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Community Roots: Selections from the Local Legacies Project
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Baby orangutan at the Toledo Zoo
Baby orangutan resident at the Toledo Zoo Photo courtesy The Toledo Zoo

Toledo Zoo

This cherished Toledo legacy was founded in 1900 with the donation of one small woodchuck to the Toledo Park Superintendent, who placed it in a cage in Walbridge Park. During the zoo's early years, its animal menagerie grew sporadically, relying on individual or circus donations. Today this 62-acre zoo is a cultural cornerstone of northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan. Often referred to as "America's Most Complete Zoo" because of its unique combination of animals, buildings and natural habit styled exhibits, the Toledo Zoo cares for 4,393 animals, representing 712 species. Between 1994 and 1999, attendance reached more than 800,000 each year, topping one million twice.

The evolution of the Toledo Zoo has paralleled, and often led, the changing focus of zoos across the country. The Toledo Zoo also participates with other zoos in programs that protect and breed rare and endangered species. Among the zoo's conservation highlights are the first artificial insemination offspring in chimpanzees; the first reintroduction of a particular reptile species to its native habitat in the Virgin Islands; and the first captive breeding and reintroduction of the Karner blue butterfly. Through the evolution of conservation programs and exhibit development, the Toledo Zoo aims to empower the current and future generations to become active stewards of, and advocates for, the environment.

The zoo continues to use its original six buildings, built in the Spanish Colonial revival style from 1923 to 1939, funded by federal relief projects, including the Works Progress Administration. Its 5,000-seat amphitheater, completed in 1936, continues to provide a venue for summer concerts and theatrical spectacles. The zoo includes a science museum, built in 1938; a botanical conservatory (considered one of the finest Victorian style glass houses in the country); greenhouses; formal gardens; one of the largest fresh and saltwater aquariums at a zoo in the world. Its world-class exhibits include a Hippoquarium, Arctic Encounter, and African Savanna.

Project documentation includes a three-page history, color photographs, a fact sheet, mission statement, and illustrated book documenting the zoo's first 100 years.

Originally submitted by: Marcy Kaptur, Representative (9th District).

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The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.

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