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Indianapolis Zoo

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Title: Indianapolis Zoo  
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Subject: White River Gardens, Indianapolis, Amusement parks in Indiana, White River State Park, Zoos in Indiana
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Indianapolis Zoo

Indianapolis Zoo
Zoo entrance
Date opened April 18, 1964[1]
Location Indianapolis, Indiana, USA
Land area 64 acres (26 ha)
Number of animals 3,800
Number of species 320 [2]
Memberships AZA,[3] AAM[4]
Website .com.indianapoliszoowww

The Indianapolis Zoo is located in White River State Park, in Indianapolis, Indiana, United States.

The Indianapolis Zoo is the only institution accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and the American Alliance of Museums as a zoo, an aquarium, and as a botanical garden. The zoo is a private non-profit organization, receiving no tax support and is supported entirely by membership fees, admissions, donations, sales, grants, and an annual fundraiser.


  • History 1
    • East 30th Street 1.1
    • White River Gardens 1.2
  • Biomes 2
    • Forests 2.1
    • Oceans 2.2
    • Marine mammals 2.3
    • Commons 2.4
    • Deserts 2.5
    • Plains 2.6
      • New baby walrus arrives at Indianapolis Zoo 2.6.1
  • Dolphin Adventure Pavilion 3
  • Upcoming expansion projects 4
    • International Orangutan Exhibit 4.1
  • Rides 5
  • Conservation and research 6
  • Incidents 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9


In 1944, thoughts of the Indianapolis Zoo first came to mind by a newspaper columnist named Lowell B. Nussbaum. He began to write his opinions of wanting a zoo through his column "Inside Indianapolis." It was his writing that inspired the Indianapolis people and in October 1944 the "Articles of Incorporation for the Indianapolis zoological society, INC" emerged.[5] Soon the members of this group had outlined the future plans of their zoo, one thing that the group members were adamant about; "the zoo will rely on admissions, in-park sales, contributions and memberships to support the zoo.[5]" It first opened to the public in 1964.

East 30th Street

The Indianapolis Zoo opened on April 18, 1964, at its original location on East 30th St. The official opening was two decades after the Indianapolis Zoological Society Inc. was formed and planning for the zoo started. The zoo originally featured an Asian elephant, penguins, kangaroos, foxes, raccoons, camels, bison, deer, lambs, tortoises, llamas, prairie dogs, pygmy goats, and buffalo exhibits. In 1965, the zoo became one of few in the country to employ a full-time education staff. By the 20th anniversary of the zoo, its animal collection had doubled in size. At this point, it was determined that the zoo needed a new location where it could continue to expand.

In 1982, international zoo, aquarium, and wildlife authorities gathered to determine goals for establishing the new zoo. It was determined that a zoo should not only be a place to see animals, but an institution of conservation and education. That same year, White River Gardens was declared as the new site of the zoo. The groundbreaking at the new downtown location was held in September 1985. The old zoo closed in 1987.

White River Gardens

Its current home in White River State Park was opened in 1988 with a size of 64 acres (26 ha).

After the construction of the Waters building and the Dolphin Pavilion, the zoo earned AZA accreditation as an aquarium as well as a zoo. In 1996, the Indianapolis Zoo became the first institution to be triple accredited as a zoo, aquarium and botanical garden. White River Gardens was considered a separate attraction from 1999 to 2006, but now is included as part of the zoo.[1]

The zoo hosts more than a million visitors each year and plays a role in worldwide conservation and research, including accomplishing the world’s first successful artificial insemination of an African elephant.


The Indianapolis Zoo is organized around the concept of biomes. Biomes are areas of the planet with similar climate, plants, and animals. Animals at the Indianapolis Zoo are clustered in groups with similar habitats, which define the biomes. At the Indianapolis Zoo, one can visit the five biomes listed below.

Each of the biomes participates in conservation and breeding programs.


China Display

Tropical Rainforest

Tiger forest


Featured exhibit



The Oceans exhibit opened in 2007 and features the country's largest dogshark (smooth dogfish) touch pool as its highlight. This exhibit also holds the

Penguin display

Other exhibits

Seahorse Gallery

Marine mammals


Cafe on the Commons

Lemur Exhibit across from Dolphin Pavilion


Meerkats at the Indianapolis Zoo

In the Deserts Dome, the transparent overhead geodesic dome allows the animals to bask in natural sunlight year-round while heating and air conditioning vents hidden in the rocks regulate the temperature. Guests will also see the


Tortoises and Turtles





Designed to be similar to Africa is the expansive Plains Biome. Upon entering the biome, visitors see:

A visitor feeds a giraffe at the zoo.

Grassland Field

Giraffes presented by Meijer

Race a Cheetah

Juvenile African elephant at the zoo


African Lions presented by Harris Bank

Other African exhibits

New baby walrus arrives at Indianapolis Zoo

A new baby walrus now inhabits the Indianapolis zoo and was recently rescued off the North Slope of Alaska where it was separated from a group of over a thousand walruses. The baby walrus named Pakak, meaning “one who gets into everything,” now weighs nearly 350 pounds and is estimated to be around three to four months old.[6] When he was rescued little Pakak weighed a measly 250 pounds, was only 4–6 weeks old, and covered with lice. In the wild a walrus under the age of two, in this condition, and without its mother would not survive. The small pup has a long way to go but the Indianapolis Zoo keepers are optimistic about the newest member of their family.[7]

Dolphin Adventure Pavilion

Dolphins and trainer

The Indianapolis Zoo has a large dolphin pavilion, which features a combination of approaches to dolphin/human interaction and some new architecture, including:

The Underwater Dolphin Dome

Recently built is a 30-foot (9.1 m) diameter, 12-foot (3.7 m) high, underwater dome placed squarely in the middle of the dolphin performance pool – a first for U.S. zoos. Opened on Memorial Day weekend 2005, zoo visitors can now view dolphins from underneath the surface of the water.

Marsh Dolphin Theater

On top of the water, the interior of the Marsh Dolphin Theater features a million-gallon plus pool and a coastal village scene, complete with buildings and wharf, where a dolphin show occurs everyday.

Dolphin In-Water Adventure

The Indianapolis Zoo has the Midwest’s only in-water dolphin program for the public, allowing guests to interact with the dolphins in their exhibit.

Upcoming expansion projects

International Orangutan Exhibit

In early September 2012, the Indianapolis Zoo broke ground on a new, $21.5 million project known as the International Orangutan Exhibit which will serve not only as an exhibit for guests to enjoy, but also as a research hub to help orangutan conservation.[8] The project is being partially funded by a $2,000,000 donation from the family foundation of Dean and Barbara White.[9] The exhibit will house eight orangutans [10] and will feature a 90-foot-tall viewing atrium and an aerial cable ride to give visitors a one of a kind view of the animals. The exhibit will also include a series of cable highways to allow the orangutans to travel throughout the zoo at their leisure.[10] The exhibit opened Memorial Day weekend 2014.[10]


  • Kombo Family Coaster
  • White River Junction Train Ride
  • Endangered Species Carousel

Conservation and research

White River Gardens

The Indianapolis Zoo has a multifaceted approach in its conservation and research efforts. The Indianapolis Zoo is the presenter of the Tarangire National Park to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. The zoo has a second partnership with the IUCN – The World Conservation Union, a conservation network. The Indianapolis Zoo, in partnership with the MacArthur Foundation, is supporting the IUCN’s project documenting the known impacts of climate change on species and habitat.


On August 9, 2006, a truck with a shipment of 24 penguins, an octopus, and several exotic fish from the Indianapolis Zoo to Moody Gardens in Galveston, Texas, flipped over due to driver error. Several fish died immediately as their bags popped. Three gentoo penguins were killed after being hit on the roadway. As the truck was turned back over, two rockhopper penguins were found, one dead and one alive. A king penguin had an injured wing and two other penguins were in shock. The surviving animals were taken to a zoo near Tyler, Texas for treatment. Texas law requires that drivers of such a vehicle hold a commercial driver's license to legally drive it, and neither of the women driving the truck held such a license. The surviving animals eventually arrived at their destination at Moody Gardens.[11]

On November 11, 2007, a fire broke out in the Encounters area and killed several small animals. Before 4:30 am, it started in the Critter Corner building, and firefighters arrived within five minutes. The flames were put out within 35 minutes. However, it killed three turtles, two birds, an armadillo, a snake, a colony of hissing cockroaches, several different birds (including an aracari) and other animals in that time, and more were treated at the zoo's hospital. The Critter Corner temporarily closed and the cause of the fire was due to the armadillo pushing hay bedding high enough to touch a heat light.[12]

On January 19, 2009, 15 bonnethead sharks died due to a maintenance error. When the filtration system was taken offline for cleaning, the ozone valve was turned off, to prevent the sharks from suffocating. The valve was turned back on by a staff member effectively killing them.[13]


  1. ^ a b
  2. ^ Indianapolis Zoo - Dare to Discover: OCEANS
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ a b
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^ a b c
  11. ^ WTHR - Indianapolis News and Weather - Texas crash leaves penguins shaken
  12. ^ Several Animals Killed In Indy Zoo Blaze - Indiana News Story - WRTV Indianapolis
  13. ^ WTHR - 15 sharks die at Indianapolis Zoo

External links

  • Official website

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