Oregon Zoo

Oregon Zoo
Oregon Zoo

The Oregon Zoo has the world's most successful elephant breeding program. Here are the females in the herd (from left to right): Chendra, Shine, Rose-Tu. Chendra is the only Borneo Elephant in the United States, and Rose-Tu is the only surviving American-born elephant twin.
Date opened 1887
Location Washington Park, Portland, Oregon, USA
Land area 64 acres (26 ha)
Coordinates 45°30′30″N 122°42′53″W / 45.50833°N 122.71472°W / 45.50833; -122.71472Coordinates: 45°30′30″N 122°42′53″W / 45.50833°N 122.71472°W / 45.50833; -122.71472
Number of animals 2,200[1]
Number of species 260[1]
Memberships AZA[2]
Major exhibits The Great Northwest, Predators of the Serengeti, Africa Rainforest, Steller Cove
Website www.oregonzoo.org

The Oregon Zoo, formerly the Washington Park Zoo,[3][4] is a zoo in Portland, the largest city in the U.S. state of Oregon. Located 2 miles (3.2 km) southwest of Downtown Portland, the zoo is inside Portland's Washington Park, and includes a narrow-gauge railway that connects to the International Rose Test Garden inside the park. Opened in 1887 after a private animal collector donated his animals to the City of Portland, the 64 acres (26 ha) zoo is now owned by the regional Metro government.

A member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, it has successful breeding programs for California Condors and Asian elephants.[5] The zoo also boasts an extensive plant collection throughout its animal exhibits and specialized gardens.[6] During the summer it is host to a concert series, and in the winter produces a holiday light show viewed from the train. The Oregon Zoo is Oregon's largest paid attraction, with more than 1.6 million visitors in 2008 to 2009.[7]



The Oregon Zoo was founded in 1888, making it the oldest North American zoo west of the Mississippi.[3] It all began with two bears purchased by Richard Knight, one brown bear and one grizzly.[8][9] A former seaman turned pharmacist, Knight began collecting animals from his seafaring friends. He kept his collection in the back of his drug store on Third & Morrison streets. When caring for the animals became too large a responsibility he sought to sell them to the city of Portland. Instead of buying the animals, the city offered to give Knight two circus cages and allowed him to place the caged bears on the grounds of City Park (now called Washington Park).[8]

Care and feeding of the bears, however, still fell to the Knight family and friends. It wasn't long before Knight addressed the city council again regarding the bears. Just five months later, he offered to donate the bears, along with their cages, to the city. Portland City Council accepted his offer[8] on November 7, 1888, and thus began the Portland Zoo. Located in Washington Park, it was sometimes referred to as the Washington Park Zoo.[10][11]

By 1894 there were over 300 animals in the zoo’s collection. In 1925, the zoo moved to the site of the present Portland Japanese Garden, still within Washington Park.

The zoo moved again in 1958–59 to its current site, designed by Lawrence, Tucker & Wallmann.[12] This was located in Hoyt Park, west of Washington Park,[13] but some years later the two parks were combined as Washington Park. At this time, Portland Zoo Railway was constructed to connect the zoo to its former site in Washington Park and other attractions there. The zoo's move to the new, much larger site was made in stages, over more than a year, with the first animals being moved in spring 1958 and limited public access being opened in June 1958, one day after the first section of the Zoo Railway opened.[14] During the transition period the new zoo was only open on weekends, as most animals were still at the old site awaiting completion of their new enclosures.[15] However, the new railway operated six days a week until mid-September. Meanwhile, the old zoo remained in operation, but in May 1959 was restricted to pedestrian access only, closed to automobile access, for its last months of operation.[16]

The zoo at its current site opened on July 3, 1959.[17] It was renamed the Portland Zoological Gardens at that time,[3] but remained commonly known as the Portland Zoo. The elephants and big cats were not moved to the new zoo until November.[18][19] A new interchange was constructed on the adjacent freeway, the Sunset Highway, for better access to the new zoo.[20]

The zoo became popular locally in 1953, when Rosy the Asian elephant was acquired. The zoo became world-famous in 1962 when the Asian elephant "Packy" was born. He was the first elephant born in the western hemisphere in 44 years and is (as of 2010) the tallest Asian elephant in the United States at 10.5 ft (3.2 m) tall. A total of 28 more calves have been born at the Oregon Zoo, including seven sired by Packy (two of which still live with him), making it the most successful zoo elephant breeding program in the world. On August 23, 2008, Rose-Tu, the granddaughter of the zoo's first elephant Rosy, gave birth to a son named Samudra. This makes Samudra the first third generation captive born elephant in North America.[21]

Until 1971, the zoo was operated by the City, and then by the Portland Zoological Society under contract to the City.[22][23][3] In 1976, area voters approved a tax levy plan under which the zoo was taken over by the Metropolitan Service District (or MSD, now known as Metro).[24] Ownership of the zoo passed to Metro on July 1, 1976. Metro has continued expansion projects, aided by donors, sponsors and volunteers.[3]

Later in 1976, MSD renamed the zoo the Washington Park Zoo after a naming contest.[3][11] The railway was renamed the Washington Park and Zoo Railway two years later.

The Metro Council changed the zoo's name from the Washington Park Zoo to the Oregon Zoo in April 1998.[4] In September of that year, the zoo became accessible by the region's MAX light rail system, with the opening of a Westside MAX line featuring an underground Washington Park station.[25] In 2003, the zoo began participation in a California condor recovery program started by San Diego Wild Animal Park and Los Angeles Zoo. The program is designed to breed California condors to be released into the wild and save them from extinction.[26]

In November 2008 regional voters approved a $125 million bond measure to improve infrastructure, enhance older exhibits and increase access to conservation education and the degree of sustainability.[27] Attendance at the zoo reached a record 1.6 million visitors for their 2008 to 2009 year.[7] The record was due in part to the birth of another baby elephant.[7] A new record was set the following year with 1,612,359 people visiting the zoo.[28]


Africa Rainforest

Opened in 1991, the Africa Rainforest exhibit covers 1.3 acres (5,300 m2) and was built at a cost of $4.3 million.[29] In addition to animals, the exhibit includes artwork and the Kongo Ranger Station, a mock up of a safari expedition.[29] Animals in the exhibit include Rodriguez Fruit Bats, Straw-Colored Fruit Bats, Egyptian Fruit Bats, King Colobus Monkey, Allen's Swamp Monkey, Red Flanked Duiker, Hadada Ibis, Saddle-billed Stork, White-Faced Whistling Ducks, Slender-snouted Crocodile, Nile Monitor Lizard, Lungfish, Cichlids, and Hooded Vultures.[29]

Africa Savanna

The Africa Savanna exhibit opened in April 1989 and is 4 acres (16,000 m2) in size.[30] This exhibit includes animals typical of East Africa and includes an aviary and areas for large mammals.[30] These include Black Rhinoceros, De Brazza's Monkey, Hippopotamus, Naked Mole-Rat, Reticulated Giraffe, Gerenuk, Egyptian Spiny Mouse, Damara Zebra, Speke's Gazelle, Southern Ground Hornbill, Weaver Birds, Marabou Storks, Cape Thick-Knee, Red-crested Turaco, Hamerkop, Buffalo Weaver, Hingeback Tortoises, Meerkat, and Spiny-Tailed Lizards.[30]

Predators of the Serengeti

Predators of the Serengeti, which opened in September 2009, covers 2.5-acre (10,000 m2) and cost $6.8 million to build.[5][31] It is located on the site of the former Alaska Tundra exhibit, with some of the animals from the Alaska exhibit moved to other locations inside the zoo, such as the wolf exhibit.[citation needed] Animals in the Serengeti exhibit include Lions, Cheetahs, African Wild Dogs, Caracals, Scorpions, Chameleons, Nile crocodiles, Dwarf mongoose, red-billed hornbill, and African Rock Python.[31] The zoo previously had lions, but closed the exhibit in 1998 and converted the area into Steller Cove.[5] The three new lions come from zoos in Virginia and Wisconsin.[5]

Amazon Flooded Forest

This exhibit opened in September, 2001. It simulates the Amazonian basin during its seasonal floods. Visitors can view the flooded environment from either above or below the water. Animals in the exhibit include Pygmy Marmoset, Green Iguana, Golden Lion Tamarin, Ocelot, Agouti, Black Howler Monkey, Pale-Faced Saki Monkey, Brazilian Cockroach, Arrau Turtle, Red-handed Tamarin, Blue Poison Dart Frog, Dwarf Caiman, Emerald Tree Boa, Yellow-banded Poison Dart, Cardinal Tetra, Heckel Discus, Orange Spot, Pacu, Arawana, Plecostomus, Green Anacondas, and Green and Black Poison Dart Frog[32]

Asian Elephants

Packy (left) and Rose-Tu, two Asian elephants at the Oregon Zoo

Three female (Sung-Surin "Shine", Rose-Tu, Chendra) and four male (Packy, Rama, Tusko, Samudra "Sam") Asian elephants are displayed at the popular elephant exhibit. All were born at the zoo, except Chendra and Tusko, who were born in the wild. Chendra is the only Borneo Elephant in the United States. The exhibit is currently 1.5 acres (6,100 m2), but there are plans to expand it to 6 acres (24,000 m2) under the 2008 bond measure. On August 23, 2008, Rose-Tu and Tusko gave birth to Samudra, who is also the first third-generation elephant born in the United States. There is a swimming hole in which up to ten elephants can simultaneously completely submerge, sandy ground for comfortable walking and a scratching station, which the elephants often choose to scratch their head, sides, belly, etc.[33]

The Lilah Callen Holden Elephant Museum is a collection of historical, religious, and sociological artifacts including some on long term loan from the Smithsonian, such as an 8 foot (2.4 m) tall mastodon skeleton. The museum also contains original artwork by Henry Moore and Salvador Dalí.[34]


Polar Bear (Ursus maritimus) slumbers during winter

There are eight bears in three separate bear exhibits. Two Polar Bears (Ursus maritimus) are located in an exhibit that is designed to mimic the area near Hudson Bay in Canada.[35] One female, Tasul, and her brother named Conrad, are easily viewed. The exhibit previously had another female, Yugyan, but she was euthanized in August 2008 due to kidney failure. The exhibit opened in 1986 and has two pools of water for the animals, one for winter and one for summer.[35] There are two Malaysian sun bears (Helarctos malayanus) in a tropical forest environment simulated in part with heat producing artificial trees. Both bears are females, named Vivian and Jody.[35] The Great Northwest exhibit's Black Bear Ridge has four black bears added in April 2010 after the previous three had been euthanized for health reasons.[36]


This exhibit has fake animatronic animals from the prehistoric world. Called DINOSAURS! sponsored by Wells Fargo, it was open from May to September 2008. The dinosaurs were Parasaurolophus, Megalosaurus, Dilophosaurus, Pachycephalosaurus, Rhamphorhynchus (not a dinosaur), Brachiosaurus, Stegosaurus, Triceratops, Apatosaurus, Tyrannosaurus, Compsognathus, Deinonychus and Iguanodon and also includes a map of the timeline, baby dinosaurs, a dig site, a fossil to make the fossils back together and toys in the Elephant Museum.

In 2010 the zoo opened a new exhibit with new dinosaurs, called Prehistoric Predators. The dinosaurs featured were Edmontosaurus, Baryonyx, Styracosaurus, Troodon, Dilophosaurus (returning and also having a juvenile), Therizinosaurus, Allosaurus, Quetzalcoatlus (not a dinosaur), Sarcosuchus (not a dinosaur), Cryolophosaurus, Rugops, Kentrosaurus, Deltadromeus, Giganotosaurus, Brachiosaurus (returning but in a new spot), Carnotaurus, and Amargasaurus. The exhibit also has a dig site, with fossil parts of various dinosaurs, and dinosaur toys are available in the Elephant Museum.

Great Northwest

This exhibit includes wildlife from the western portions of the Pacific Northwest, and has eight areas: Black Bear Ridge, Eagle Canyon, Cascade Stream and Pond, Cougar Crossing, Elk Meadow, Cascade Crest, Trillium Creek Family Farm, and Steller Cove.[37] Cascade Canyon Trail connects each of the exhibits, except Steller Cove, and includes a suspension bridge that offers views of Black Bear Ridge.[38]

The Cascade Stream and Pond portion is the oldest of these exhibits, which opened in 1982 and features beavers, North American river otters, Ring-tailed Cats, egrets, and herons.[39] Elk Meadow opened in 1993 originally with only elk.[40] Wolves were added to the 1.9-acre (0.77 ha) exhibit in 2007.[40] The only animals on display are Gray wolf and Roosevelt Elk.[40] Opened in 1998, Cascade Crest is a mountain-like exhibit made mostly of basalt and features a snow cave, cirque lake, and twisted alpine trees. The 10,920 square feet (1,015 m2) exhibit cost $11.6 million and is located near the entrance to the zoo.[41] The only animals are mountain goats.[41] Black Bear Ridge is the next exhibit along the Cascade Canyon Trail.[38] The $2 million area opened in 2007 and has two Bobcats.[42] The exhibit had three American Black Bears, but all three were euthanized in 2009 due to various causes. The zoo acquired four new bears from a Utah zoo.

Duncan, a Shetland sheep at the farm

Eagle Canyon is the next exhibit along the trail and has two Bald eagles along with Coho salmon in a stream.[43] This 20,800-square-foot (1,930 m2) area opened in 2004.[43] Cougar Crossing comes after Eagle Canyon and features three cougars in a 4,260-square-foot (396 m2) facility that opened in 2006.[44] The last area along the Cascade Canyon Trail is the Trillium Creek Family Farm. Opened in 2004 at a cost of $1 million, animals are presented by high school students who also explain local farming historical trends, technology, and demonstrate related activities such as composting, shearing, and agriculture.[45] A variety of domestic animals such as Dexter cattle, Shetland sheep, Guinea Hogs, Pygora Goats, Araucana chickens, Runner ducks, and Domestic rabbits are part of the farm's exhibits. The final area of the Great Northwest Exhibit is the Steller Cove which features animals and plants from the Oregon Coast.[46] The $11 million exhibit opened in 2000 and includes a tide pool and kelp forest populated with Steller Sea Lions, (Eumetopias jubatus), Sea Otters (Enhydra lutris), Sea Anemones, Chiton, Limpet, Snail, Mussel, Crab, Sea Cucumber, Urchin, Sea Star, Sculpin, Goby, Painted greenling, and Gunnel.[46]

Other exhibits

Amur Leopard in the feline area

The zoo also has areas with Humboldt penguins, Inca terns, Lories and Lorikeets, and the Insect Zoo Hut. Other exhibits include the Cats of the Amur Region which houses Amur Leopards and Amur Tigers.[47] The Primate Exhibit features Chimpanzees, Orangutans, White-Cheeked Gibbons, Mandrills, Siamangs, Tree Shrews, Burmese Pythons, Ring-tailed Lemurs L'Hoest's Monkeys and Francois' Langurs. Red Ape Reserve opened September 3, 2010. It is an indoor/outdoor exhibit housing both orangutans and white cheeked gibbons. There are two species of endangered wild pigs in the Asian Pigs exhibit: Babirusas and Visayan Warty Pigs. A tree-kangaroo exhibits endangered Matschie's Tree-kangaroos.

Other attractions

Where in the Zoo is Carmen Sandiego

In the late 1990s, the Metro Washington Park Zoo, (now the Oregon Zoo), in conjunction with Brøderbund, ran a summer-long event titled Where in the Zoo is Carmen Sandiego?,[48] which functioned as a full-immersion live-action Carmen game in which zoo patrons were the investigating detectives. This was a pioneering example of Alternate Reality Gaming. Actors were hired to play Carmen's henchmen, who could be found around the zoo, and on occasions a costumed Carmen appeared, as well, but never in a location where patrons could interact with her. Clues were given out at various stations by members of the ZooTeens volunteer group.

Nearby attractions

The zoo is located at the southern boundary of Washington Park, which is also the home of Portland Children's Museum, World Forestry Center, Oregon Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and Hoyt Arboretum. An adjacent trail system connects the zoo to the International Rose Test Garden, the Portland Japanese Garden, and Forest Park.


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  2. ^ "List of Accredited Zoos and Aquariums". aza.org. AZA. http://www.aza.org/current-accreditation-list/. Retrieved 13 August 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f "Oregon Zoo History". About. Oregon Zoo. http://www.oregonzoo.org/AboutZoo/justthefacts.htm. Retrieved 2010-01-19. 
  4. ^ a b "Portland's zoo is now named Oregon Zoo". The Oregonian. April 25, 1998. 
  5. ^ a b c d Meunier, Andre (September 10, 2009). "The zoo's $6.8 million exhibit, which houses three lions, keeps the roar alive". The Oregonian. http://www.oregonlive.com/environment/index.ssf/2009/09/the_zoos_68_million_exhibit_wh.html. Retrieved 2009-09-23. 
  6. ^ "Oregon Zoo Gardens". Oregon Zoo. http://www.oregonzoo.org/Exhibits/Gardens/index.htm. 
  7. ^ a b c LaMarche, Bill (July 1, 2009). "Oregon Zoo's Baby Elephant Helps Smash Attendance Records". Zoo and Aquarium Visitor. http://www.zandavisitor.com/newsarticle-1741-Oregon_Zoo%27s_Baby_Elephant_Helps_Smash_Attendance_Records. Retrieved 2009-09-24. 
  8. ^ a b c Goodall, Mary (March 16, 1958). "‘Patron Saint’ of Portland's Zoo Collected Animals, Birds at Drug Store Near Waterfront". The Sunday Oregonian, p. 41.
  9. ^ "More Attractions for the Menagerie: Two Bears to be Added to the Free Show on Morrison Street". The Morning Oregonian, May 17, 1888, p. 8.
  10. ^ "Dock Boss Finds Office Occupied by Young Deer: Washington Park Zoo in Line for Another Pet, but Loses Out by Very Narrowest of Margins". The Morning Oregonian, June 28, 1928, p. 16.
  11. ^ a b "Zoo contest prize taken by old name." The Oregonian, October 2, 1976, p. 1.
  12. ^ Snyder, Eugene E. (1991). Portland Potpourri. Portland, Oregon: Binford & Mort. pp. 73–79. ISBN 083230493X. 
  13. ^ Holm, Don (April 12, 1964). "Pittock Estate Needed to Complete Wondrous Park System". The Oregonian, pp. 40–41.
  14. ^ "Many See Zoo, Train". The Oregonian, June 9, 1958, p. 15.
  15. ^ "Russian Bears Inspect New Home at Zoo". The Oregonian, August 8, 1958, p. 26.
  16. ^ "Zoo Opening Pushed Back 2 to 4 Weeks". The Oregonian, May 27, 1959, p. 1.
  17. ^ Richards, Leverett G. (July 4, 1959). "Joy Reigns Supreme at West Hills Zoo As Wonders of New Park Are Unveiled". The Oregonian, p. 1.
  18. ^ "Balky Elephants Moved By Force to New Home". The Oregonian, November 4, 1959, p. 14.
  19. ^ "Move to New Zoo Set for Big Cats". The Oregonian, November 10, 1959, p. 19.
  20. ^ "Road to Open to New Zoo". The Oregonian, October 10, 1959, p. 5.
  21. ^ "Free the elephants! Problems plague the Oregon Zoo's pachyderms". Willamette Week. http://www.wweek.com/story.php?story=3107. 
  22. ^ Sullivan, Ann (July 2, 1971). "Zoo's new director stresses education". The Oregonian, p. 26.
  23. ^ "Change at zoo". The Oregonian, October 21, 1978, p. A22. Editorial.
  24. ^ "Zoo plans expansion following levy approval". The Oregonian, May 27, 1976, p. C3.
  25. ^ "Go west, young MAX" (September 9, 1998). The Oregonian (special section).
  26. ^ "Condor egg could herald return of giant". CNN. 2007-04-03. http://www.cnn.com/2007/TECH/science/04/03/condor.egg.ap/index.html. [dead link]
  27. ^ Siemers, Erik (November 14, 2008). "PCC, Zoo expect to face more robust bond market". Portland Business Journal. http://wichita.bizjournals.com/wichita/othercities/portland/stories/2008/11/17/story10.html. Retrieved 2009-09-24. 
  28. ^ "Despite economy, Oregon Zoo sets attendance record with more than 1.6 million visitors". The Oregonian. January 7, 2010. http://www.oregonlive.com/environment/index.ssf/2010/01/despite_economy_oregon_zoo_set.html. Retrieved 12 January 2010. 
  29. ^ a b c "Africa Rain Forest Exhibit". Exhibits. Oregon Zoo. http://www.oregonzoo.org/Exhibits/afrainforest.htm. Retrieved 2009-09-23. 
  30. ^ a b c "Africa Savanna Exhibit". Exhibits. Oregon Zoo. http://www.oregonzoo.org/Exhibits/afsavanna.htm. Retrieved 2009-09-23. 
  31. ^ a b "Predators of the Serengeti". Exhibits. Oregon Zoo. http://www.oregonzoo.org/Exhibits/PredatorsOfSerengeti/index.htm. Retrieved 2009-09-23. 
  32. ^ "Amazon Flooded Forest". Exhibits. Oregon Zoo. http://www.oregonzoo.org/Exhibits/amazon.htm. 
  33. ^ "Oregon Zoo Elephant Exhibit". http://www.oregonzoo.org/Exhibits/elephant.htm. Retrieved 2008-09-13. 
  34. ^ "Oregon Zoo Animals—Elephant Museum". http://www.oregonzoo.org/Cards/Elephants/elephant.museum.htm. Retrieved 2008-09-13. 
  35. ^ a b c "Bear Exhibit". Exhibits. Oregon Zoo. http://www.oregonzoo.org/Exhibits/bears.htm. Retrieved 2009-09-24. 
  36. ^ Muldoon, Katy (April 29, 2010). "Three black bears find a home at the Oregon Zoo". The Oregonian. http://www.oregonlive.com/news/index.ssf/2010/04/three_black_bears_find_a_home.html. Retrieved 29 April 2010. 
  37. ^ "The Great Northwest Exhibit". Exhibits. Oregon Zoo. http://www.oregonzoo.org/Exhibits/GreatNW/main.htm. Retrieved 2009-09-24. 
  38. ^ a b "Cascade Canyon Trail Exhibit". Great Northwest Exhibit. Oregon Zoo. http://www.oregonzoo.org/Exhibits/GreatNW/cascadecanyon.htm. Retrieved 2009-09-24. 
  39. ^ "Cascade Stream and Pond". Great Northwest Exhibit. Oregon Zoo. http://www.oregonzoo.org/Exhibits/GreatNW/cascade_stream.htm. Retrieved 2009-09-24. 
  40. ^ a b c "Elk Meadow Exhibit". Great Northwest Exhibit. Oregon Zoo. http://www.oregonzoo.org/Exhibits/GreatNW/elk_meadow.htm. Retrieved 2009-09-24. 
  41. ^ a b "Cascade Crest Exhibit". Great Northwest Exhibit. Oregon Zoo. http://www.oregonzoo.org/Exhibits/GreatNW/cascade_crest.htm. Retrieved 2009-09-24. 
  42. ^ "Black Bear Ridge Exhibit". Great Northwest Exhibit. Oregon Zoo. http://www.oregonzoo.org/Exhibits/GreatNW/BlackBearRidge/index.htm. Retrieved 2009-09-24. 
  43. ^ a b "Eagle Canyon Exhibit". Great Northwest Exhibit. Oregon Zoo. http://www.oregonzoo.org/Exhibits/GreatNW/EagleCanyon/index.htm. Retrieved 2009-09-24. 
  44. ^ "Cougar Crossing Exhibit". Great Northwest Exhibit. Oregon Zoo. http://www.oregonzoo.org/Exhibits/GreatNW/CougarCrossing/index.htm. Retrieved 2009-09-24. 
  45. ^ "Trillium Creek Family Farm". Great Northwest Exhibit. Oregon Zoo. http://www.oregonzoo.org/Exhibits/GreatNW/trillium.htm. Retrieved 2009-09-24. 
  46. ^ a b "Steller Cove Exhibit". Great Northwest Exhibit. Oregon Zoo. http://www.oregonzoo.org/Exhibits/GreatNW/StellerCove/main.htm. Retrieved 2009-09-24. 
  47. ^ "Cats of the Amur Region". Exhibits. Oregon Zoo. http://www.oregonzoo.org/Exhibits/amurcats.htm. Retrieved 2009-09-24. 
  48. ^ Young People's Theatre Project

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