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.
Did you know... The Zoo was originally located near Wade Oval in Cleveland's University Circle?
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.
In 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 hemorrhage.
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.
Did 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.
Did 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 Zoo.
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 2004.
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.