Learn about the interactive experience that the Phoenix Zoo offers, as well as its history, exhibits and conservation efforts.
The Phoenix Zoo in Arizona is the largest private, nonprofit zoo in the United States. The entire zoo is divided into four distinctive trails: the Arizona Trail, the Africa Trail, the Children's Trail and the Tropics Trail. The Phoenix Zoo strives to give its visitors an interactive zoo experience rather than a distant look-through-the-glass experience. According to the Scottsdale Convention and Visitors Bureau, the zoo's Monkey Village is the only monkey exhibit in the country that allows visitors to walk among the animals.
The Phoenix Zoo's official Web site publishes a detailed map of the zoo, which houses more than 1,300 animals -- from African lions to desert tortoises. The zoo also has camel rides, a carousel, a petting zoo area and a wild adventure zone where visitors can climb coconut trees and a rock wall.
The Phoenix Zoo was the vision of one man, Robert E. Maytag, a member of the famous appliance family. Maytag rallied support for the zoo within his community and, with the help of friends, established the Arizona Zoological Society -- whose goal was to establish a zoo in the city. Unfortunately, Maytag did not live to see his vision become a reality. He passed away suddenly six months before the opening of the zoo in 1963. The zoo was originally called the "Maytag Zoo" in his honor, but at the request of his family, who felt the zoo belonged to the community, the name was changed to the Phoenix Zoo.
Because the Phoenix Zoo is private, it does not receive funding from the government. The zoo struggled during its first few years but became prosperous by the 1970s. Renovations took place during this decade and more than a dozen new exhibits were added.
Over the years, the Phoenix Zoo has continued to grow and change. In 1985, the zoo added a new entranceway. The following year, the zoo opened the African Savanna, and it opened a new children's zoo in 1987. Around the same time, the zoo added two new attractions: Baboon Kingdom and the Tropical Flights aviary. In 1997, the zoo opened its Forest of Uco, a dense one-mile rainforest in which visitors can see spectacled bears.
The zoo suffered a heartbreaking loss in 1998 when its beloved Ruby, a 25-year-old painting elephant, died from complications during a cesarean delivery. More than 40,000 visitors went to the zoo on Veteran's Day to attend a tribute to Ruby.
In 2004, the zoo opened its famous Monkey Village, in which visitors walk through an exhibit inhabited by spider monkeys. Future plans include additional exhibits for children.
Dedicated to the conservation and preservation of endangered species, the Phoenix Zoo has received international recognition for its efforts, which include the preservation of desert fish. On the grounds of the Phoenix Zoo are artificial lakes that once functioned as bass hatcheries. In 1995, the lakes became part of a collaborative project to preserve endangered native fish, such as bonytail chub and razorback sucker, according to the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment.
The Phoenix Zoo has also been involved in the preservation of other endangered species, including the thick-billed parrot, Sumatran tiger and black-footed ferret. The zoo has been lauded for its preservation of the Arabian Oryx, a medium-sized antelope, which was once almost extinct. Thanks to the zoo's efforts, there are now 1,500 of these animals in the world. The Phoenix Zoo's Grand Canyon Recovery project aids in the restoration of the Mexican gray wolf to the Grand Canyon region. The Phoenix Zoo breeds wolves at the zoo and releases their offspring into the wild.
Parents.com listed the Phoenix Zoo on its "10 Best Zoos for Kids." The Phoenix Zoo makes every effort to be child-friendly. It serves milk and other healthy food choices, operates a wilderness night camp for families and has interactive exhibits for children, including the Enchanted Forest exhibit for children ages 5 and under to explore. Older children can explore Forest of Uco, an interactive rainforest replication.
The Phoenix Zoo is open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. from January 12 through May 31. From June 1 through September 30, its hours of operation are 7:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on weekdays and 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on weekends. Admission is $16 for adults, $7 for children ages 3 to 12 and $11 for seniors ages 60 and older.
For the most recent updates on the zoo's hours and admissions, visit the Phoenix Zoo official Web site.