The Central Park Zoo is both the oldest NYC zoo and one of the newest. It had an uncertain beginning about 1861/1862 when the first animal donations, mostly unwanted pets, were made to Central Park employees. Early animals of the menagerie, as it was called, consisted of a black bear, a pair of cows, deer, monkeys, raccoons, foxes, opossums, ducks, swans, pelicans, eagles and parrots. First, they housed the animals in the basement of the Arsenal building and in small cages in the park. The same Arsenal building still exists and is located at 64th Street and 5th Avenue. In the first known formal report of 1873, a much larger collection was reported with exotic species, such as African elephant, giraffe, Cape buffalo, eland, zebra, Malayan tapir, kangaroo, hyena and sloth bear. Some of these were temporarily housed for P.T. Barnum and other circus owners. In 1864, an enclosed space was set aside near the Arsenal to give the animals that were donated a permanent home. All in all, the menagerie was home to many exotic animals, housed next to each other in small cages, and therefore nicknamed a “postage stamp collection”.
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