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About The Zoo
 

Zoo History

Zoo History

1892

City of Norfolk purchases 65 acres of land that is currently occupied by Lafayette Park and the Virginia Zoo.

                  

1899

City officially designates the city's park as Lafayette Park.

1900

Park begins acquiring zoological specimens on exhibit.

1901

 Animal collection exceeds 200 animals including mammals, birds and reptiles.

1910

Animals, including monkeys, ducks, sea lions and a bear are housed in outdoor exhibits separated by paved roads - which allows visitors to drive through the park.

1948

Mother Goose Barnyard opens with pigs, ducks and turkeys.

1954

New stone dwelling area for sea lions opens.

1969

Construction of Mammal House begins - housing African Elephants, Rhinoceros and Tapir.

1974

Animal area is fenced off from the city park and named Lafayette Zoological Park.

1974-1980s

Older exhibits at this time are removed and renovated for general Zoo improvements.

1979

The Friends of the Zoo is established as a non-stock corporation for the purposes of acting as an advisory supportive society in the development of Lafayette Zoological Park.

1985

Lafayette Zoological Park is renamed the Virginia Zoological Park at Norfolk (commonly, Virginia Zoo).

1987

Virginia Zoological Park achieves accreditation by the American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA).

1989

Friends of the Zoo officially changes their name to Virginia Zoological Society and operates as the non-profit official support organization for the Virginia Zoological Park with the responsibility of generating community and financial support.

1992

Master Plan is adopted by City of Norfolk and Virginia Zoological Society. Plan includes zoogeographic vision of five continent expansion as well as erection of new Education Complex and Visitor Center. Plan includes exhibits of Africa and Asia.

1992

Two Siberian tiger cubs are temporarily housed at the Zoo after being recovered by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service from an illegal trader.

1993

Fundraising begins for the capital campaign for Master Plan Phase I: African plains exhibit and Education Complex and Visitor Center.

1995

Community - including Hampton Roads' Exxon dealers - connects with the tiger cubs and responds by raising enough money for the first major new exhibit since 1969.

1999

Early Africa exhibits, including African Village, open during the 100th anniversary of Virginia Zoo and Lafayette Park. Entry Complex also opens, housing ticket plaza, gift shop, membership office, education classroom and staff offices.

2002

African Okavango Delta exhibit opens.

2004

Prairie dog habitat opens.

2007

New exhibits open including love birds and red panda. Lion cubs born on exhibit in Africa, marking first large carnivore birth at the Zoo in 35 years.

2008

Groundbreaking for “Asia-Trail of Tiger” expansion, and construction is underway. Zoo Train, The Norfolk Southern Express, opens. AZA accreditation is renewed and lion exhibit was acclaimed as "one of the best in the country."

2009
Kangaroo exhibit -- funded through train ticket sales -- opens.

2010
Life size African elephant sculpture is installed in entry plaza as part of City of Norfolk's Public Arts program.

 


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