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Louisville Zoo facts for kids

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Louisville Zoo
Louisville Zoo Front Entrance.jpg
Zoo Entrance
Date opened May 1, 1969; 54 years ago (1969-05-01)
Location Louisville, Kentucky, United States
Land area 134 acres (54 ha)
Coordinates 38°12′19″N 85°42′19″W / 38.20528°N 85.70528°W / 38.20528; -85.70528
No. of animals 1,700
Annual visitors 900,000+
Memberships AZA, AAM
Major exhibits Gorilla Forest, Islands

The Louisville Zoo, or the Louisville Zoological Garden, is a 134-acre (54 ha) zoo in Louisville, Kentucky, situated in the city's Poplar Level neighborhood. Founded in 1969, the "State Zoo of Kentucky" currently exhibits over 1,700 animals in naturalistic and mixed animal settings representing both geographical areas and biomes or habitats.

The Louisville Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the American Alliance of Museums. During the 2006–07 season, the zoo set an all-time yearly attendance record with 810,546 visitors.

The Louisville Zoo's mission is "To better the bond between the people and our planet".


The Louisville Zoo opened on May 1, 1969, with 250 animals on exhibit. The zoo was built on land acquired by the City of Louisville in the 1960s from the estate of Ben Collins. Much of the initial funding was donated by local philanthropist James Graham Brown.

Opening Day in 1969 mostly had exhibits with four-legged animals such as elephants and giraffes. The zoo also offered a train to take zoo visitors past several exhibits; the attraction operates to this day. Opening Day had some criticism from the general public as a lack of shade was evident throughout the zoo. Over time, tree growth has reduced the problem.

In 1997, a fully restored Philadelphia Toboggan Company (PTC #49) carousel was added as an attraction. In May 2007, Glacier Run Splash Park, a children's water playground with 42 water-spray features, opened at the zoo. The splash park was the first phase of the Glacier Run area to open, which features polar bears exhibts modeled after the town of Churchill, Manitoba, Canada.


Gorilla at the Louisville Zoo 2
Western lowland gorilla

The Louisville Zoo has six zones of exhibits: The Islands, Africa, Glacier Run, Australia, South America, and HerpAquarium

Gorilla Forest

The zoo was awarded the 2003 Association of Zoos and Aquariums Exhibit Award for its 4-acre (16,000 m2) exhibit "Gorilla Forest". The exhibit currently houses 11 western lowland gorillas, five patas monkeys, and two pygmy hippopotamuses.

Inside the circular Gorilla Sanctuary, visitors are separated only by glass and can get nose-to-nose with the gorillas. Several different outdoor vantage points are available from which to see the gorillas playing and relaxing.


Albino Alligator at Louisville Zoo
Albino alligator at Louisville Zoo, named King Louie

The HerpAquarium features 100 species of reptiles, amphibians, and fish from around the world.

A notable resident of the HerpAquarium is a 6-foot-long (1.8 m) rare albino American alligator named King Louie. He is named after King Louis XVI of France, after whom the city of Louisville is also named.

The Louisville Zoo currently houses a group of critically endangered Panamanian golden frogs. The zoo is working to preserve this species of frog from extinction. Their numbers have declined in the wild partly due to the chytrid fungus and habitat destruction.

On March 31, 2006, the zoo added a bachelor group of seven vampire bats obtained from the Philadelphia Zoo, and another 10 males from the Sedgwick County Zoo were added to the group in late May 2006. Eventually, the exhibit will house around 40 bats. The exhibit is designed to look like an old mine shaft.


Sumatran Tiger 22
Sumatran tiger

The zoo has a distinctive zoological exhibit called "Islands", which is the first exhibit in the world that uses a system of rotating a variety of animals into one exhibit. This way, the animals can explore different habitats throughout the day, as they would in the wild. This helps to give the animals needed stimulation and heightens their awareness. Moreover, the exhibit is the first to have natural predator and prey in the same space. It has three outdoor exhibit areas and one indoor area. All animals in this exhibit are endangered or threatened species. The animals on display here change from day to day so that visitors can have a new and different experience with each visit to the zoo. The animals that can be seen in this exhibit include the Sumatran tiger, orangutan, siamang, babirusa, and Malayan tapir.

The zoo is home to four orangutans, two males named Teak and Segundo (aka Gunny) and two females named Amber and Bella. Amber and Teak are half-siblings sharing the same father and are hybrid orangutans, while Gunny and Bella are purebred Sumatran orangutans and are under breeding recommendation, though there has yet to be any successful breeding between them.

The Islands Pavilion is an indoor area that houses many species of birds, including the white-throated ground-dove. The zoo was the first zoo in the world to hatch this rare dove in captivity. The first hatchling was born on October 17, 2006, and a second followed on December 1, 2006. Some of the other bird species included in the Islands Pavilion are the Mariana fruit dove, Madagascar fody, and the rockhopper penguin. The pavilion also houses the Rodrigues fruit bat, Cuban crocodile, and Komodo dragon.

Red Necked Wallaby and Baby
Red-necked wallaby

Wallaroo Walkabout

The new Wallaroo Walkabout that opened in 2007 lets guests walk directly through the exhibit, which is home to the wallaroo and red-necked wallaby, as well as some Australian birds including the kookaburra, blue-faced honeyeater, emu, and tawny frogmouth. Visitors are able to interact with the wallaroos and wallabies if they stay on the walkway.

Lorikeet Landing

Lorikeet Landing is an Australian exhibit that is a walkthrough aviary filled with several brightly colored birds known as lorikeets. Visitors can feed nectar to the birds right out of their hands. The lorikeet species at the Louisville Zoo are the black-winged lory, green-naped lorikeet, perfect lorikeet, red lory, and Swainson's lorikeet.

Glacier Run

Finished in early 2011, this 4.3-acre (1.7 ha) outdoor exhibit is based on the theme of an old gold-mining town bordered by a glacier. It features polar bears, grizzly bears, seals, and sea lions, as well as a splash park for children. The splash park opened in 2007, and was the first part of this $25 million exhibit to open.

The exhibit also includes classrooms, party rooms available for rental, viewing areas above and below water, and a 200-seat outdoor auditorium for watching animal training demonstrations.


This region of the zoo is based on the African Serengeti. Animals featured here include the lion, dromedary camel, white rhinoceros, warthog, addax, meerkat, naked mole rat, zebra, Masai giraffe, bongo, and rock hyrax.

The zoo is one of the few zoos to exhibit African and Asian elephants together in the same habitat. The zoo is home to an Asian elephant named Punch, who is 50 years old, and an African bush elephant named Mikki, who is 35 years old and her son named Fitz, who is now 1 year old.

Notable individual animals

  • Mojo, a patas monkey previously owned by NASCAR driver Tony Stewart, was given to the zoo on August 24, 2007, when he became too aggressive to keep as a pet.
  • Scotty, an African elephant born on March 18, 2007, was the first elephant born in Kentucky. Scotty died on May 12, 2010, when he was only three years old, due to severe gastric and intestinal problems.
  • The Louisville Zoo has hand-raised three baby siamangs—Sungai (from the San Francisco Zoo), Zoli (born at the Louisville Zoo), and Zain (from the Albuquerque Biological Park) after Zoli's parents died of E. coli sepsis and the other two were brought in as companions—and is thought to be the only Zoo to ever hand raise three baby siamangs this young.
  • The zoo is also home to several black-footed ferrets, and participates in the black-footed ferret breeding program. The ferrets are one of the most endangered species in North America.
  • Bakari (whose name is Swahili for hopeful) the Masai giraffe was born on February 17, 2009, with angular limb deformity, and had periosteal stripping performed on his leg. He is believed to be the first giraffe to undergo this procedure.
  • In June 2013, the Louisville Zoo organized a contest to name the first zebra foal to be born at the zoo in 13 years. The foal was ultimately named Ziva, after the fictional character Ziva David from the television series NCIS.
  • On October 23, 2014, the zoo announced that their 11-year-old reticulated python, Thelma, had produced six healthy baby snakes in 2012 without any prior interaction with a male. She is the first known individual of her species (the world's largest species of snake) to have done so in captivity. It had initially been thought that the offspring were produced from long-stored sperm, until genetic testing showed that the neonates were "half clones" – i.e., she was their only genetic parent.


  • The Louisville Zoo offers multiple chances to enjoy the zoo after normal operating hours. One of the most popular after-hours events is the "World's Largest Halloween Party". This event is held on October 31 yearly and is Halloween themed. Another popular event is "Brew at the Zoo", which is an event that brings together local restaurants and craft beer vendors. Live entertainment is also provided. This event is typically in August and regularly sells out.


During October, the zoo hosts the "World's Largest Halloween Party", one of the largest Halloween parties in the United States.

The zoo also includes a Zoo Key System. At the front of the park, a key, usually in the shape of an animal, may be purchased. Around the park, visitors can insert these keys into Zoo Key boxes for a song and/or information about the animal.

The zoo has a booth called "Handimals" located by the entrance where kids can make an animal out of their hand prints.

Often when an animal is born in the zoo, the zoo holds a contest where participants send in ideas for names.

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