The Potawatomi Zoo began as a modest duck pond in Leeper Park in the spring of 1902, originally called the South Bend Zoo, it is the oldest zoo in Indiana. The venue saw minimal growth and the location was changed in 1912 when a herd of deer were moved to Potawatomi Park. The new zoo was based out of a house on Wall Street which had been used by the Anti-Tuberculosis League to house TB patients....
In 1970 progress toward the formation of a Zoological Society was in full swing with the help of the Jayshe's. Committees were formed to create the charter, by-laws and structure/mission of the organization. By July 1971 this was accomplished. The original name of the Society was the St. Joseph Valley Friends of the Zoo. Ernest Litweiler was the first Board President, he was a biology teacher at John Adams High School.
The St. Joseph Valley Friends of the Zoo became an integral part of the renovations that took place in the mid 70s that changed the Zoo from a menagerie/collection of animals into a modern zoo with larger spaces for animals.
Potawatomi Zoological Society projects have included the Chimpanzee exhibit (1995), Asian Carnivores (1998), Alligator (1999), the state of the art Veterinary Hospital (2002) - thanks to some very generous donors, the Potawatomi Zoo Train (2004) and the North American River Otter exhibit (2011).
The Potawatomi Zoological Society continues to work with the Zoo to fund exhibits, enrich the lives of the animals and provide funding to educate Zoo staff. Potawatomi Zoo, located in South Bend, is home to over 400 species on 23 acres. The Zoo is a regional destination serving and educating all who visit.
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