Brookfield Zoo celebrates 75 years

Brookfield Zoo Plans Celebration for Milestone 75 Years of Wildlife Conservation and Leadership July 1
June 30, 2009 To show its gratitude for more than seven decades of community support, the zoo is planning a year-long celebration that includes free admission for children ages 11 and under on June 30 and July 1, presented by Meijer. The 75th anniversary celebration kicks off on Wednesday, July 1 with activities throughout the day.

"For 75 years, Brookfield Zoo has welcomed generations of families as they experience a very special connection with wildlife. Now it's our turn to thank our dedicated supporters for making Brookfield Zoo's 75th anniversary a reason to celebrate," said Stuart D. Strahl, Ph.D., president and CEO of Chicago Zoological Society.

The zoo's July 1 anniversary bash will feature a special ceremony at 1 pm with comments from Strahl, who will share some of the many highlights from the zoo's rich history. Afterwards, guests can join staff in singing "Happy Birthday" to Brookfield Zoo and enjoy a piece of birthday cake courtesy of Meijer, also celebrating its 75th year. Meijer is also providing special treats for some of the animals.

Following the ceremony, the band Tributosaurus will entertain guests on the zoo's East Mall with a musical tribute to the decades. Also, there will be several performances throughout the day by members of the Chicago Cultural Alliance, a consortium of Chicago-area ethnic museums and cultural centers. And, guests can purchase 75 cent hot dogs, 24 ounce fountain cokes, and ice cream novelties at the zoo's restaurants on June 30 and July 1.

In addition, guests can take a piece of the zoo's history home with them by purchasing a copy of Brookfield Zoo and the Chicago Zoological Society, a recently published paperback book that includes images of the zoo from the day it first opened through the present day. The book's authors, Douglas Deuchler and Carla Owens, will be signing copies of the book between 10 am and noon.


A long line of "firsts" has marked the zoo's history, including being one of the first zoos in North America to exhibit animals in barless enclosures. Brookfield Zoo also exhibited the first giant pandas in North America and was the first zoo in the country to have black rhino (1941) and okapi (1959) births. Brookfield Zoo was the site of one of the country's first zoo animal hospitals in 1952. In the mid-1980s, it launched its animal nutrition program, one of only a few zoos in the county with this capacity, by hiring a Ph.D.-trained nutritionist, specializing in exotic animals, to formulate diets for its entire animal collection. The world's first inland dolphinarium was created at

Brookfield Zoo in 1960, and the first immersive rain-forest exhibit—Tropic World—opened in the '80s. The award-winning Hamill Family Play Zoo opened in 2001 and quickly became the model for interactive nature experiences, paving the way for the new discipline of conservation psychology.

Brookfield Zoo has also gained prominence as a center for many conservation programs, spending millions over the last several decades on a wide range of research, from population genetics and animal nutrition to endocrinology, behavioral studies, and ecological restoration. The work of the Chicago Zoological Society has now extended around the world, with long-term research on bottlenose dolphins, western lowland gorillas, African lions, and other species.

Building on that legacy, the zoo has been preparing for its 75th anniversary for the past few years with a series of exhibit renovations and additions, all part of a 15-year Strategic/Master Plan that began in 2004. The year-long celebration will culminate with the opening of Great Bear Wilderness, scheduled to open in spring 2010. The new exhibit will feature iconic creatures from the wilds of North America, including bald eagles, bison, brown bears, polar bears, and Mexican gray wolves. In addition, the zoo recently renovated and expanded its elephant yard, as well as added several guest amenities such as The Carousel and a three-season outdoor venue for private functions.

"This is a very exciting time to be part of Brookfield Zoo," said Strahl. "We were recently honored by being voted the No. 2 zoo in North America by Parents magazine for offering family-friendly experiences that engage children and foster their relationship with animals and nature," said Strahl.

In addition, the Chicago Zoological Society was named one of the recipients of the 2007 National Medal for Museum and Library Service, the nation's highest honor for community service provided by museums and libraries. The annual award, made by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) since 1994, recognizes institutions for outstanding social, educational, environmental, or economic contributions to their communities. Within the last decade, the Society has exponentially expanded its outreach and programming, working with community groups, libraries, schools, and community members, particularly focusing on Chicago's underserved and multi-ethnic neighborhoods.

"The anniversary not only gives us a chance to showcase our achievements in conservation and education, but allows us to look forward as well," Strahl added. "We will not only celebrate the opening of Great Bear Wilderness, we also have strong plans to emphasize continued development of the Center for Conservation Leadership and the Center for the Science of Animal Well-Being—two programs that inspire future leaders to conserve and protect the natural world and promote advancement in animal care and community education. From free after-school programs and career opportunities for students to leadership councils and community-based initiatives, we're dedicated to inspiring the future generations of conservation leaders."

General zoo admission is $12 for adults and $8 for children 3-11 and seniors 65 and older. Children 2 and under are free. Children under 11 will be admitted free during the anniversary celebration on June 30 and July 1 only. Parking is $8. Brookfield Zoo is owned by the Forest Preserve District of Cook County and managed by the Chicago Zoological Society. Its mission is to inspire conservation leadership by connecting people with wildlife and nature. Open every day of the year, Brookfield Zoo is located off First Avenue between the Stevenson (I-55) and Eisenhower (I-290) expressways and is also accessible via the Tri-State Tollway (I-294), Metra commuter line, CTA, and PACE bus service. For further information, visit

Brookfield Zoo Celebrates 75th Year by Featuring New History Book and Inviting Public to Contribute Zoo Photos to On-line Scrapbook

A pictorial book, featuring the 75-year history of Brookfield Zoo, will debut at the zoo with a book signing by the local authors on Wednesday, July 1. "Brookfield Zoo and the Chicago Zoological Society," a newly published paperback book is co-authored by Douglas Deuchler of Oak Park and Carla Owens of Chicago. The book will be available for purchase and signing by the authors between 10 a.m. and noon on the zoo's East Mall during its 75th anniversary celebration. The book sells for $21.99 and is available at the zoo gift shops along with limited-edition "75th Celebration" t-shirts, sweatshirts, mugs, ornaments, and more. In addition, the history book is available at local book stores and on and

From its origins as a gift from Chicago socialite Edith Rockefeller McCormick in the 1920s, Brookfield Zoo has evolved into an internationally celebrated center for conservation, animal care and environmental education. Authors Deuchler, journalist and historian, and Owens, archivist and manager of library services for the Chicago Zoological Society, have chronicled this evolution in captivating prose accompanied by 230 black-and-white historic images of the zoo from its opening day on July 1, 1934, through the present day.

In addition, those interested in learning more about Brookfield Zoo's history can register to attend one of three narrated history tram tours led by Deuchler and Owens, who will also have books available for purchase. The tours include a light continental breakfast at 9:00 a.m. in Bocaditos restaurant, followed by an hour-long narrated tram ride around the zoo's grounds. Tours will be offered on Saturdays, August 22, September 19, and October 3. The cost, which includes admission and parking to the zoo, is $20 for adults, $17.50 for children 3-11 and seniors 65 and older, and $10 for Brookfield Zoo members. For further information and to make a reservation, call (708) 688-8583.

Zoo fans can also be a part of history by contributing their own photographs of past zoo visits to an on-line scrapbook. Contributors to the scrapbook will be entered in a drawing for the chance to win a Wild Encounters package (must be 12 years or older), a one-year family membership, or one of 10 copies of "Brookfield Zoo and the Chicago Zoological Society." The deadline for submitting images is Sunday, August 2. Winners will be selected during a drawing on August 3. To learn more, get official rules, and to submit your photographs visit Select images will be published on the zoo's Web site.

Celebrating its 75th year, Brookfield Zoo is owned by the Forest Preserve District of Cook County and managed by the Chicago Zoological Society. Its mission is to inspire conservation leadership by connecting people with wildlife and nature. Open every day of the year, Brookfield Zoo is located off First Avenue between the Stevenson (I-55) and Eisenhower (I-290) expressways and is also accessible via the Tri-State Tollway (I-294), Metra commuter line, CTA, and PACE bus service. For further information, visit

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