Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens

The Zoo opened in the Springfield section of Jacksonville on May 12, 1914, with the donation of one red deer fawn. Several domestic animals were added later and a “monkey island” was established. On July 19, 1925, the Municipal Zoo, as it was then known, relocated to its present site bordering on the Trout River. Starting with 37.5 acres, the Zoo continued to grow, reaching about 89 acres when an 11-acre tract of land adjoining the Zoo to the east was acquired in January 1992. On October 20, 1993, the Zoo name was officially changed from the Jacksonville Zoological Park to the Jacksonville Zoological Gardens.

The first major animal purchase of the Zoo was a female Asian Elephant bought in 1926 with money raised by local school children. By the end of the 1960s, the Zoo is reputed to have had the largest collection of exotic animals in the Southeast, but it had fallen on hard times and a great deal of money was needed to save the Zoo. Community leaders, under the direction of Mayor Hans Tanzler, appointed a seven-member committee to search for an alternative to closing the Zoo.

The Jacksonville Zoological Society subsequently came into being in April 1971, having grown from the seven-member committee to 85 of the city’s most influential leaders. The Society began managing the Zoo on June 21, 1971.

The city of Jacksonville contracts with the Society to manage all phases of the operation of the Zoo. All property, including animals and equipment, and all improvements, belong to the city, which in turn contributes an annual subsidy to offset some of the Zoo’s operating expenses. All other Zoo expenses are paid through revenues earned from admission and concession sales, membership and adoption, and group sales. The Jacksonville Zoo serves a two-state area within a 100-mile radius of the facility.

A major redevelopment of the Jacksonville Zoo began in 1992. Through a combination of River City Renaissance funds and donations from the private sector, $22.5 million was raised to complete Phase One of the Master Plan. Projects completed include a new front entry gate and parking lot, the Main Camp Safari Lodge, Birds of the Rift Valley Aviary, Great Apes of the World, an expanded train ride, an elephant and breeding complex, River Branch Foundation Animal Medical Center, the PepsiCo Foundation Education Campus and redevelopment of the 11-acre Plains of East Africa. The last project of the 1992 Master Plan, a Florida wetlands attraction, “Wild Florida,” opened in March 2001.

In March 2002, the Zoo opened the Outback Steakhouse Australian Adventure. Range of the Jaguar, the Zoo’s national award winning premier attraction, opened March 5, 2004. In March of 2005, the Wildlife Carousel opened to the public for the first time, with its 34 hand-painted animals. In April of 2005 the redesigned viewing area for the Giraffes called Giraffe Overlook and the first botanical gardens, Savanna Blooms, opened. As part of this development the main path was redesigned and widened for guest comfort. Play Park, an exciting environment providing children learning opportunities, opened in the late spring of 2006. In September, 2007, the latest addition to the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, the Gardens at Trout River Plaza opened. The plaza serves as the gateway to the Asian Bamboo Gardens that opened in the spring of 2009 with the new komodo dragon exhibit.

The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is an accredited institution of the American Zoo and Aquarium Association.

Details & Events

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  • Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens
  • 370 Zoo Pkwy
  • Jacksonville, FL 32218
  • 904-757-4463
  • Directions
  • Web site

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