The Lincoln Park Zoo is a 35-acre zoo founded in 1868 in Chicago, making it the 4th-oldest zoo in North America. It is also one of a few admission-free zoos in the U.S. As home to around 1,100 animals from some 200 species, the zoo’s exhibits include: big cats, polar bears, penguins, gorillas, reptiles, and monkeys, among many others. When founded, the Lincoln Park Commissioners were given a gift of two pairs of swans by Central Park‘s Board of Commissioners in New York City, after which other animals were soon donated, including, a puma, two elk, three wolves, four eagles, and eight peacocks. In 1874, the first animal purchased by the zoo was a bear cub from the Philadelphia Zoo for $10. In fact, it could frequently be found roaming Lincoln Park at night since it became quite adept at escaping from its home. In 1884, the first American bison born in captivity was born at the zoo. At the time, the species had nearly been hunted to extinction in the wild. Two years later, the U.S. government purchased a bull and seven cows from the zoo’s bison herd, which it sent to Yellowstone National Park to assist in the species’ revival.
Today, the zoo’s specialized exhibits include:
- African Apes – focusing on the common chimpanzee and the western lowland gorilla, both native to Africa
- African Journey – a 60,000-square-foot indoor/outdoor exhibit which simulates four distinct habitats from the African continent, including a rainforest, river, savanna, and monadnok (or “island mountain”)
- Antelope & Zebra Area – an oval-shaped series of large grassland areas housing the zoo’s diverse “hoofstock”, including zebras, antelopes, oryx, alpacas, deer, camels, endangered Sichuan takins, and even a group of red kangaroos
- Arctic Tundra – a polar bear exhibit with both rockwork and natural grass, featuring a new underwater viewing area, a maternity den, and enough space to support a small breeding family of bears
- Bird House – one of the zoo’s most historic buildings, first designed in 1904, which recreates a number of biomes (savanna, sea shore, desert, wetlands, etc.) and includes a tropical free-flight aviary
- Birds-of-Prey – including stunning outdoor aviaries with various specimens, including Eurasian black vultures, European white storks, a snowy owl, and the zoo’s resident bald eagle
- Children’s Zoo – featuring a number of native eastern American wildlife, including eastern screech owls, great plains rat snakes, kestrels, beavers, river otters, wood ducks, black bears, and red wolves
- Farm-in-the-Zoo – exhibiting pigs, cows, horses, and other domestic animals.
- Lion House – first built in 1912 and standing at the heart of the zoo near its entrance, the lion house has been home to a variety of big cat species over the years, including lions, Siberian tigers, leopards, lynxes, pumas, jaguars, and even a pair of red pandas
- Macaque Forest – featuring a troop of 10-15 Japanese macaques in a camouflaged forest scene, as well as a trademark “hot spring”, which allows them to warm up in the winter
- Penguin Cove – featuring a behind-the-scenes area for hatching chicks and breeding the species
- Primate House – featuring various small primates, such as monkeys, langurs, lemurs, tamarins, and gibbons
- Seal Pool – dating back to 1879, it is one of oldest and most popular exhibits at the zoo
- Small Mammal & Reptile House – including a series of terrariums (featuring a variety of reptiles & amphibians), a man-made baobab tree (surrounded by various small mammals), and a 45-foot tall geodesic dome (highlighting various river and arboreal species)
- Swan Pond – showcasing two snow-white trumpeter swans as a reminder of the zoo’s long history, which began with the gift of a pair of swans
- Waterfowl Lagoon – featuring swan geese and the zoo’s familiar flock of nearly 50 Chilean flamingos
Marlin Perkins, who served as the zoo’s director from 1944 until 1962, would later go on to host Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom on television from 1963 to 1985.
- Visited: May 2013