Chattanooga Now Chattanooga Zoo kicks off anniversary celebration

Chattanooga Now Chattanooga Zoo kicks off anniversary celebration

March 30th, 2012 by Casey Phillips in Chattnow Outabout


What: Chattanooga Zoo 75th anniversary.

When: Daily special events Tuesday through June 16 (zoo open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily).

Where: Chattanooga Zoo, 301 N. Holtzclaw Ave.

Admission: $8.95 adults; $6.95 ages 65-74; $5.95 ages 3-12; free for others.

Phone: 697-1322.


When the Chattanooga Zoo opened at Warner Park on June 16, 1937, it consisted of a single cage housing a pair of rhesus monkeys. Seventy-five years later, the picture is a bit more diverse, with more than 130 species displayed in multimillion-dollar exhibits.

Tuesday, the Warner Park institution will begin celebrating 75 years of change and growth with a series of daily events that will continue through June 16.

Zoo director of marketing and communication Marisa Ogles said the zoo started planning an anniversary celebration in early fall. The goal, she said, was to show appreciation to the community, which supported the zoo even during times when its future was in question.

"It's like the little engine that could," Ogles said. "Even as late as the mid-'80s, folks were saying, 'Do we need to shut it down, or do we need to improve it?'

"They decided that Chattanooga needs a zoo and that we would make it the best little zoo in America. Every year, we get closer to that goal."

The bulk of the anniversary celebration will take the form of daily events ranging from pure entertainment, such as magicians and musical performances by Nashville's Groove Club, to educational lectures, classes and animal presentations.

The celebration also will fold in the institution's normal annual events, such as Hug a Bunny Day (April 7) and Party for the Planet (April 21). The event will culminate in Go Bananas Day on June 16, the official 75th anniversary of the zoo's opening day.

Executive director Darde Long started working at the zoo in 1985, a particularly low point in the zoo's history.

For the 50th anniversary celebration in 1987, Long said conditions were slowly improving, but there wasn't much worth getting excited about beside the recent installation of higher fences around a goat enclosure.

Now, of course, there's more cause for celebration, she said.

"It's always interesting to go back and look at the history from before I came," Long said. "You realize the role the zoo played in the community. That we're still here says a lot.

"It's just grown tremendously. I'm proud and humbled to be a part of it. I think it's going to be here for a long time."


To celebrate its 75th anniversary, the Chattanooga Zoo will host events for the next 75 days. Here are some highlights from the first month. All activities begin at 2 p.m. unless noted. A complete list of events is available at

April 7: Hug a Bunny Day

April 8: Photo safari with Scott Ptak

April 14: Pancake breakfast with the animals (starts at 9 a.m., reservations required, call 697-1322)

April 15: Story time

April 21: Party for the Planet (starts at 10 a.m.)

April 22: Magician Barry Manley

April 28: Wildlife night at the Chattanooga Lookouts (starts at 7 p.m.)

April 29: Performance by Groove Club


1937: A permanent zoo is established in Warner Park with construction of a 4-foot by 6-foot cage for a pair of rhesus monkeys.

1942: The zoo's holdings expand to include lions, buffalo and alligators.

1968: Hank the chimpanzee, one of the zoo's most-beloved occupants, is born in Africa.

1976: Hank arrives at Chattanooga Zoo, where he is housed in a concrete-floored enclosure.

1985: After public outcry against the quality of the zoo's enclosures, additional staff is hired, Friends of the Zoo support group forms and donations are sought to fund improvements.

1989: The zoo drafts a master plan to utilize the entire 50-acre property at Warner Park. The plan proves too costly and expansive and is reduced to emphasize community environmental education.

1996: A jaguar exhibit opens.

1998: The Association of Zoos and Aquariums accredits the Chattanooga Zoo. A new exhibit is completed to house spider monkeys.

2001: The $13.1 million Gombe Forest chimp exhibit opens.

2004: The Himalayan Passage, the largest indoor red panda facility in the country, opens.

2008: A new $4.2 million en-trance complex opens.

2010: Corcovado Jungle exhibit opens to house brother jaguars Phil and Gene.

2011: Hank dies and mating of snow leopards Czar and Kasimir results in birth of Renji.