In 1899, according to their directive to advance wildlife conservation and promote the study of zoology, the Wildlife Conservation Society built the Bronx Zoo in Bronx Park. Located south of New York’s Botanical Gardens, the Bronx Zoo boasts a diverse animal collection and historic, first-of-its-kind naturalistic exhibits, which feature the Bronx River flowing through many of its habitats. Two types of exhibits are available at the zoo, free and premium. The general admission ticket grants access to the free exhibits, while the premium exhibits come at additional cost and must be purchased separately.
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FREE EXHIBITS: ASTOR COURT, THE BISON RANGE, AFRICAN PLAINS, AND MORE
Located at the entrance of the park, Astor Court is nestled between the Fountain Circle, the aviary, and the Zoo Center. The sea lion exhibit, a long-time favorite of the Bronx Zoo since they were acquired as one of the first species in the zoo in 1899, are the centerpiece of Astor Court. Shows and feedings take place at the pool regularly, and for those looking for more feedings to add to their schedule, the Russell B. Aitken Sea Bird Aviary features penguin feedings as well.
The Zoo Center, a castle and one of the oldest fixtures in the zoo, was once home to their elephant exhibit in 1908, but has since held hippopotamus, camels, tapirs, and various rhinoceros and monitor lizard species.
A haven for the national mammal, the Bison Range has been a mainstay of the Bronx Zoo since its opening. In 1905, the zoo’s first director worked with Theodore Roosevelt to establish a plan to conserve the then nearly extinct American bison. Today, descendants of the first herd created by the conservation effort still roam the Bison Range, located in the northeast corner of the zoo. The Bronx Zoo’s bison herd is one of the few large herds kept in zoos in America.
Established in 1941, the African Plains exhibit transports zoo visitors to the savannah to see lions, zebras, and wild dogs roam. Engineered to connect the visitor to the exhibits in a naturalistic setting, the exhibit was one of the first to use a series of deep moats to separate the animals from the visitors, leaving the large predators to wander the rocks, water, and trees in their surroundings, completely cage-free.
Other free exhibits include the World of Birds and the World of Lizards, exhibits dedicated to their chosen animal, the Himalayan Highlands with their signature snow leopards, the Big Bears exhibit, the Baboon Reserve, and the award-winning Tiger Mountain.
PREMIUM EXHIBITS: THE CHILDREN’S ZOO, JUNGLEWORLD AND THE WILD ASIA MONORAIL, AND OTHER ATTRACTIONS
The Children’s Zoo, located just past the Zoo Center, opened in 1941 and has since undergone several renovations. Featuring a farmyard petting zoo with goats, sheep, and donkeys, the Children’s Zoo invites younger guests to interact with animals, fostering a relationship with wildlife for years to come. The Children’s Zoo also features more exotic animals such as anteaters, sloths, prairie dogs, and alpacas.
Like the African Plains exhibit, Jungle World and the Wild Asia Monorail, both located at the west end of the zoo, advance the Bronx Zoo’s goal: To create a more naturalistic environment that both the animals and visitors can enjoy. In Jungle World, the indoor portion of the exhibit, the animals are enclosed by the landscaping, eliminating the need for bars or physical enclosures. Galleries and exhibits scattered around the structure emphasize the importance of conservation and the disappearing forests of the world. The Wild Asia Monorail ride is a tour of the enclosure-free Asian wildlife section of the zoo, a development along the Bronx River that simulates the natural habitat of the animals’ native Asian environments.
The Butterfly Garden is a photo opportunity-friendly butterfly conservatory near the heart of the zoo. A large plastic and aluminum structure, this translucent building scatters displays on the life cycle of the monarch butterfly around its mazelike interior and invites guests to explore and discover the dozens of butterfly species hovering around their heads and in nectar trays.
Home to over 20 lowland gorillas, the Congo Gorilla Forest offers visitors a chance to walk through their rainforest exhibit to get a personal look at the complex personalities that comprise a gorilla troop. The forest is also home to several other varieties of wildlife that roam the rainforest, simian and otherwise.
Other exhibits that do not feature live animals but still draw a large visitor base are the Bug Carousel next to the West Shuttle Station and the 4-D Theatre, which shows fully immersive 3-D movies with practical effects. The shows feature the characters from popular animated movies such as Ice Age and Rio.
2300 Southern Boulevard, Bronx, New York 10460, website, Phone: 718-220-5100