recent WCS’s Bronx Zoo history:
  • 1999 – Congo Gorilla Forest opens – first zoo exhibit that directly links a zoo-based experience with WCS field conservation projects.
  • 2003 – Tiger Mountain opens – connects visitors to conservation action and demonstrates animal enrichment activities that help keep the animals stimulated and engaged by presenting them with choices in their environment.
  • 2005 – WCS re-visits the goals of the American Bison Society to restore the ecological future of wild bison and their habitats.
  • 2008 – MADAGASCAR! opens – an indoor exhibit that houses dozens of species from the African island country of Madagascar in a LEEDs gold certified, “green” building.  

Available for Interview:  
Jim Breheny, Senior Vice President of Living Institutions and Director of the Bronx Zoo – Mr. Breheny has been with WCS at its Bronx Zoo headquarters in New York for 36-years. A former Curatorial Science Fellow, Curator and Director of Special Animal Exhibits, Jim was named General Curator in 2004 and Director in 2005. He received his undergraduate degree from Manhattan College in Riverdale, New York where he was an adjunct in the Biology Department from 1998 through 2005. He received his graduate degree from Fordham University in 1984.
Breheny is an accomplished zoologist with a deep understanding of animals and extensive experience in their care, management and well-being.  Jim has participated in the planning and building of many of the Bronx Zoo’s breakthrough exhibits including, Tiger Mountain, Butterfly Garden, Wild Dogs, and most recently the restoration of the historic Astor Court and the construction of the new Madagascar! exhibit. He has collaborated with the Uganda Zoo on its master plan and the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) on the redesign of the Nairobi Animal Orphanage. As Director of the Bronx Zoo, he oversees the management and exhibition of over 6,000 animals representing more than 600 species.  Jim is one of only eight individuals who have held the position of director since the Zoo opened in 1899.

Contact:
Max Pulsinelli – 718-220-5182 – mpulsinelli@wcs.org
Steve Fairchild – 718-220-5189 – sfairchild@wcs.org
Steve Sautner – 718-220-3682 – ssautner@wcs.org


The Bronx Zoo
, a Wildlife Conservation Society park, is open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., 5:30 p.m. on weekends and holidays through November 2, 2009. Adult admission is $15, children (3-12 years old) $11, children under 3 are free, seniors (65+) are $13. Parking is $12 for cars and $16 for buses. The Bronx Zoo is conveniently located off the Bronx River Parkway at Exit 6; by train via the #2 or #5 or by bus via the #9, #12, #19, #22, MetroNorth, or BxM11 Express Bus service (from Manhattan that stops just outside the gate.) To plan your trip, visit www.bronxzoo.com or call 718-367-1010.


The Wildlife Conservation Society saves wildlife and wild places worldwide. We do so through science, global conservation, education and the management of the world’s largest system of urban wildlife parks, led by the flagship Bronx Zoo. Together these activities change attitudes towards nature and help people imagine wildlife and humans living in harmony. WCS is committed to this mission because it is essential to the integrity of life on Earth.

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