HISTORY

Since the early 1900s, Brookfield Zoo has recognized many milestones.

1930s

1934

On July 1, Brookfield Zoo opens to the public.

1937

TSu-lin becomes the first panda in a U.S. zoo and is a sensation.
A year later, pandas Mei-mei and Mei-lan arrive at Brookfield Zoo.

1940s

1941

Georgie-Joe is the first black rhino born in a zoo. Today, conservation of endangered species like black rhinos is a hallmark of the Society.

1943

The Society offers to sell animals to private citizens to raise money due to low attendance during war years. Today, zoos must follow strict rules governing animal exchanges.

1948

The zoo acquires Kamala Rani and Kashi Ram, two rare Indian rhinos, in the wild.

1950s

1952

The first animal hospital opens. At the time, Brookfield Zoo is only the third zoo in the country with a dedicated hospital.

1953

Children’s Zoo opens, beginning decades of connections between Chicagoland children and domestic native animals.

1954

Roosevelt Fountain is created to honor President Theodore Roosevelt for his conservation efforts.

1957

Wolf Woods is carved out of the forested area in the western part of the zoo. Staff soon undertake groundbreaking studies on wolf behavior.

1959

Mr. G is the first okapi born in a U.S. zoo. These animals become another species studied by Society researchers.

1960s

1961

The original Seven Seas Panorama (located where The Living Coast now stands) opens as the country’s first inland dolphinarium.

1962

Olga Walrus arrives. With her playful antics and memorable personality, she inspires guests to care for marine mammals.

1966

The first Mold-A-Rama machine is installed.

1968

A diesel-switch train runs around the zoo.

1969

The sale of marshmallow is discontinued. The Society is now a leader in animal nutrition.

 

1970s

1971

The Volunteer League is created. Volunteers currently give countless hours to the zoo each year.

1973

Work begins on Tropic World. The exhibit’s three sections open in 1982, 1983, and 1984.

1974

The first Boo! at the Zoo is held.

1977

The Parents Program (now Share the Care program) begins. This valuable support contributes directly to the expert care and feeding of our animals.

1979

Affie Elephant arrives. As a beloved ambassador for the wild, she inspires generations of Chicagoans to learn about conservation issues around the world.

1980s

1980

Samson Gorilla arrives. He sires five offspring, adding important genetic diversity to zoo gorilla populations. A statue commemorating this popular primate now stands at the entrance to Tropic World.

1982

The first Holiday Magic is held and soon becomes an annual tradition with Chicagoland families.

1984

The zoo celebrates its 50th anniversary with concerts by the Osmond Family, the Beach Boys, Jonny Cash, and others.

1985

The Society further solidifies its conservation efforts by establishing a Conservation Biology Department staffed by world-renowned scientists and researchers.

1987

The new Seven Seas Panorama opens and becomes as popular as the original exhibit.

 

1990s

1990

The Society helps found the Declining Amphibian Populations Task Force to help save amphibians around the world.

1992

A specialist in animal enrichment is hired, part of Society efforts to provide the best care possible for the animals.

1993

A new animal hospital opens, enhancing animal care efforts and making the Society a leader in zoological medicine.
Golden lion tamarins live outdoors to train them for reintroduction to South American rain forests.

1995

Brown bear cubs Jim and Axhi were rescued by the Society on Admiralty Island, Alaska.

1996

The Society becomes a founding member of Chicago Wilderness, a leading group that restores and protects hundreds of acres of wild areas in Chicagoland.

Binti Jua Gorilla rescues a boy who falls into the Tropic World exhibit.

2000s

2000

The Society helps launch a new discipline called conservation psychology, which is the scientific study of the relationship between people and nature.

2001

Hamill Family Play Zoo opens.

2006

The Center for Conservation Leadership is launched, focusing the Society’s efforts on creating conservation leaders, protecting the natural world, and outreach and education around Chicago.

The largest modern, handcarved wooden carousel in the world makes its debut.

2008

The Center for the Science of Animal Welfare opens. It is initiated to help the Society become world experts in the scientific care of animals.

2009

The Dinosaurs Alive! seasonal exhibit opens. It features the Ruyang Yellow River dinosaur, the largest animatronic dinosaur in the world.

2010s

2010

Great Bear Wilderness opens.

2012

The Xtreme Bugs exhibit opens.

2013

The Dinosaurs made a comeback to the Zoo.

The Ann McLean Conservation Center opens.

2015

Hamill Family Wild Encounters opens.

The new home for the Animal Ambassador program opens.


2016

Brookfield Zoo is first U.S. zoo to earn American Humane Certified seal.

Eight African white-bellied tree pangolins are successfully brought to the Zoo. CZS is a founding member of the Pangolin Consortium, a partnership among seven zoological facilities committed to global pangolin conservation.

2017
CZS holds first International Symposium on Pangolin Husbandry and Conservation.

2018
Brookfield Zoo opens a sensory-friendly family room and resource center.

2019
Hamill Family Nature Plaza opens.

King Conservation Leadership Academy is founded.

2020
CZS researchers complete the largest multi-institutional study of cetaceans.

Endangered Blanding's turtles hatched at the Zoo are released into the wild.