The Zoo began as Wade Park in 1882 after Jeptha H. Wade donated 73-acres
of land and 14 American deer to the City of Cleveland. By 1907,
however, Cleveland City Council had laid plans to build the Cleveland
Museum of Art and decided to move the Zoo to its current location.
you know... The Zoo was originally located near Wade Oval in Cleveland's
The animals kept in
the early Zoo were mostly of local origin, but the next thirty
years saw the building of the Zoo's first Monkey Island, Sea Lion
Pools and bear exhibit before the Cleveland Natural History Museum
assumed control in 1940.
November 1940,a new Asian elephant arrived at the Zoo. The Cleveland
News sponsored an elephant naming contest, with the winning name
"Osa" submitted by a 12-year-old boy from Cleveland
Heights. However, the elephant had a name, "Frieda,"
to which she had responded for many years. It's extremely difficult
to change names in the middle of an elephant's life. A few years
after the elephant had been living at the Zoo, one of her ex-trainers
happened to visit her, and called to her by her original name.
She responded in dramatic fashion and from then on, everyone called
her Frieda. Frieda, the beloved Indian elephant, died on November
27, 1956. Accounts of her age varied from 56 to 72. She was one
of the older elephants in the country and succumbed to a cerebral
In 1955, Zoo staff
and supporters organized an African safari and obtained three
elephants, two hippos, two rhinos, three giraffes, and many smaller
animals. A year later, the Zoo's Pachyderm Building opened to
house many of the animals acquired on the safari.
you know... Breeding and conservation programs supply the world's
zoos with enough animals for almost all new exhibits?
In 1957, the Cleveland
Zoological Society assumed control of the Zoo. In January of 1959,
heavy rains and melting snow caused Big Creek to overflow, and
the resulting flood wiped out the Zoo's reptile collection and
damaged many buildings. The Zoo recovered by 1962, however, and
moated lion and tiger exhibits were added.
In 1968, the City of
Cleveland transferred ownership of the Zoo to the Cleveland Metropolitan
Park District, and the Cleveland Zoological Society transferred
management of the Zoo to Cleveland
Metroparks in 1975.
Also in 1975, construction
began on The Primate & Cat Building, and it was during this
time the Zoo's original building, the Wade Park Deer Barn, was
moved from Wade Park and placed on Zoo grounds.
you know... Wade Memorial Hall, located next to Waterfowl Lake,
is the old Wade Park Deer Barn? Today it is a Victorian-styled ice cream parlor.
In 1982, Cleveland
Metroparks Zoo received accreditation from the Association
of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA). In 1985, a portion of
the Cat and Primate Building was renovated after the Cleveland
Aquarium in Gordon Park announced it was closing permanently,
and its collection of fishes and invertebrates was moved to the
Since 1989, many themed
exhibits have opened under the leadership of Zoo Director Emeritus Steve Taylor. In 1992, Cleveland Metroparks Zoo welcomed The
RainForest, followed by Wolf
Wilderness in 1997, Australian
Adventure in 2000, and The Sarah Allison Steffee Center for Zoological Medicine in
Cleveland Metroparks Zoo's newest exhibit, African Elephant Crossing, opened on May 5, 2011. Spread over five acres of lightly wooded grasslands, African Elephant Crossing features two large yards for roaming, ponds for swimming, expanded sleeping quarters and a heated outdoor range. The naturalistic habitat is capable of housing up to 10 elephants at a time, including at least one bull and eventually calves. African Elephant Crossing is also home to meerkats, naked mole rats, an African rock python and a spectacular collection of colorful birds.
After 24 years, several multi-million dollar exhibits and countless animal encounters, Cleveland Metroparks Zoo Director Steve Taylor retired at the end of 2012. Cleveland Metroparks named Christopher Kuhar, Ph.D. the new director of the Zoo. He becomes the tenth director in Cleveland Metroparks Zoo's 130-year history.
Did you know... When The RainForest opened in 1992, it featured the
Zoo's first permanent reptile collection since the flood of 1959?
Did you know...Willy, the first adult male elephant in Cleveland since 1962, has one tusk and is also the largest animal ever on exhibit at Cleveland Metroparks Zoo at 11-feet tall at the shoulder and 13,000 pounds.