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History

Founded on April 26, 1895 as the New York Zoological Society, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) was one of the first conservation organizations in the U.S. The Society's original objectives were: “to establish and maintain a zoological garden for the purpose of encouraging the study of zoology, original researches in the same and kindred subjects, and of furnishing instructions and recreation to the people”. To advance wildlife conservation was added to the objectives not much later. This started with preservation of native animals of North America as a combined effort with other organisations, and has evolved into a huge wildlife conservation programme (see website WCS).

The Bronx Zoo opened its gates to the public on November 8, 1899, with a collection of 843 specimens representing 157 species. Soon it joined the ranks of New York City’s most beloved cultural institutions. William T. Hornaday, who failed to be appointed director of the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., became the first director of the New York Zoological Park, now Bronx Zoo. This allowed him to implement his ideas concerning zoo management finally, and in the process he set the standard for other American zoos. Besides this the NY Zoological Society were the first to establish an American zoo-related scientific journal (published from 1907 to 1973), to establish a veterinary clinic (in 1916), to develop a zoo-based field research programme (1916). The Zoo was also instrumental in saving the American bison from extinction.

Bronx Zoo was certainly not the first to implement Carl Hagenbeck's ideas on modern design of open, moated enclosures without bars. This honour was reserved for Denver Zoo (1918), St. Louis Zoo (1919) and Detroit Zoo (1920). The introduction of the barless concept took only place after WWI, because of America's attention for the European conflicts. The Zoo even got involved in 1917 when the lion house was turned over to the American Red Cross and a company of soldiers (zoo employees) was formed at the WCS expense. Nevertheless American zoos fared better than did European zoos. This enabled NY Zoological Park to help Antwerp Zoo to re-populate their premises with 329 animals after the war.

The initial success of the New York Zoological Park led WCS to acquire four more wildlife parks over the course of the twentieth century. In 1902, WCS took over management of the New York Aquarium, then in Manhattan’s Battery Park, and in the mid-1950s, relocated it to Coney Island, Brooklyn. In 1988, the former menagerie in Manhattan’s Central Park reopened as WCS’s Central Park Zoo. The Queens Zoo and Prospect Park Zoo opened in 1992 and 1993, respectively. Together, the five parks draw more than 4 million visitors a year.

(Sources: website Bronx Zoo, and “Zoo and Aquarium History” by Vernon N. Kisling, jr.)

Goal: 7000 tigers in the wild

Tiger range countries map

 

"Tiger map" (CC BY 2.5) by Sanderson et al., 2006.

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