When coming to San Antonio, a visit to the local zoo is an absolute must-do. The San Antonio Zoo, which is operated by the San Antonio Zoological Society, a non-profit organization, wows more than a million visitors each year with its diversity of wildlife, interactive activities, and of course, its uber-popular San Antonio Zoo Train. All ages and stages can find something to enjoy and there is always something new happening. Below are 10 fun facts about the San Antonio Zoo that will supercharge your visit and help you get the most enjoyment out of one of San Antonio’s premiere attractions.
The zoo is laid out with 16 different habitats housing thousands of animals. Popular sections include the reptile house, birdhouse, kangaroo crossing, and Africa Live! with world-famous hippos, Timothy and Uma. In addition to the animal habitats, the zoo has several different places to grab a bite, a 4D theater, animal interactions, and a tiny-tot nature center where the kids can wade through the splash zones.
The San Antonio Zoo got its start in San Pedro Park in the mid-1800s when a caged animal exhibit was set up to showcase bears, wolves, possums, and more. Later, in 1914, Colonel George W. Brackenridge donated several creatures including buffalo, elk, monkeys, and a pair of lions to the exhibit and it was moved to an area of land deeded over to the city by Brackenridge and named Brackenridge Park. Thus, the San Antonio Zoo was officially born.
With this history, the San Antonio Zoo is one of the oldest zoos in the United States competing with the likes of New York’s Central Park Zoo which was opened in 1864, and Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo which was opened in 1868.
Photo Credit: Facebook San Antonio Zoo
Today, the zoo houses more than 15,000 animals that represent some 812 species, some of which are endangered or extinct in the wild such as Palm Cockatoos, Northern White-Cheeked Gibbons, Jaguars, Armstrong’s Dusky Rattlesnakes, Dama Gazelle.
Conservation is at the heart and mission of the San Antonio Zoo and the Center for Conservation and Research works alongside state, federal, and international partners to protect and increase rare and threatened species. Current conservation projects focus on fish, amphibians, reptiles, insects, and crustaceans – many of which are indigenous to Texas.
One such project is the Texas Horned Lizard Reintroduction Project which is working to restore the Texas Horned Lizard population from areas where it has disappeared. The Center for Conservation and Research partners with local landowners to introduce lizards that were hatched at the SA Zoo back into the wild in hopes of seeing a resurgence of Texas Horned Lizards in the Texas ecosystem.
The first-ever white rhino born outside of Africa was born at the San Antonio Zoo in 1972. This once critically endangered species is now classified as “near threatened” thanks to the ardent work of the San Antonio Zoo and other zoos and game preserves around the world that have worked to restore Rhino populations and protect them from poachers. You can visit the rhinos at the SA Zoo in the Savanna habitat.
In December 1959, a rhesus macaque monkey named Sam, became the third monkey to survive a trip into space aboard NASA’s Little Joe 2 (part of the Mercury program). Sam then 14 spent years under observation at San Antonio’s Brooks Air Force Base before retiring from his space career and settling down at the San Antonio Zoo. Sam died at the zoo in 1982 at the age of 25.
Thelma and Louise
The San Antonio Zoo has seen the birth of many animals over the years, but none so popular as the two-headed Texas River Cooter Turtle, Thelma and Louise. Thelma and Louise were immensely popular at the zoo, had their own Facebook page, and were admired by many enthusiastic lovers of herpetology. Thelma and Louise died on July 29, 2014, after a short 13 months of life.
The Kiddie Park
Photo Credit: Facebook Kiddie Park
The San Antonio Zoo isn’t just the home of thousands of beautiful and interesting animals. It is also the home of the oldest children’s amusement park in the country – the Kiddie Park – one of the best things to do with kids in San Antonio.
This vintage amusement park offers classic carnival-style rides (like a carousel ride and Ferris wheel) that date back to 1925, which means they are as nostalgic as they are fun (and should safety be a concern, the rides have been updated to make things safe).
The Kiddie Park is a great place for families, especially multi-generation families that include grandparents who may have fond memories of these amusement park rides from their childhood. For more info on Kiddie Park, head over to the website for info, pricing, and to purchase tickets.
One way the zoo keeps it interesting all year long is by offering unique events to the community that celebrates not just the animals, but the seasons, holidays, and the city itself. A few of the most popular events at the zoo include Monarch Fest, a two-day festival occurring during the annual Monarch Butterfly migration that celebrates all things butterfly, Zoo Boo, a Halloween celebration at the zoo, and Zoo Lights, a beautiful holiday light experience that illuminates the entire area.
Oh, and ever wanted to name a cockroach after an ex and then feed it to an animal? Well thanks to the zoo’s Cry Me a Cockroach Valentine’s Day fundraiser, you can do that too. For a complete list of events at the zoo, click here.
Open Year Round
Photo Credit: Facebook San Antonio Zoo
The zoo is one of only a few places in San Antonio that is open every day. You can visit the zoo 365 days a year with a variety of ticket options. An adult standard admission ticket is $31.99 and kids 3-11 are $27.99. Children under three are free and discounts are available for military service members and those over 65.
Protip: One day each month, the San Antonio Zoo has a local day in which residents of SA pay only $8 for admission to the zoo for the day. For a list of days, click here.
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