Brookfield Zoo in

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The Brookfield Zoo is zoo located in the Chicago suburb of Brookfield, Illinois. The zoo covers an area of and houses around 450 species of animals.

Brookfield Zoo, also known as Chicago Zoological Park, opened on July 1, 1934, and quickly gained international recognition for using moats and ditches, instead of cages, to separate animals from visitors and from other animals. The zoo was also the first in America to exhibit giant pandas, one of which (Su Lin) has been taxidermied and put on display in Chicago's Field Museum of Natural History. In 1960, Brookfield Zoo built the nation's first fully indoor dolphin exhibit, and in the 1980s the zoo introduced Tropic World, the first fully indoor rain forest simulation and the then-largest indoor zoo exhibit in the world.

The Brookfield Zoo is owned by the Cook County Forest Preserve District and managed by the Chicago Zoological Society. The Society sponsors numerous research and conservation efforts globally.


In 1919, Edith Rockefeller McCormick donated land she had received from her father as a wedding gift to the Cook County Forest Preserve District for development as a zoological garden. The district added 98 acre to that plot and in 1921, the Chicago Zoological Society was established. Serious construction did not begin until 1926, after a zoo tax was approved. Construction slowed during the Great Depression, but regained momentum by late 1931. Construction went on at an increased pace and the zoo opened on July 1, 1934. By the end of September 1934, over one million people had visited the new zoo; the four millionth visitor was just two years later.

The 1950s saw the addition of a veterinary hospital, a children's zoo, and the famous central fountain. The zoo went through a decline in the 1960s until a large bond issue from the Forest Preserve District, close attention to zoo governance and visitor services saw the zoo recreate itself as one of the nation's best. Tropic World, the then-largest indoor zoo exhibit in the world, was designed by French architect Pierre Venoa and opened in three phases (Africa, Asia, and South America) between 1982 and 1984.

In the past decade, the zoo has undergone significant capital upgrades, constructing the Regenstein Wolf Woods, the Hamill Family Play Zoo, butterfly tent, sheltered group catering pavilions, and the largest non-restored, hand-carved, wooden carousel in the United States. Great Bear Wilderness, a new, sprawling habitat, opened in 2010. The interiors of several existing buildings were reconfigured into immersion exhibits, based upon ecosystems rather than by clades; these include The Swamp, the Fragile Rain Forest, Fragile Desert (the Sahara desert of North Africa) the Living Coast (the shores of Chile and Peru), the African Savanna, and Australia House.The Brookfield Zoo is also known for its majestic fountain named after the 26th president of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt. On some days the fountain's spouting water can reach up to 60 feet high.


Perhaps the most famous resident of Brookfield Zoo was Ziggy, a 6.5 ton bull elephant that was kept in an indoor enclosure for nearly thirty years after it attacked its trainer in 1941. Ziggy was originally bought by theater empresario Florenz Ziegfeld as a birthday present for his daughter Patricia, but was given to the zoo after he soon outgrew his pen on the grounds of the Ziegfelds' manor in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York. During the 1960s and 1970s, Ziggy attained a cult following in the Chicago area, and the elephant was finally released in 1970 amid much fanfare. Unfortunately, the elephant fell into his exhibit's moat in March 1975 and died seven months later.

Another well-known Brookfield zoo animal was Olga the Atlantic walrus. She was a favorite of thousands of visitors between 1962 and 1988, entertaining them with her antics. She is remembered by a large bronze statue in the current sea mammal exhibit.

One of the zoo's most well-known current residents is Binti Jua, a female Western lowland gorilla. On August 16, 1996, a young boy fell into the gorilla exhibit of Tropic World, and Binti Jua carefully cradled the boy and brought him to her trainers. The incident received international attention, inspiring a lively debate as to whether Binti Jua's actions were the result of the training she received from her keepers (who had taught her to bring her own baby, Koola, to zoo curators for inspection) or some instinctive sense of animal altruism.

Another current resident of the zoo is Cookie, a Major Mitchell's Cockatoo who has been part of the zoo's collection since the opening in 1934. He was given to Brookfield Zoo when he was one year old. He is now permanently off-exhibit. A much younger current resident is Esmerelda, the only black spider monkey in North America.

Brookfield Zoo lost six of its well-known residents in 2009: Alpha, a female Western lowland gorilla who was 47 years of age, Kaylee, a female Bottlenose Dolphin who was 15 years of age, Affie, a female African Bush Elephant who was 40 years of age, Carver, the oldest southern hairy nosed wombat on record, Carver's daughter, 3-year-old Goldie, and Christy, a 29 year old African Forest Elephant. [1]

Australia House

  • Crested Pigeon
  • Emerald Tree Boa
  • Double-wattled Cassowary
  • Emu
  • Princess Parrot
  • Rodrigues Flying Fox
  • Short-beaked Echidna
  • Southern Hairy-nosed Wombat
  • Western Grey Kangaroo
  • Parma Wallaby
  • Prehensile-tailed Skink
  • Argus Monitor
  • Tawny Frogmouth
  • Kookaburra
  • [3]

Children's Zoo

  • Harris Hawk
  • Great Horned Owl
  • American Kestrel
  • Turkey Vulture
  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • Raccoon
  • Raven
  • Chicken
  • Goat
  • Groundhog
  • Holstein cattle
  • Reindeer
  • Domestic Sheep and more...
  • [4]

Feathers and Scales

  • Andean Condor
  • Blue Poison Dart Frog
  • Double-striped Thick-knee
  • Gambel's Quail
  • Greater Roadrunner
  • Green Aracari
  • Rainbow Boa Constrictor
  • Sungazer
  • [5]

Perching Bird House

  • African Pygmy-falcon
  • Argus monitor
  • Bali Starling
  • Bay-headed Tanager
  • Crested Wood Partridge
  • Green-winged Macaw
  • Micronesian Kingfisher
  • Paradise Tanager
  • Tawny Frogmouth
  • Turquoise Tanager
  • [6]

Fragile Desert

  • African Crested Porcupine
  • Amur Leopard
  • Bat-eared_fox
  • Black-footed Cat
  • Caracal
  • Meerkat
  • Rock Hyrax
  • Sand Cat
  • [7]

Fragile Hunters

  • African Lion
  • Amur Tiger
  • Sloth bear
  • Snow leopard
  • [8]

Fragile Rain Forest

  • Asian Small-clawed Otter
  • Binturong
  • Burmese Python
  • Clouded leopard
  • Fishing Cat
  • Giant African Millipede
  • Naked mole rat
  • Northern Treeshrew
  • [9]

Great Bear Wilderness

  • American bison
  • Bald Eagle
  • Brown bear
  • Polar bear
  • [10]

Habitat Africa! The Forest

  • African Forest Buffalo
  • Giant African Millipede
  • Okapi
  • Red-flanked Duiker
  • Red River Hog
  • Reunion chameleon
  • [11]

Habitat Africa! The Savannah

  • Aardvark
  • African Wild Dog
  • Common Ostrich
  • Klipspringer
  • Reticulated Giraffe
  • Warthog

Hamill Family Play Zoo

  • African Hedgehog
  • Barred Tiger Salamander
  • Mongoose lemur
  • Ring-tailed lemur
  • Blanding's Turtle
  • Musk Turtle
  • Boa Constrictor
  • African Cichlids

Hoofed Animals

  • Addax
  • Bactrian Camel
  • Grant's Zebra
  • Grévy's Zebra

The Living Coast

  • Humboldt Penguins
  • Inca Tern
  • Grey Gull
  • Moray Eel

Pachyderm House

  • Eastern Black Rhinoceros
  • Hippopotamus
  • South American Tapir

Pinniped Point

  • California Sea Lion
  • Harbor seal

Regenstein Wolf Woods

  • Mexican Wolf

Salt Creek Wilderness

  • Trumpeter Swan

Seven Seas

  • Bottlenose Dolphin

The Swamp

  • American alligator
  • Alligator snapping turtle
  • Eastern Screech Owl
  • Little Blue Heron
  • North American River Otter
  • Snowy Egret

Tropic World

  • Asian Small-clawed Otter
  • Bornean orangutan
  • Collared mangabey
  • Cottontop tamarin
  • Eastern black-and-white colobus
  • Giant Anteater
  • Geoffroy's spider monkey
  • Golden lion tamarin
  • Mandrill
  • Northern white-cheeked gibbon
  • Pygmy hippopotamus
  • Sooty mangabey
  • Western lowland gorilla

Former exhibits

  • Bear Grottos - Old home of Brown Bears, Spectacled Bears, and Polar Bears. This exhibit closed when Brown Bears and Polar Bears were moved to the Great Bear Wilderness in 2010.
  • Ibex Island - Home of Siberian Ibex and was replaced by the Great Bear Wilderness's Bison Exhibit.
  • Reptile House - Former home of a majority of the zoo's reptiles. Feathers and Scales became the new home for these animals.
  • Be A Bird - Former home of a majority of the zoo's birds. Feathers and Scales became the new home for these animals.

Special exhibits

Since 2007, Brookfield Zoo has offered seasonal exhibits available from late April through September/October.

  • 2007: Stingray Bay! - Cownose ray and Southern stingray
  • 2008: Sharks! at Stingray Bay! - Cownose ray, Southern stingray, Whitespotted bamboo shark, Nurse shark, and Horseshoe crab
  • 2009: Dinosaurs ALIVE! - 18 animatronic dinosaurs, including Stegosaurus, Triceratops, Pteranodon, and Tyrannosaurus Rex
  • 2010: The return of Stingray Bay! - 20+ cownose rays in an interactive touch pool.
  • 2011: Stingray Bay! - Cownose Rays

Notable staff and programs

Grace Olive Wiley briefly worked as a reptile curator at the zoo in 1935. George B. Rabb was director.

Brookfield has had exceptional success in breeding the sitatunga, a type of antelope; it also bred the world’s first captive-born black rhinoceros (1941) and gray-headed kingfisher (1980), the first okapi born in the United States (1959), and the first wombat born outside Australia (1975).

Brookfield Zoo is right next to the Riverside Brookfield High School and had a program for freshman with the zoo called SEE (School of Environmental Education) team. The SEE Team and many other clubs, activities, and faculty members at RBHS were cut following a failed 2011 referendum.


  • Wood Stork



External links