The Chattanooga Zoo in Tennessee welcomes over 200,000 visitors annually with attendance growing yearly and new exhibits and expansions planned. The history of the Chattanooga Zoo date back to 1900 but a permanent facility was not established until 1937 when a cage was constructed in Warner Park for two Rhesus Monkeys to be displayed for the public.
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By the next decade, the animal collection had increased to include lions, alligators and bobcats as well as a few other species making the zoo one of the most visited attractions in Chattanooga.
In the 1960’s plans were established to create “zooville”, a petting zoo that would offer goats, sheep and other farm animals that visitors could interact with; however, conditions at the zoo began to deteriorate and the country began to see zoos nationwide shift their habitats to a focus on natural environments and conservation efforts.
Public outrage at the conditions of the zoo in the 1980’s forced changes to be made and Friends of the Zoo was formed to help with improvements. Staff is added to the zoo and changes are made to work toward Association of Zoo and Aquariums accreditation. Renovations are initiated and educational programming is put in place. Throughout the 1990’s new animal exhibits are open and AZA accreditation is achieved in 1998. From 2000-2005 massive expansion takes the Chattanooga Zoo from 5 to 12 acres and a $1.9 million renovation and update plan is initiated adding the Gombe Forest, Himalayan Passage, Cougar Express and Warner Park Ranch. From 2006-2010 another expansion increased the zoo by 35% with growth continuing into 2015 when Chattanooga zoo celebrated a record attendance year with 200,352 visitors. This record number was surpassed in 2016 after another renovation and exhibit expansions with more expansions planned for 2017 and beyond.
Chattanooga Zoo is divided into 6 exhibits, Camel Encounters, and the Zoo Entrance.
· Corcovado Jungle- Jaguar, Coati, Capybara
· Gombe Forest- Chimpanzee, Tortoise
· Himalayan Passage- Langur, Red Panda, Snow Leopard
· Warner Park Ranch- Petting Zoo, Alpaca, Dromedary Camel
· Walkin’ The Tracks- White-tail Deer, Coyote, Prairie Dog, Cougar, Bobcat
· Desert and Forest- Reptiles, Aviary, Birthday Party Room
At the Zoo Entrance the Gift Shop, Train Station and Wild Burger restaurant are found.
Tours and Encounters
For an extra special experience at the zoo, visitors can upgrade their admission to include behind the scenes tours or animal encounters.
Tours- Tours are 30-minute guided experiences behind the scenes that include animal meet and greets. Reservations must be made in advance. Visitors can choose from Carnivore Felines, Reptiles, or Primates.
Encounters- An animal encounter is a 30-minute program with exotic animals that allows visitors to hand feed animals, go into their enclosures and get up close and personal with Red Pandas, Meerkats, Fennec Fox, Spider Monkeys, Sloths, Kinkajou, or baby animals.
There are daily scheduled activities that are always included for free with zoo admission and others that will be ticketed.
Animal Shows- Different animals are presented seasonally by keepers for a 30-minute educational show that allows visitors to get up close with animals. These shows are offered on Saturdays and Sundays in the Education Center free of charge.
Keeper Chats- Keepers are available at different animal exhibits throughout the zoo to answer questions and tell interesting facts about the animals at Chattanooga Zoo. Chats are scheduled with keepers available for 15 minutes.
Family Events- There are many different themed family events throughout the year with face painting, balloon artists, animal birthday parties, special animal shows, and many other treats for kids of all ages to enjoy. Details on specific events can be found on the zoo website. These events are free of charge.
Zoo Tales- this story time program is held every Tuesday morning and focuses on animal stories. Story time is followed up with an animal encounter or activity.
Camel Rides- Tickets for camel rides can be purchased at the zoo entrance and are dependent on camel health and weather conditions.
Carousel- The Carousel is a favorite for the young and old and features vintage horses and chariots.
Zoo Choo Train- Grab your tickets and see the zoo in a whole new way. This ride runs daily unless weather is severe.
The Chattanooga Zoo has several opportunities for children to have additional learning. For visitors that cannot come to the zoo, check out the website for details on outreach services to see how animals can be brought outside of the zoo to groups and schools.
Field Trips- There are self-guided and education programs available for field trips that are sampled by grade level. Animals encounter are available for school and homeschool groups as well.
Kits and Cubs- Chattanooga Zoo offers an early childhood program for ages 2-5. Specific dates and series are detailed online.
Camps- Day camps are offered during school breaks for grades k-6.
Zoo Club- An interactive club with monthly meetings for teenagers age 12-17. Scholarships are available.
301 North Holtzclaw Avenue, Chattanooga, Tennessee, 37404, Phone: 423-697-1322