Atlanta's Oldest Cultural Attraction

The oldest cultural attraction in Atlanta began in 1889. The owner of a traveling show was forced into bankruptcy due to cash flow problems. George Valentine Gress, a local businessman, purchased the animals at auction and donated the animals to the city of Atlanta. City officials moved the animals to Grant Park. The original zoo collection consisted of a black bear, camels, an elk, a gazelle, a hyena, a jaguar, lionesses, a Mexican hog, pumas, raccoons and snakes. Asa G. Candler Jr. donated his private menagerie of animals in 1935, which included birds, elephants, elk, hyena, leopards, lions, a sea lion, a tiger, water buffalo and zebras. The menagerie was causing problems with his neighbors on Briarcliff Road.

One of the newest additions to the zoo, the panda cam, is available for free on-line. The best opportunity to view the panda cam for interaction is during regular zoo hours when zookeepers position the cameras for optimal viewing. Pandas are susceptible to viruses, therefore, biosecurity protocols place the panda enclosure under quarantine. Zoo employees must change into uniforms before entering the panda enclosure. A washer and dryer has been added to the outer building to launder employee’s clothes.

The zoo now features a garden of carnivorous plants. The plants derive nutrition from eating other living things. A new kangaroo joey was born in April 2014. Chilean flamingos hatched in July. Giant otters were also added to the zoo in July of this year. Shirley, the warthog, gave birth in April. Matilda, an eastern bongo, also gave birth in April.

The zoo is offering free admission on Veteran’s Day, Tuesday, November 11, 2014 for active-duty members of the military and reduced rates for up to six accompanying guests or family members. General admission adult tickets are $21.99 and children ages 3 – 11 are $16.99. Family annual gift memberships are available for $119.00. Directions and hours may be accessed online. 

*Photo courtesy of Atlanta Zoo by J. C. Little Photography at Flickr’s Creative Commons.


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A traveler at heart, the writer enjoys traveling all over the south and hopes to one day expand his destinations.


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