The Columbus Zoo is one of the top, if lesser known, zoos in the United States. Although overshadowed by giants such as the San Diego Zoo and Bronx Zoo, the Columbus Zoo has been ranked in some surveys as the number one zoo in the United States. This is due in part to its association with world-famous zookeeper Jack Hanna. But it is also larger than most of its rivals, with more species and more animals than most of America’s better known zoos.
The city of Columbus did not have a zoo until the 20th century, when an initial facility opened for a brief few months in 1905. A full-fledged zoo was not operational until 1927. It has two great claims to fame. The Columbus Zoo was home to the first Lowland Gorilla in the world born into captivity, whose progeny can now be found throughout the United States; and from 1978 to 1993 the director was famed zookeeper Jack Hanna, who became a popular television personality. The zoo is a major source of civic pride, and the city has strongly supported the facility with expansions.
The Columbus Zoo is one of the largest in the United States, with over seven hundred species and nine thousand animals. There are regional exhibits including North America, Asia Quest and African Forest, as well as several large marine habitats that constitute a full-fledged aquarium. There is also Jungle Jack’s Landing, a children’s ride and play area named in honor of Jack Hanna. The zoo is currently in the process of a massive expansion to its Africa habitat that will be a full-fledged safari recreation when it is complete.
The Columbus Zoo is located in the northern suburbs of Columbus, approximately twenty miles north of downtown. The zoo is open year round (except for Thanksgiving and Christmas). Hours vary considerably seasonally. The cost of admission is $14.99. Web: www.columbuszoo.org (official website).