Central Park Zoo

64th Street and Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10021

212-439-6500

History:

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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