The Birmingham Zoo is a zoological park what was first opened to the public 1955, and it is currently the largest zoo in the state of Alabama.
It is home to over 800 animals that cover or represent over 200 different species, and this includes several endangered species from different continents.
It is currently managed by a private non-profit organization, and it is a member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
Located along with another exciting attraction, the Birmingham Botanical Gardens in Lane Park, it is a 200-acre city owner park.
It is near the western part of US Highway 280 and 3 and is located on the southern slope of Red Mountain.
Because of its immense size and wonderful mix of animals, it is one of the favorites of all of the Birmingham day trips.
The beginning of the Birmingham Zoo is quite modest as it stated out as a very small menagerie of basic animals that were kept in what was referred to as the South-side Firehouse.
As this collection started to grow in size, it was moved to the Magnolia Park which is now known as Brother Bryan Park.
From there it was moved to Avondale Park and other than an Elephant named “Miss Fancy”, the collection was primarily all non-exotic animals.
The elephant was purchased by a struggling circus in order to save it, when the circus became stranded in the town.
In the late 1880’s and 1890’s, under the direction of major A. O. Lane, the town had purchased land that was located on the south side of Red Mountain.
As the park began to grow, the Works Progress Administration built a fish hatchery as well as a number of pavilions from a local quarry.
The hatchery was fed by natural spring water and provided stock for the recreational lake located in the region, until the zoo officially took over the park.
The first actual support for the new zoo prior to WWII came from the Birmingham Junior Chamber of Commerce.
However, in 1946, Elton Stephens chaired a Jaycee committee to create a new zoo for the city, and in 1949 the mayor, James R. Morgan started the ball rolling.He was a very strong supporter, and he also helped in the planning and development of an official city zoo.
Because of Mayor Morgan’s support, a zoo commission was officially established, and the decision was made to build the beginnings of what is now the Birmingham Zoo.
It was built of on 50 acres of land located on the southern foot of Red Mountain for a budget of $250,000, which was really quite high at the time.
Shortly after this, a much larger piece of land was incorporated into the city, and it was named Lane Park, which would become home for the zoo as well as the botanical gardens.
The original budget would be spent to build six exhibits with the opening of the zoo which included, at the time, “Monkey Island”.
Other exhibits included an elephant house, a bear moat, birdhouses, a seal exhibit, as well as a snake pit.
The funds for these projects were raised through private donations, charter memberships, as well as a broad base of community and business support.
By the early 1960’s, the Alabama Zoological Society was created as a non-profit support group, to raise more funds to offset the raising costs of operations.
However, a series of master plans for expansion failed, due to the lack of funds in the 1970’s and 1980’s.
By the 1990’s, the need for significant improvements was becoming paramount to the overall operation.
Because of this dire situation, this led to the zoo’s loss of accreditation by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
In the year 1999, members of the Alabama Zoological Society along with the current mayor, Richard Arrington Jr., set up private-public partnerships.
The Birmingham Zoo committee undertook a very intense 18-month effort to address all pressing and immediate problems, so they could win back accreditation.
In the next few years, all of the problems were resolved and greatly improved, and today the Birmingham Zoo is not only the largest in the State, it is considered world class by most experts.
Starting with the Main Zoo, here is the list of Exhibits
The Junior League of Birmingham Children’s Zoo
The Trails of Africa
The Birmingham Zoo is exciting, educational, and just plain out fun for you and your family.
This makes it one the most popular of the Birmingham day trips.
"History". birminghamzoo.com. Birmingham Zoo. Retrieved October 16, 2010.
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