Zoo Miami (also known as The Miami-Dade Zoological Park and Gardens) is the largest and oldest zoological garden in Florida and the only sub-tropical zoo in the continental United States.
The unique climate in South Florida allows them to keep a wide variety of animals from Asia, Australia, and Africa, representing a broad mix of species that is unlike any other zoo in the country.
It is a great place for kids and adults alike! With so many animals and exhibits to see, you'll be busy all day!
Zoo Miami is located
right off of the Florida turnpike in the southern county of Miami-Dade. Zoo
Miami is also known as The Miami-Dade Zoological Park and Gardens and was
formerly known as Miami Metro Zoo. It is noted for its gardens because it
contains over 1,000 species of trees, palms, and other plants, and over 100 special
exhibits showcasing a broad number of species and scientific topics.
South Florida offers many different
opportunities for a variety of species due to the unique subtropical climate.
In fact, it is America’s only tropical zoo. As a result, the zoo has animals
from Asia, Africa, and Australia such as elephants, koalas, colobus monkeys,
black rhinoceroses, and many more. In fact, it’s home to over 3,000 animals and
more than 500 diverse species. Of this population, more than 40 species are
classified as endangered. With almost 750 acres, Zoo Miami was
able to be one of the first
free-range zoos in the United States, the zoos exhibits are entirely cageless. This
is possible because of the skillfully formed moats around each exhibit with a cageless setting that closely approximates the
animals’ natural habitats and gives the visitor the feeling of embarking on an
international safari. Large, open-air exhibits allow visitors to enjoy
beautiful and endangered wildlife at a safe yet remarkably close range. “For a long time zoos focused on animals. You put an animal
in a cage, the animal paced back and forth and that was a display. In hindsight
that was horrific,” said communications director Ron Magill, a former zookeeper.
“The greatest threat to wildlife is not hunting or poaching as much as it is
habitat loss and habitat destruction. And until people understand that, we’re
not going to be able to save these animals,” he said. “The saddest thing in the
world would be if the zoo was the last place you could see these animals.” (Staletovich, 2016)
Guests can take the
monorail that is air-conditioned and ride over the zoo’s grounds. It offers a
wonderful airborne look at the zoo and it is also a very convenient way for
visitors to move between the different sections because there are 300 acres of
animal exhibits to see. There are four monorail stations and the first one
stops between the Asia section and the Australia section, while the second one
is in the Asia section. The last two are located in the Africa section. Guided
tours and narrated tram rides are offered every day. There is also two or four
seat bicycles that can be rented for day as fun way to get around the park.
Zoo Miami is
historically significant because it dates back to 1948 when a circus went out
of business and left some lions, one elephant, and rhinoceros stranded near
downtown Miami. These animals were purchased for just 270 dollars at the time!
The zoo first started on a 48-acre park and was known as Crandon Park Zoo which
is on the island of Key Biscayne. During this time, they used metal and
concrete crates because the idea of a crateless zoo with trenches hadn’t been
thought of (Meyer, 2016). In September of
1965, Hurricane Betsy made its way through Miami and then turned around and hit
again. This did significant damage to Crandon Park Zoo because it was left
under three feet of water and 250 animals died. On the fourth of July in 1980
the Miami Metro Zoo opened its doors. On august 24th 1982, Hurricane
Andrew struck Miami harder than Hurricane Betsey had. The zoo lost many
exhibits and buildings but luckily most of the animals had survived. There was
only about 20 out of 1,200 that didn’t survive. After Andrew the zoo was built
up again but better and stronger. Many years later, on the fourth of July in
2011 it then became Zoo Miami. Today the zoo is ranked as the fifth best thing
to do in Miami and is one of Miami’s biggest tourist attractions. Every year
they host many events on holidays and even hold concerts and fundraisers to
Crandon Park is no
longer a part of the Zoo, but it is one of Miami Dades government parks, which
is the 3rd largest county park system in the United States,
consisting of 270 parks. They are on one of the most unique park and recreation systems in the world! These parks
have more than just playgrounds and athletic fields. They are also comprised of
after-school, sports-development and summer-camp programs; programs for seniors
and people with disabilities; educational nature centers and nature preserves;
environmental restoration efforts; arts and culture programs and events; the
renowned Zoo Miami and Deering Estate; the Crandon Tennis Center; golf courses;
beaches; marinas; campgrounds; pools; and more!
Miami is now the largest and oldest zoological garden in Florida. They are
accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, which means they have
passed a challenging application and inspection process to meet and exceed the
standards for animal health and welfare (Robins,
Zoo Miami). Zoo Miami also participates in many fundraisers, zoo
staffing, and has many ties with involvement in global conservation efforts. In
fact, at this date in time the zoo has over 36 projects open over six different
continents. Zoo Miami is continually making history because of the continuous
upgrades and renovations being made. Only a year ago in late 2016 the newest
exhibit “Florida: Mission Everglades” was open. This allows children and adults
of all ages to walk through the heart of Florida and experience displays and
have interactions of significant animals found in the Everglades. In part of
trying to help save our wild life you can even purchase a commemorative brick
that will be placed on a walkway to Mission Everglades.