Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

From Ohio History Central
Colo.jpg
Colo was the first gorilla born in captivity. Colo was born at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium on December 22, 1956.

In 1927, the Columbus Zoological Park opened in Columbus, Ohio. For the next thirteen years, the park maintained a small collection of animals. Beginning in the 1940s, local efforts increased the number of animals dramatically and improved the zoo's facilities. In 1951, the City of Columbus took over operation of the zoo. The zoo made history in 1956, when Colo became the first gorilla to be born in captivity.

Local residents have repeatedly supported the Columbus Zoo. In 1967, 1984, 1990, and 1994, voters approved property tax increases to support the zoo. Local businesses have also donated millions of dollars to finance exhibits and cover operating expenses. This financial support helped the Columbus Zoo become one of the leading zoos in the United States.

In 1978, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium hired Jack Hanna to be its Executive Director. He held the position for the next fourteen years. Hanna transformed the zoo. Attendance grew from approximately 350,000 people in 1978 to 1.4 million visitors in 1992. He eliminated cages and provided animals with more realistic habitats. Hanna also dramatically enhanced the zoo's educational efforts and actively campaigned for more donations to improve the facility further. He regularly appeared on Good Morning America, Late Night with David Letterman, The Maury Povich Show, and Larry King Live, as well as many other programs. Hanna's television appearances made the Columbus Zoo and Hanna himself nationally known. Funding for the zoo dramatically increased and the zoo was assisted in furthering animal conservation and education.

During the 1990s and the first decade of the 2000s, a number of new exhibits opened at the zoo. Among the more notable was Discovery Reef, an authentic representation of a coral reef from the Indian Ocean. In 1999, the Manatee Coast opened and the zoo changed its name to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. Manatee Coast is one of only three sites outside of Florida that provides care and rehabilitation to injured manatees. The Columbus Zoo also expanded the pachyderm facility and opened a Humboldt Penguin habitat. Exhibits entitled Voyage to Australia, Islands of Southeast Asia, and African Forest also were opened to the public.

At the start of the twenty-first century, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium supports over 70 projects in 38 countries and more than one million people visit annually.

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