Library Blog

June is Zoo Month!

Wild Animals

June is National Zoo and Aquarium Month. Did you know that there are around 2,800 zoos and aquariums around the world, with 355 of those in the United States?  

Let’s explore zoos! 

The path to modern zoos began with the capture of wild animals in pens, leading to the domestication of those best suited to living in human-controlled herds, such as goats and sheep.  

The first recorded collections of wild animals were in Egypt and Mesopotamia around 2,500 BCE. The wealthy collected animals such as lions, monkeys, camels, elephants and peacocks for amusement and sport. Natural habitats, such as marshes, were sometimes created to house species, which wasn’t practiced in modern zoos until 1907 when Carl Hagenbeck created the first zoo without cages in Hamburg, Germany. Did you know that humans were once exhibited in zoos?  

Hagenbeck’s cageless zoo evolved into immersion exhibits, where natural habitat-like settings allow animals to behave as they would in the wild and visitors walk through the natural environment with few other humans in sight. The first of these was created at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle in 1976.

Concerns about stress and boredom among zoo and aquarium animals led to the concept of environmental enrichment. Solving physical puzzles and finding hidden food stimulate the animals’ brains, species co-existing in the wild are housed together for more variety, and the environment includes ties to natural behaviors, such as ledges for perching. 

Zoos have become actively involved in the conservation of endangered species. For example, 150 zoos started a global captive breeding program to save the Golden Lion Tamarin and the little monkeys were reintroduced into the Brazilian wilderness. The program continues as habitat loss still threatens the remaining population.   

The World’s Oldest Zoo
The oldest modern zoo is the Vienna Zoo in Schonbrunn, Germany, which was opened in 1752 by Emperor Franz I for the entertainment of royalty and nobles. In 1778, “decently dressed persons” could tour the zoo on Sundays. 

Oldest Zoo in the U.S.
Though the Civil War delayed the Philadelphia Zoo’s opening until 1874, the Zoological Society of Philadelphia’s charter dates back to 1859, making it the oldest zoo in the United States. 

Largest Zoos
The Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, Nebraska, is the largest zoo in the world by acreage and species combined. The Berlin Zoological Garden has the largest number of species. 

Largest Aquariums
The Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta is the largest aquarium in the world, followed by the Dubai Mall Aquarium. The Georgia Aquarium houses over 100,000 sea creatures! 

Visit a Zoo Near You!

If you can’t visit the Akron Zoo this summer, you may want to participate in our Penguin Pen Pals program, which runs through July 2021. Pick up a take-and-make postcard kit, pre-stamped and pre-addressed to a penguin at the Akron Zoo. The penguins will be sending responses to the library, so stop back in after mailing your postcard to see if they’ve replied!  

Michele Mellor

Michele Mellor is a Reference Librarian based at Main Library, where she has been striving to bring order to the universe of knowledge for over 30 years. She loves helping people, so ask her those reference questions! She enjoys reading microhistories and books that expand her horizons leavened by brain-candy romance novels.