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The Central Park Zoo [Gallery Extra]

Mar 09, 2016 02:10PM ● By Ryan Frisch

The Central Park Zoo was established in the 1860s. It was the first official zoo to open in New York City and the second publicly owned zoo in the country. It was not part of the original concept for Central Park. It simply evolved in the southeast corner of Central Park as a place for the city to contain a few live gifts, namely a bear and several swans.

The zoo moved to its current location, a couple of blocks north, in 1875, after which it remained relatively unchanged for another 60 years. Then in 1934, a number of new buildings were added around a sea lion pool. The animals were housed primarily in cages.

A visit to New York City in 1984 revealed that the Central Park Zoo was closed. A jungle of weeds and vines had overtaken the dilapidated brick buildings and cages. That same year, unbeknownst to me, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) took over the Central Park Zoo as well as all of the city’s other zoos and the New York Aquarium. The WCS immediately embarked on renovating and reinvigorating the Central Park Zoo, but the renaissance took a few years.

When the zoo reopened in 1988, habitat-like enclosures mimicking an animal’s natural environs replaced the cages, and a host of new birds and animals took up residence.

Enjoy the extra photos that didn't make it into the print edition in the gallery extra above.

Story and Photos by Lisa Densmore

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