A Tradition Rich in Toledo History

A Local treasure

It all began with a woodchuck.

In 1900, a single woodchuck was donated to the City of Toledo’s Parks Board. From that small act of generosity, a great institution emerged, one that has become virtually synonymous with Toledo. The Toledo Zoo is now widely regarded as one the finest zoological institutions in the nation. It is not only the region’s number one attraction, but it is also recognized as a leader in animal conservation. It has become an integral part of the Toledo community and a draw for animal lovers from all over.

A History of Change


As an institution with a more than 100-year history, The Toledo Zoo understands the need to preserve the past even as it reaches out toward the future. As you stroll around the Zoo’s grounds, that sense of history is everywhere. You’ll see it most prominently in the WPA-era buildings that still house our Aviary, Reptiles and Aquarium. It’s in our historic Amphitheatre, which hosts several concerts throughout the summer. And it’s in our commitment to providing each visitor with the best experience possible.

The Toledo Zoo’s standing as a cornerstone in the community was never a given, though. From its earliest days, the Zoo faced enormous challenges, from uncertain financial conditions to changes in the natural world that require us to constantly re-evaluate our standards of animal care.

The Zoo was run by the City of Toledo until 1982, when ownership transferred to The Toledo Zoological Society, a private non-profit organization. This transfer marked the beginning of a new era of improvements and progress.

With an eye on the past as well as the future, the Zoological Society professionalized the management of the Zoo and developed a vision for the institution that can be seen in its operation today.

Keeping Up with the Times

Beginning in the 1980s, The Toledo Zoo has introduced many exciting and innovative exhibits. The African Savanna offers a stunning recreation of the plains and jungles of Africa. The Savanna is home to the world-famous Hippoquarium®, the first of its kind in the world. Our Kingdom of the Apes exhibit, Primate Forest, Arctic Encounter® and multi-species Africa! exhibit give visitors an amazing up-close experience while at the same time ensuring the well-being of the animals.

Along the way, the Zoo has continued to preserve its heritage even as it improves its facilities, as evidenced by the Aviary, which was built in the 1930s and renovated in 1998. The following year, it received the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Exhibit Award for Excellence. Zoo Visitors are also welcomed by a new parking lot, entry complex, gift shop and a ramped pedestrian bridge over the Anthony Wayne Trail.


The popularity of the Zoo has increased dramatically over the last twenty years. Restored facilities, new exhibits and a concerted effort to address the needs of the visitor have resulted in an average attendance of 875,000 people each year, with over 1,000,000 visitors in 1988, 1994, and 1999. Special events such as The Lights Before Christmas
capture the charm and character of the Zoo and have become traditions for Toledo families.

Today, The Toledo Zoo is home to over 9,000 animals representing over 800 species. It’s one of the world’s most complete zoos—it’s also the region’s top family destination!