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.
|Date opened||1872, June 1, 1980 (renovated/expanded) |
|Location||Providence, Rhode Island, United States|
|Land area||40 acres|
|No. of species||100+|
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. 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.
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.
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.
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:
- Alex and Ani Farmyard: opened in 2014. It serves as a petting zoo where visitors can feed the animals food provided by the zoo. It primarily features domesticated fauna such as Shetland sheep, alpacas, chickens, and a miniature donkey. It also features wildlife closely associated with farmland, such as barn owls. Interactive stations meant to mimic life on a farm are sponsored by the local businesses Munroe Dairy, Little Rhody Farms, and Bank RI.
- Fabric of Africa: opened in April 1991, expanded in 1993, and renovated in 2008. It is the exhibit closest to the zoo's entrance. It features species indigenous to Africa, including Grant's zebras, wildebeests, black crowned cranes, red river hogs, aoudads, cheetahs, and African wild dogs. It also contains Jambo Junction.
- Jambo Junction: features Masai giraffes and African bush elephants. Visitors can be learn more about how the zoo cares for these large animals in the Elephant & Giraffe Pavilion, an indoor component of Jambo Junction. It is the only zoo in New England that contains African elephants, which occupy a 13,500 sq. ft. (1,254.191 sq. meters) enclosure. Though the three elephants they have are all females, the zoo plans to acquire a male in the near future so that they may breed. The Fabric of Africa was renovated in 2008 to revamp Jambo Junction, specifically to better accommodate the elephants. Jambo Junction is sponsored by the Robert F. Stoico/FIRSTFED Charitable Foundation and Textron.
- Marco Polo's Adventure Trek: opened in 1996. It is one of two areas to focus on animals from Asia. It features fauna encountered (or likely to have been encountered) by the explorer Marco Polo, including dromedary camels, moon bears, snow leopards, Sichuan takins, red-crowned cranes, and red pandas.
- North America: features harbor seals, bald eagles, American bison, pronghorns, red wolves, North American river otters, and more. The harbor seals can be viewed through an underwater window.
- Our Big Backyard: an interact live play space for children and families. It promotes outdoor, free-ended play. The playspace is funded by the toy company Hasbro and the pharmaceutical company CVS Health.
- Wetlands Trail: a walk through area that reflects the natural wetland environments of Rhode Island, which are becoming increasingly rarer as the state continues to be urbanized. All wildlife is indigenous to Rhode Island, and while the animals are protected by the zoo they are not the property of them. It is known to feature great blue herons, Canada geese, wood ducks, and several species of turtle and freshwater fish. The trail is sponsored by the Feinstein Junior Scholar through the local Feinstein Foundation.
- World of Adaptations (formerly Australasia): it features animals from Southeast Asia and Oceania, including northern white-cheeked gibbons, Matschie's tree kangaroos, babirusas, binturongs, the highly endangered bali mynah and the first Komodo dragon in New England. 
- Faces Of The Rainforest: A state-of-the-art building first opened in 2018 for neotropical life featuring a free-flight aviary, cascading waterfall, open concept primate habitat and more.
- "Roger Williams Park Zoo - Providence, Rhode Island - Zoo and Wildlife Conservationists". city-data.com. City-Data. Retrieved August 19, 2010.
- "History of Roger Williams park Zoo". rogerwilliamsparkzoo.org. Roger Williams Park Zoo. Retrieved August 19, 2010.
- "About Roger Williams park Zoo". rogerwilliamsparkzoo.org. Roger Williams Park Zoo. Retrieved August 19, 2010.
- "Currently Accredited Zoos and Aquariums". aza.org. AZA. Retrieved October 27, 2012.
- "Zoo abandons plans for polar bear exhibit". turnto10.com. NBC 10 News. Archived from the original on April 15, 2012. Retrieved April 4, 2012.
- "Plan for Roger Williams Park Zoo includes Rainforest, new animals". turnto10.com. NBC 10 News. Retrieved August 3, 2015.
- "Master Plan". rwpzoo.org. Roger Williams Park Zoo. Retrieved August 3, 2015.
- Hill, John (June 7, 2014). "Elephants remain big draw at Roger Williams Park Zoo". The Providence Journal.
- "What We Do: Roger Williams Park Zoo". Robert F. Stoico/FIRSTFED Charitable Foundation.
- "Roger Williams Park Zoo". Destination 360.
- "Komodo Dragon". ripr.org. RI Public Radio. Retrieved May 19, 2017.
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