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About the Zoo
- Re-opened at its current site in 1988, Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo is today ranked the number one zoo in the U.S. (Parents magazine 2009 & Child magazine 2004) and recognized by the State of Florida as a center for Florida wildlife conservation and biodiversity (HB 457).

The region's only dedicated zoological garden, Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo was designed to enhance quality of life in greater Tampa Bay as an affordable leisure destination and center for education and endangered species conservation.
Natural outdoor exhibits for more than 1,000 animals from Florida and similar habitats include a Native Florida Wildlife Center and manatee hospital, Asian Gardens, Primate World, Free-Flight Aviaries, Wallaroo Station children's zoo, and Safari Africa. The Zoo also features rides, shows and hands-on interactive exhibits designed to give you a WILD experience.

The Florida Environmental Education Center ( Zoo School) serves more than 147,000 children annually. Programs offered are summer and holiday camps, daycare, preschool, and kindergarten .

Zoo Hours: 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas days. Subject to close for special events or inclement weather.
 

Zoo History
Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo features 56 acres of lush, natural habitats comprising seven main exhibit areas: Asian Domain, Primate World, Manatee and Aquatic Center, Florida Wildlife Center, Free-Flight Aviary, Wallaroo Station children's zoo, and the new Safari Africa.

Tampa's Lowry Park Zoological Society, in agreement with the City of Tampa, operates Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit charitable organization and provides programs in education and conservation to benefit the general public and to enhance the quality of life in Tampa Bay. Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo also exists as a center for conservation of endangered wildlife both locally and around the globe.

Tampa's first zoo was established in the late 1930s on the banks of the Hillsborough River in Plant Park. It consisted of a small collection of indigenous animals such as raccoons, alligators and an aviary with a variety of exotic birds. As the collection grew, the animals were moved to the more centrally located Lowry Park in 1957, by Mayor Nick Nuccio, where it was maintained by Tampa's Parks Department.

In 1961, General Sumter L. Lowry, Jr. gave the Zoo its most prominent exotic animal, Sheena, an 18-month-old Asian elephant. This event provided the impetus for expanding and diversifying the animal collection. As the collection continued to grow through the 1970s, the need to upgrade the habitats and present the animals in natural settings became an issue fully embraced by the Tampa Bay community, which resulted in the formation of an organization dedicated to building a first-class zoological garden.

The Lowry Park Zoo Association was formed in 1982, at the suggestion of the Tampa Parks Department, Mayor Bob Martinez, and private citizens who shared a common vision. Its mission was to raise awareness of Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo and promote a public-private partnership to fund the renaissance of Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo. The zoo architectural firm, Design Consortium, Ltd., was hired in 1984, to develop a 24-acre master plan.


A New Beginning

While the Zoo Association embarked on a $20 million capital campaign, the City of Tampa committed $8 million to build the first phase, which consisted of the entrance, administrative offices, clinic commissary units, Free-Flight Aviary, Asian Domain, Primate World, and the Children's Village/Petting Zoo.

As the first phase neared completion in February 1988, the Zoo Association became the Lowry Park Zoological Society, a private, nonprofit organization dedicated to the management and ongoing development of a superior zoological garden. Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo is situated on land owned by the City of Tampa and is independently operated by the Lowry Park Zoological Society for charitable and educational purposes.

The rejuvenated Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo formally opened to the public on March 5, 1988, with more than 614,000 people visiting the facility during its first 12 months.


Expansion


Construction began on the second phase of the Zoo, the Florida Wildlife Center, in 1988, and Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo was accredited by the American Association of Zoological Parks and Aquariums in 1989.

The northern portion of the Florida Wildlife Center opened February 5, 1990, and the southern part opened January of 1991, featuring a world-renowned Manatee Aquatic Center and Rehabilitation Hospital. The exhibit is known today as the Mason M. and Charles P. Lykes Florida Wildlife Center and houses the David A. Straz, Jr. Manatee Hospital.

After the phases were completed, Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo featured several acres of lush, natural habitats comprising five main exhibit areas: The Florida Manatee and Aquatic Center, Native Florida Wildlife Center, Asian Domain, Primate World and Children's Petting Zoo. Two free-flight aviaries were also constructed for visitors to enjoy. In 1995, a 10,000-square-foot pavilion was constructed to provide an area for meeting and banquet facilities, educational programs and special exhibitions.

In 1997, a 1,500-square-foot interactive area was built featuring hands-on displays, exhibits, artifacts, videos and a small insect zoo. An adjoining amphitheater was later added for the Zoo's "Reptile Encounter" programs; and a "Birds of Prey" amphitheater was constructed to allow visitors to soar with a variety of owls, hawks, eagles and falcons. In 1998, the Zoo added a Jungle Carousel featuring 33 handcrafted figures of animals that take kids on a whimsical, wildlife adventure.

The summer of 1999 brought a number of new creature comforts for Zoo visitors, including the fully air-conditioned Paradise Cafe featuring an extended Key West Deck with an exciting new view of the manatees. Visitors have it made in the shade thanks to shade canopies over the Reptile Encounter and Birds of Prey amphitheaters. Construction work was also completed on the Zoo's "no hassle" entry and parking lot, featuring spaces for more than 400 additional vehicles.


Learning Comes Naturally


Classes began in fall 2000, at the new Florida Environmental Education Center, nicknamed "The Zoo School," which features 11 classrooms, a library and the Frank E. Duckwall Foundation exhibit/lecture hall. This state-of-the-art education center was designed to offer exciting programs for everyone from tots to teens, adults, families, school age groups and more.

The TECO Energy Manatee Amphitheater opened in March 2001, and provides enhanced public education programming. A boardwalk was also constructed allowing visitors to walk up and see into the manatee hospital - the only nonprofit facility of its kind in the world.

In September 2001, Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo opened Stingray Bay where visitors can pet and feed stingrays in a 16,000-gallon touch pool. In May 2002, the Zoo opened Wallaroo Station - a 4.5-acre Australian-themed family zoo that includes a wide variety of Australian animals.

The National Spotlight

In May 2004, the Zoo opened the first phase of "Safari Africa" - the largest exhibit opening since Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo reopened its doors in 1988. Safari Africa features elephants, giraffes, zebras and many other African animal species on several acres of natural habitats. Phase I also included giraffe feeding opportunities and camel safari rides.


Safari Africa Evolves

White rhinoceros from South Africa made their debut in March 2005 as part of Safari Africa's Phase II featuring a special "rhino encounter," an opportunity for visitors to touch and feed a rhino. Visitors can also experience a bird's-eye view of the zoo on the new "Treetop Skyfari," a 45-foot-high aerial ride that travels over several acres of the zoo's animal habitats.

In Sept. 2005, the Zoo added a meerkat exhibit, the first new structure in a series of planned buildings in Safari Africa to be known as the "African Village." Plans for the complex include:

  • A centralized safari lodge with air-conditioned inside dining decorated with high-end finishes and museum-quality African artifacts;
  • A terrain vehicle safari adventure ride;
  • A series of huts featuring educational exhibits and food service stands, and;
  • Additional animal exhibits such as cheetahs and chimpanzees.

  • In October 2005, the Zoo welcomed the birth of the first African elephant calf in the zoo's history - and in the Greater Tampa Bay area. The male calf was born to first-time mother "Ellie," a 20-year-old African elephant, on October 17, 2005 before dawn. On November 11, 2005, mother and calf made their public debut in the large outdoor yard within the Zoo's 2.5-acre elephant habitat.

    In March 2006, the Zoo introduced a new behind-the-scenes Safari Ride, a guided tour of the Safari Africa habitat area.  Guests can climb aboard a custom-made safari tram for a 15-minute narrated ride offering views of dozens of unique and endangered species.  The ride includes an exciting trek between the Zoo’s two elephant yards where passengers can see and photograph the elephant herd, including baby Tamani.

     

    For the fiscal year ending September 2006, and for the first time in the Zoo’s history, Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo exceeded one million visitors.



    Here We Grow Again

    In 2007, the Zoo made several notable additions to better serve the record numbers of visitors:  a collection of five new exhibits known as the “Ituri Forest” within Safari Africa; a colony of African penguins in a new year-round outdoor habitat called Penguin Beach; and a newly remodeled Asian Gardens exhibit area.

     

    At the close of fiscal year 2007, the Zoo again celebrated record attendance of more than 1.1 million visitors – an increase of nine percent and the fifth consecutive year of sustained attendance growth.


    In 2008, the Zoo grew again with the addition of the “Gator Falls,” a water flume ride. The new ride allows guests to enhance their outdoor adventure by hopping on a log and exploring Florida’s native wildlife by water with a 30-foot drop over an alligator/crocodile exhibit. The newest attractions represent two of many exciting opportunities that guests can enjoy as they help to celebrate the Zoo’s 20th anniversary in 2008.


    Recent Years

    The Bank of America Safari Lodge opened its doors in December 2008, marking the completion of the Safari Lodge complex which includes the outdoor meerkat exhibit, Swazi-themed grand entrance plaza and air-conditioned restrooms. The Lodge is a stunning 17,000 square-foot climate-controlled facility designed to accommodate special events, private and corporate rentals, and meeting space.  An elevated annex, known as Reilly’s Reserve, features family dining and breathtaking views of African elephants, giraffe and zebra. The $4.5 million Lodge was made possible by a strong public-private partnership.

    For the second time in five years, Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo celebrated a second top honor from a  national parenting magazine.  In May 2009, Parents magazine, the nation’s leading parenting magazine with a community of 15 million readers, named Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo the best zoo for kids in its first ever “10 Best Zoos” survey. 

    Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo celebrated many noteworthy animal collection accomplishments in 2009-10, including several significant births: the Zoo’s first Indian rhino calf; the Zoo’s first and second Grevy’s zebra foals; and the Zoo’s first African white rhinoceros calf.  The Zoo also made history - becoming the first wildlife institution in North America to hatch a rare African shoebill stork chick, and just the second institution worldwide.  Today the chick is fully grown -- the first parent-reared chick in the world to have survived to this age -- and is an accomplished flyer, soaring effortlessly across the Zoo’s North Lake aviary.



    Executive Director/CEO Craig Pugh Bio


    Senior Leadership




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