30 things to know as the “new zoo” turns 30

(Photo by Jeremy Enlow courtesy Fort Worth Zoo)

As the Fort Worth Zoo celebrates the 30th anniversary of its historic public-private partnership with the city of Fort Worth – the “New Zoo in ’92 – the popular destination for local residents and tourists alike is calling attention to its incomparable naturalistic animal habitats, its inspiring education programs and its unwavering commitment to conservation.

For those who are new to the “new zoo” here is a handy list of 30 things to know about the new zoo at 30.

  1. The Fort Worth Zoo opened its doors in in Forest Park in 1909 with one lion, two bear cubs, an alligator, a coyote, a peacock and some rabbits. It is the longest, continuously operating zoo at the same site in Texas.
  2. The zoo has welcomed more than 1 million visitors every year since 1992.
  3. Admission is half-price every Wednesday.
  4. The 64-acre Fort Worth Zoo is home to about 7,000 animals, representing more than 500 species.
  5. The zoo is deeply committed to animal conservation in more than 30 countries as well as nationally and in Texas. The zoo’s efforts include dedication of resources, money and time to help save threatened, endangered and critically endangered species, including the Anegada Iguana, the High Andean Flamingo, the Panamanian Golden Frog, the Louisiana Pine Snake, the Virgin Islands Tree Boa, the Puerto Rican Crested Toad and Harlequin Butterfly. Also, the Texas Horned Lizard, the Texas Kangaroo Rat, the Houston Toad and the Monarch Butterfly.
  6. Since 2009, the zoo has contributed more than $2.4 million to conservation organizations and spent more than $5.9 million on conservation expenses for staffing and equipment. Beneficiary organizations include the International Elephant Foundation, the International Iguana Foundation, the International Rhino Foundation, the Caribbean Wildlife Alliance and the Turtle Survival Alliance.
  7. Among the zoo’s multitude of honors and recognition for conservation efforts, Ramona and Lee Bass were inducted into the Texas Parks & Wildlife Foundation’s Texas Conservation Hall of Fame in 2019 for their dedication to conservation of wildlife and for their commitment to the Fort Worth Zoo.
  8. The zoo has an on-site nutrition building with a state-of-the-art kitchen to prepare nutritious meals for the animals.
  9. For an unforgettable experience and a special treat, you can buy a handful of lettuce from a vending machine and feed the giraffes.
  10. The Fort Worth Zoo established the Zoo Disaster Response, Rescue and Recovery initiative, an industry-led effort to aid zoos, aquariums, sanctuaries and exotic animal businesses impacted by natural disasters and other devastating occurrences.
  11. The zoo houses the most successful breeding colony of lesser flamingos in the word.
  12. The zoo has the largest collection of paintings by renowned German wildlife painter Wilhelm Kuhnert in the world. The paintings are housed in the Portraits of the Wild Gallery donated by former zoological association board president F. Kirk Johnson and his wife, Elizabeth “Bess” Johnson.
  13. You don’t need to take a trip to the Caribbean to see stringrays and small sharks up close. At Stingray Cove, visitors can touch the animals and feed the stringray.
  14. The zoo’s newest habitat, Elephant Springs, won a prestigious Thea Award for Outstanding Achievement from the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) earlier this year. The Fort Worth Zoo was the only zoo, the only institution in Texas and one of only six institutions in the U.S. to be honored.
  15. A coalition of zoo and wildlife scientists made important conservation strides with the Texas Horned Lizard, known as the “horned toad.” In 2021, the scientists released 204 captive-raised hatchlings, including 100 from the Fort Worth Zoo, into the wild.
  16. The zoo is one of only four institutions working on conserving the Houston toad. More than 600,000 tadpoles and eggs have been released into the wild.
  17. Iggy, a 40-foot-long, 2,600-pound iguana sculpture, sits atop the Burnett Animal Health Science Center and greets visitors driving into the zoo grounds. Iggy was the creation of artist Bob “Daddy-O” Wade and was flown over Forest Park before landing at the zoo to mark the opening of the Museum of Living Art in 2010.
  18. Last year, the Fort Worth Zoo was named one of the “World’s Greatest!” and was featured on the popular national television series.
  19. The zoo has been ranked as the Best Zoo in Texas by Yahoo Travel, the No. 1 attraction in the Dallas-Fort Worth area by Zagat survey, the No. 2 zoo in North America in a USA Today readers’ poll. In 2020, USA Today’s panel of experts ranking the 10 best zoos named the Fort Worth Zoo the No.1 zoo in North America.
  20. Major exhibits at the Fort Worth Zoo are Penguins, World of Primates, Elephant Springs, Raptor Canyon, Flamingo Bay, Australian Outback/Great Barrier Reef, African Savanna, Texas Wild!, Museum of Living Art and Stingray Cove.
  21. Since 2001, the Yellow Rose Express has pulled out of Safari Depot to take guests on a fun excursion from the zoo entrance to Texas Wild! For a fee, youngsters who are train enthusiasts can be junior conductors and help staff greet riders, collect tickets and ring the bell at crossings.
  22. The arrival of Brazos, the fourth Asian elephant to be born at the zoo, established a three-generation herd at the zoo.
  23. To accommodate the needs of all visitors, the zoo became the first in Texas to be named a Certified Autism Center.
  24. Hot weather is no reason to skip a trip to the zoo. The 14,000-square-foot Safari Splash provides a refreshing water play area to cool off.
  25. Fort Worth Zoo Preschool is one of the zoo’s most popular education programs and typically has a waiting list for enrollment. Highlights of the program include interactive experience with animals and focus on conservation for children ages 3 to 5. Nature’s Navigators is another preschool program for children ages 4 and 5.
  26. The zoo offers camps, home-school learning programs, overnight programs, virtual learning experiences, and fishing seminars for children, a family sleepover and a parents’ night out “Zoo Year’s Eve” bash for kids.
  27. The zoo has 23 animals that have been residing there since 1992, including two hippos, two bonobos, one black rhino, two orangutans, five Chilean flamingos and a western lowland gorilla.
  28. About 55,000 people hold paid memberships to the Fort Worth Zoo.
  29. Major annual events at the Fort Worth Zoo are Beastro, a music and food tasting event that supports local and international wildlife conservation and education efforts; the perennial family-favorite, Boo at the Zoo, featuring treat stations, entertainment and animal shows; Zoo Run, featuring 5K and 1K runs with proceeds benefiting conservation and education efforts.
  30. The 30th birthday bash of the “new zoo” is ongoing on the zoo grounds but anyone can reserve a date to hold a birthday party, get married or host a private wing ding amid the marvels of the animal kingdom called the Fort Worth Zoo. The zoo has multiple event spaces that can accommodate small gatherings and crowds of up to 3,000 (in-house catering is available). Reservations can be made on the zoo’s website.