ZooTampa at Lowry Park (formerly known as Lowry Park Zoo) is a nonprofit zoo
located in Tampa, Florida
. In 2009, Lowry Park Zoo was voted the #1 Family Friendly Zoo in the US by Parents Magazine, and is recognized by the State of Florida as the center for Florida wildlife conservation and biodiversity (HB 457). The zoo is operated by the Lowry Park Zoological Society, an independent 501(c)(3) charitable organization. The zoo also exists as a center for conservation of endangered wildlife both locally and around the globe. Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums
(AZA) as well as a member of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums
(WAZA), Conservation Breeding Specialist Group (CBSG), the Florida Association of Zoos and Aquariums (FAZA) and the Florida Attractions Association (FAA).
ZooTampa traces its origins to a small animal exhibit that was located on the grounds of the University of Tampa
. It moved to its current location as the Lowry Park Zoo in 1957, and was completely rebuilt and reconfigured in 1989. The zoo rebranded itself as ZooTampa at Lowry Park in 2018 as part of another renovation and expansion project.
Nearly 1 million people visit the 65-acre zoo a year to see its more than 1,300 animals.
Tampa's first zoo was a small collection of exotic animals in Plant Park
on the grounds of the University of Tampa
across the Hillsborough River
During the middle 1950s, Mayor Nick Nuccio
led the push to move the zoo to a more spacious location. Land further up the river near the neighborhood of Seminole Heights
was chosen. The park was created in 1925 and christened Lowry Park for Sumter de Leon Lowry Sr., a Tampa city commissioner and civic leader who was also active in the Sons of Confederate Veterans
. Lowry's son, Sumter de Leon Lowry Jr.
, later made significant contributions to improve the park, including donating money to construct a bandstand and paying the purchase price for an elephant which he then donated to the zoo.
200px|left|The old rainbow bridge to Fairyland, Lowry Park Zoo, c. 1980
Lowry Park Zoo opened in 1957. The zoo shared the park with Fairyland, where concrete statues depicting fairy tales
and nursery rhymes
were along a winding maze of paths beneath the limbs of sprawling oak trees
. This whimsical area was accessible via a large rainbow bridge.
As the wildlife collection grew, other attractions and rides were also added. By the early 1980s, the zoo featured a small roller coaster
, a skyride, and a kid-sized train, among other kiddie rides. However, the zoo facilities were in need of repair and renovation, with the animals cramped concrete quarters so poor that the Humane Society
called it "one of the worst zoos in America".
After several years of fundraising and with the help and support of mayor Bob Martinez
and the city of Tampa, the original Lowry Park Zoo closed on September 7, 1987 for a $20 million reconstruction in which nearly all traces of the original zoo (including Fairyland) were removed and replaced with more modern facilities. The first phase of the revamped zoo opened on March 5, 1988. Several additions and expansions since then have brought the zoo to its current configuration.
In March 2018, Joseph Couceiro, the zoo's CEO, introduced a new logo and signage. Formerly Lowry Park Zoo, the name was changed to ZooTampa at Lowry Park to emphasize not only its connections to Tampa and the region, but the progress the area is undergoing as well. Over the next 10 years, Couceiro indicated a desire to continue to expand and redesign several zoo features.
One of the zoos oldest sections, the Asian Domain, was renovated and renamed the Asian Gardens in 2007. Animals in this area include Indian rhinoceros
, Malayan tiger
, Komodo dragon
, clouded leopard
s, sun bear
s, Malayan tapir
s, and an Indonesian-themed aviary
. The pagoda
-like design is subtle but noticeable, giving an authentic Asian feel.
The area also has a Sulawesi aviary, which includes bleeding-heart doves, mandarin duck
s, giant Asian pond turtle
s and Reeve's muntjac
Florida Wildlife Center
The Florida Wildlife Center is an American-based exhibit that stretches across nearly a half-mile, accessible through Asian Gardens. The exhibit includes many North America
n species and a few Central America
n species, including striped skunk
s, Orinoco crocodile
s, North American black bear
s, a small pack of red wolves
, West Indian manatee
s, and alligator snapping turtle
It also includes a manatee education show, an aquatic center with shark
s, and a wide collection of snake
s, including eastern diamondback rattlesnake
s, and eastern coral snake
s. A Discovery Center highlights the amphibian
residents of the zoo, showcasing various species of frog
s and other creatures.
The primate section of the zoo has every exhibit appearing to be seemingly connected by a running system of rocky waterfalls and waterways that stretch across the entire section. There is an array of great apes, including siamang gibbons
s and Bornean orangutan
s. There is also a wide array of other primates, including Angolan black-and-white colobus
monkeys, golden lion tamarin
s, ring-tailed lemur
s and mandrill
The Wallaroo Station Children's Zoo re-opened on February 27, 2015 after its first renovation since opening in 2002. It is home to an array of Australian-native species including koala
s, yellow-footed rock wallabies
, Australian singing dog
s and emu
s, along with a varying collection of cockatoo
parrots, and flying fox
This section of the zoo is home to an interactive bat habitat, a "Flying Bananas" ride, a budgie encounter and a family rollercoaster
. It also has splash play area for younger kids titled "The Billabong
Shaded by acacia tree
s, the area is home to a safari tram ride that provides an in-depth look behind the scenes of the zoo. Martial eagle
s and Patas monkey
s are visible only by this ride. This exhibit is home to many landmark African species, including meerkat
s, Reticulated giraffe
s, African bush elephant
s, East African crowned crane
s, African penguin
s and southern white rhinoceros
The Ituri Forest, a later addition to the Safari Africa section, brought in the concept of a washed-out African river bank. The area includes a wide array of species, including greater flamingo
s, pygmy hippopotamus
es, saddle-billed stork
s and shoebill stork
In mid-to late 2014, the warthog
exhibit was closed down and renovated to house Aldabra tortoises
and juvenile Galapagos giant tortoises, who were previously behind-the-scenes exclusive animals.
The main free-flight aviary, accessible nearly at the entrance, is almost hidden in overgrown brush and plants. Inside, the whole area is covered head-to-toe in free-flight birds and waterfowl, including great hornbill
s, red-legged seriema
s, toco toucan
s, boat-billed heron
s, African openbill stork
s, scarlet ibises
, white-faced whistling duck
, Raggiana Birds-of-paradise
, an array of ducks
s, and two-toed sloths
Spirits of the Sky Raptor Show
This show, held twice a day at the Zooventures Theater, is an experience that provides kids and adults alike with fun facts of birds of prey and what we can do to protect them. Some of the exhibited species include the Eurasian eagle-owl
, the bald eagle
and the Andean condor
The zoo has 95 Species Survival Plan
projects, which includes threatened and endangered species
and species of special concern. These include chimpanzees, Bornean orangutans, mandrills, siamangs, black-and-white colobus monkeys, golden lion tamarins, Indian rhinoceroses, clouded leopards, sloth bears, babirusa, red wolves, African elephants, Bali mynah
, Victoria crowned pigeon
, great Indian hornbills, palm cockatoo
, and Komodo dragon programs.
The zoo hosts a hospital for Florida manatees
in which injured animals are rehabilitated with the intent of returning them to the wild. It is the only non-profit hospital in the world specifically dedicated to critical care for injured, sick and orphaned wild manatees. The zoo works in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Florida
Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to rescue, rehabilitate and release Florida’s endangered manatees. In 2012, Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo was honored with a “Significant Achievement in North American Conservation Award” for its work with manatees, presented by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).
Starting with the Australia addition, Lowry Park Zoo has added several children's rides, including a Jungle Carousel
, "Flying Bananas", a kiddie train ride
, and a mini roller coaster called the Tasmanian Tiger Family Coaster, which was previously located at Wild Adventures Theme Park in Valdosta, Georgia .
Roaring Springs, which opened in June 2018, is a shoot the chute
ride manufactured by WhiteWater West
. The ride features a single three-story drop that splashes riders and onlookers standing in the attraction's splash zone. Roaring Springs replaced the former log flume
In 2006, one of the zoo's two Sumatran tiger
s, a 14-year-old female named Enshala, slipped through an unlocked gate and into an area undergoing renovation. The zoo director, Lex Salisbury, defended his decision to shoot and kill the animal after attempts to tranquilize the tiger failed and the animal lurched toward the animal doctor that had shot the tranquilizer dart.
Later in 2006, a group known as "Tampa's Zoo Advocates" formed. The organization seeks to improve the living conditions of the animals as well as working conditions of the employees of Lowry Park Zoo.
In April 2008, 15 patas monkey
s escaped from Safari Wild, a for-profit animal attraction under development east of Tampa in rural Polk County
. This brought media attention to the venture, which is owned and operated by long-time Lowry Park Zoo director Lex Salisbury.
Subsequent investigations revealed many questionable transactions between Safari Wild and Lowry Park Zoo, including the transfer of over 200 zoo animals to Safari Wild, zoo funds being used to build structures on Safari Wild property, and payments from the zoo to "board" animals at Safari Wild.
The city of Tampa, which provides a portion of the zoo's annual budget, demanded an audit detailing the relationship between Lowry Park, Salisbury, and his outside business ventures.
The audit was released in December 2008 and disclosed many questionable dealing between the zoo and Safari Wild. It also uncovered violations of zoo policies by Salisbury, including increasing his own bonus payments, charging the zoo for personal travel, and using zoo employees for his personal work. Auditors estimated that Salisbury owed the zoo more than $200,000 and suggested a criminal investigation.
On December 19, 2008, Salisbury, under pressure from the zoo's board of directors and the city of Tampa, resigned from his position at the zoo.
As a result of possible violations of animal transfer rules and species survival plans, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums
suspended the membership of Lowry Park Zoo and of Larry Killmar, the zoo's Director of Collections who had authorized many of Salisbury's questionable animal transfers. Under Killmar, the zoo reorganized its internal policies over several months, and on March 27, 2009, the AZA reinstated the membership of both Lowry Park Zoo and its director of collections.
The saga came to a close in August 2009 when Salisbury and the Lowry Park Zoo board agreed to a settlement in which Salisbury paid $2,200 and agreed to return all the structures, fencing, and equipment that the zoo had built at Safari Wild but did not admit to any wrongdoing.Salisbury settles with Lowry Park Zoo - St. Petersburg Times
Tampabay.com. Retrieved 2010-07-06
Tampa Zoo Advocates
Category:Zoos in Florida
Category:Landmarks in Tampa, Florida
Category:History of Tampa, Florida
Category:Tourist attractions in Tampa, Florida
Category:1957 establishments in Florida
Category:Zoos established in 1957