Roger Williams Park Zoo

The Roger Williams Park Zoo of Providence, Rhode Island contains more than 150 animals from around the world in natural settings. In 1986, it became the first Zoo in New England to earn accreditation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. It was founded in 1872, and is one of the oldest zoos in the nation.[2]

Roger Williams Park Zoo
Date opened1872,[1] June 1, 1980 (renovated/expanded) [2]
LocationProvidence, Rhode Island, United States
Coordinates41°47′24″N 71°24′59″W / 41.7899°N 71.4163°W / 41.7899; -71.4163Coordinates: 41°47′24″N 71°24′59″W / 41.7899°N 71.4163°W / 41.7899; -71.4163
Land area40 acres
No. of species100+[3]
Annual visitors650,000


The Roger Williams Park Zoo first opened in 1872 as a limited collection of small animals, including raccoons, guinea pigs, mice, squirrels, rabbits, hawks, peacocks, and anteaters. Its first building was the Menagerie which opened in 1890. In the 1900s, the facility began to spread out over the entire park, featuring a variety of animals such as monkeys, hoofstock, bears, and big cats. In 1929, the Menagerie building was converted to a birdhouse; this was followed by the opening of an elephant barn in 1930 (which would later be converted to the Tropical America building). In the 1930s, a new sea lion pool was constructed. Bunny Village opened in 1949, one of the zoo's most popular exhibits.

In the mid-1960s, the zoo started to show signs of neglect. In 1962, Sophie Danforth founded the Rhode Island Zoological Society to increase public awareness of the neglect and to raise funds for improvement, and it remains the organization that supports and manages the Zoo. The Society opened a gift shop and food concessions in 1970, and all funds benefited the zoo.[2] The zoo closed from 1978–80 to undertake an upgrade project. A children's nature center was added, as well as a naturalistic polar bear exhibit, a boardwalk through a wetlands area, and a North American bison exhibit. In the 1980s, a South American Pampas exhibit and a lemur exhibit were built. In 1986, the zoo's old stable/barn - which for many years had been home to the park's workhorses - was converted into an animal hospital, education department, and administrative offices. As a result, the zoo became the first in New England to receive accreditation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.[2]

In 1987, a new master plan was formulated to dramatically expand the zoo. Over time, many new exhibits were built, including a new sea lion exhibit (1987), a humboldt penguin exhibit (1988), Plains of Africa (1991–93), Madagascar (1995), and Marco Polo Trail (1996). In 1989, the old Menagerie building was once again renovated, this time into a new gift shop. A new veterinary hospital opened in the spring of 2011. Hasbro's Our Big Backyard opened in 2012 as an interactive play space, with a second phase completed in 2014 featuring native New England animals. In the summer of 2012, the zoo opened new exhibits for takins, red river hogs, and king vultures.[5]

A new master plan was unveiled in 2015 for the next 20 years. It includes constructing a new rainforest building to be completed in 2018, a new exhibit for California sea lions and Humboldt penguins, a shorebird aviary, and a new tiger habitat. A complete reworking of the North America exhibit will feature grizzly bears, moose, and bighorn sheep.[6][7]

Animals and exhibitsEdit

The zoo is home to more than 150 rare and fascinating animals from around the world. Major exhibits at the zoo include:


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Roger Williams Park Zoo - Providence, Rhode Island - Zoo and Wildlife Conservationists". City-Data. Retrieved August 19, 2010.
  2. ^ a b c d "History of Roger Williams park Zoo". Roger Williams Park Zoo. Retrieved August 19, 2010.
  3. ^ "About Roger Williams park Zoo". Roger Williams Park Zoo. Retrieved August 19, 2010.
  4. ^ "Currently Accredited Zoos and Aquariums". AZA. Retrieved October 27, 2012.
  5. ^ "Zoo abandons plans for polar bear exhibit". NBC 10 News. Archived from the original on April 15, 2012. Retrieved April 4, 2012.
  6. ^ "Plan for Roger Williams Park Zoo includes Rainforest, new animals". NBC 10 News. Retrieved August 3, 2015.
  7. ^ "Master Plan". Roger Williams Park Zoo. Retrieved August 3, 2015.
  8. ^ Hill, John (June 7, 2014). "Elephants remain big draw at Roger Williams Park Zoo". The Providence Journal.
  9. ^ "What We Do: Roger Williams Park Zoo". Robert F. Stoico/FIRSTFED Charitable Foundation.
  10. ^ "Roger Williams Park Zoo". Destination 360.
  11. ^ "Komodo Dragon". RI Public Radio. Retrieved May 19, 2017.

External linksEdit