Zoo Facts

All You Need To Know

When did the Zoo open? Where are the animals being housed? What are the continental groupings at the zoo?

General Information

 

Official Opening

1892 – Washington Park location
Late 1950s – Bluemound Road location

Operating Status

County-owned and operated; supported by the Zoological Society of Milwaukee County

Average Annual Attendance

1.3 million

Economic Impact

$156 million

Personnel

151 full-time, 61 seasonal employees

Specimens

2,200+ specimens representing 330 different species

Administration

Divisions include: Animal Management and Health, Administration, Finance and Operations, Marketing and Communications, and Grounds and Maintenance

Accessibility

All animal buildings, habitats, and exhibits are accessible to visitors with disabilities. The Zoo adheres to the ADA.

Education

The Zoological Society’s Education Department provides interactive programs for schools and youth groups, in addition to classes and camps for children infant to 14 years, as well as family opportunities.

Acreage

190 acres

Architecture

The original Zoo was designed by the following: the Milwaukee County Planning Department (now called Architectural Engineering), the Milwaukee County Landscape Architect, the professional Zoo staff and private architecture firms.

Mission Statement

To inspire public understanding, support and participation in global conservation of animal species and their natural environment by creating a unifying bond between our visitors and the living earth.

History/Parent Site

The Milwaukee County Zoo began in the 1890s as a miniature mammal and bird display in a barn at what is now Washington Park. By 1902, the Zoo had 23 acres of land and 800 animals. In 1937, when all parks went under the jurisdiction of the Milwaukee County Park Commission, the Zoo had grown to 38 acres. In 1958, the Zoo moved to its present 190-acre location bordered by Highway 45, Bluemound Road, Highway 100 and Interstate 94, opening in 1961.

Funding Sources

The Zoo receives funding through a cooperative effort of Milwaukee County and the Zoological Society of Milwaukee.

Volunteers

Zoo Pride is the volunteer auxiliary of the Zoological Society. Its members serve as goodwill ambassadors at the Zoo and in the community. Started in 1975, Zoo Pride shares a deep commitment to the Milwaukee County Zoo and its residents.

Zoological Society of Milwaukee County

Beginning in the 1890s as an informal group of clubs and associations, the Society started by purchasing animals and securing animal donations.

Today, the Society helps Milwaukee promote one of its finest assets by funding animal acquisitions, fundraising programs for building renovations and improvements and new exhibits and financial support for research and education.

Membership in the Zoological Society is open to everyone. Individual, family and corporate memberships are available.

Members receive free regular admission to the Zoo, a 10% discount in the Gift Shop, invitations to members-only events, discounts on fundraising events and other special programs. 50% of the gross revenue of a Zoo Pass goes directly to the Zoo.

Zoological Society’s Animal Sponsorship

Initiated in 1982 as a fundraiser, donations from the annual “sponsorships” are used to fulfill the Society’s mission to conserve, educate and support the Zoo.

Restaurants

The Flamingo Café, and Gift Shop are open year-round. Other concession and rest areas are open in the spring/summer months. Nourish 414 is scenically and centrally located across from Lake Evinrude. Inside the U.S. Bank Gathering Place, the menu at the Coffee & Snack Shop offers coffees, bakery and salads. The Bear Garden, featuring an “adult-friendly” menu of beers, is a popular refreshment option, along with the OOZ Food Truck — a cheese-lover’s dream! Wild Burger rounds out the options with a variety of specialty burgers, fountain soda, and a Milwaukee staple — custard!

Special Events

The Zoo hosts unique activities and family-oriented events throughout the year.

Group Sales

Large formal seating rooms, wooded picnic areas and various animal buildings are available for group rentals. The Zoo offers advance, discounted tickets for groups of 15 or more. Arrange your next “get together” or children’s birthday party at the Zoo. Convenient, inside-the-park picnic areas are also options for bookings. The Peck Welcome Center offers large groups a spacious, scenic venue with an expanse of floor-to-ceiling windows for a light-filled natural setting.

 

Animal Buildings

 

Small Mammals

This unique building features both day and night animals. With a flip of a switch, day can turn into night, allowing red fluorescent lights to illuminate nocturnal animal exhibits — giving the animals the impression of night. In 2021, the Zoo welcomed back a visitor favorite with a pair of male fennec foxes.

Florence Mila Borchert Big Cat Country

The Florence Mila Borchert Big Cat Country provides large and natural-looking exhibit spaces for our magnificent felines and enhances their quality of life. The exhibits showcase residents like jaguars and African lions. Several years ago, we welcomed two male jaguars, born to mother, Stella, and father, Pat. This marked the first jaguar cubs born here since 1975. Father Pat was a wild-born animal and brought new genes into the zoo population. Pat passed away in 2017, but his legacy at MCZ continues with his offspring, Francisco.

Cheetahs Mila and Minnie joined the population in 2021, arriving from the Caldwell Zoo in Texas. The two sisters, who are 4 years old, settled in well to their new habitat and after a short time began training sessions with zookeepers.

The Mahler Family Aviary

Hundreds of colorful birds, towering palms and lush foliage transform this building into a vibrant tropical paradise. Birds from all over the world move freely in naturalistic surroundings.

In 2020, the Aviary continued its mission to support breeding programs throughout the country. Five chicks were successfully hatched out from four different species and all parent-raised on exhibit. The bird collection also acquired 12 new birds representing eight species, and three of those, the African spoonbill, helmeted currasow, and the violaceous euphonia, were new to the population.

Stearns Family Apes of Africa

Apes of Africa is an exhibit of Western lowland gorillas and bonobos. Designed to closely represent the West African rain forest, it provides gorillas and bonobos with surroundings like their natural environment. The Zoo added an expansive outdoor public viewing area for the bonobo group, allowing these endangered apes to enjoy 500 feet of elevated mesh passageways in the Zoo’s forest. In 2021, we were excited to welcome a male silverback, Oliver, and females, Dotty and Nadami, from the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. In addition, MCZ is home to two adult male gorillas, Maji and Hodari. Western lowland gorillas are a critically endangered species in the wild. Recent renovations to the Gorilla habitat included extending the interior wall height and adding deep mulch bio floors – a soft surface that inhibits bacterial growth.

Primates of The World

The Primate building, fondly called the Monkey House by many, was the Zoo’s first building. In the mid-90s, the building reopened to the public after extensive renovation as Primates of the World. It houses many of the most popular residents at the Zoo, including orangutans, siamangs, and spider monkeys.

The Primate Complex was a $10.7 million project equally funded by the Milwaukee County Zoo and the Zoological Society of Milwaukee County.

Aquatic & Reptile Center (ARC)

The Aquatic & Reptile Center (ARC) displays a fascinating underwater world including the 55,000-gallon Amazon Flooded Forest aquarium housing a wide variety of fish, including the impressive arapaima, one of the world’s largest freshwater species.

Don’t miss the 30 species of Wisconsin fish swimming in the center exhibit, Lake Wisconsin.

A new resident to the ARC includes false water cobras.

Macaque Island

This is the official residence for a charismatic group of Japanese macaques (also known as snow monkeys). The lush island features waterfalls, hills, shrubs and vines. In 2019, a male named Daisuki was born to mother, Negai, and in summer 2020, male, Nikko, was born to mother Rikka. Visitor favorites, the youngsters can be seen climbing and running around the habitat.

Five Continental Groupings

 

North America

A stroll down the hill and around the bend from the Small Mammals building brings visitors to Lake Evinrude. Sloping upward from its grassy perimeter are rocky ledges, cliffs, and woods where representatives of many of North America’s largest animals roam. See caribou, grizzly and brown bear, and elk.

Across the path are active and playful harbor seals.

At the Zoo’s West Entrance, guests are welcomed by a playful colony of North American river otters, splishing and splashing in their outdoor habitat. Otter Passage is one of the Zoo’s most popular attractions, as these lively animals can be seen swimming, sliding and playing alongside one another throughout all four Wisconsin seasons.

South America

One of the Zoo’s most diverse habitats: alpacas delight visitors, while Baird’s tapirs cool themselves in a waterhole and rheas look on.

Africa

Ostriches, African lions, hyenas, zebras, red river hogs, giraffes and hippopotamus are among the African wildlife featured.

The Zoo simulates nature by seeming to exhibit predator and prey in the same enclosure. However, the prey is protected from its stalkers by invisible dry moats weaved between the foreground and background habitats.

In the African Waterhole, kudu, waterbuck, and stork live in close proximity to the African lions. The African Savanna displays the cheetah overlooking the Thomson’s gazelles and southern ground hornbills.

The Giraffe Experience presented by Miller Lite features expanded outdoor spaces for the animals and the rare opportunity for visitors to get face to face with our reticulated giraffes. The public also can feed these animals for a fee.

Each year, from 2015 through 2019, was marked by a giraffe birth to either mother Ziggy or Marlee, and father Bahatika. All but one of the calves have moved to other zoos with the hope of future breeding. Both Ziggy and Marlee have proven to be caring and attentive mothers.

Adventure Africa – Phase I

In 2019, the Zoo unveiled a new expansive habitat for African elephants, complemented by two mixed species exhibits: one featuring zebra, ostrich and impala; the second featuring Eastern bongos, African crowned-cranes, and guineafowl.

The 1.6-acre outdoor elephant habitat includes an 8-foot-deep watering hole, able to accommodate three submerged elephants, permanent enrichment, self-activating shower, and a demonstration area for “hands-on” care. The indoor Elephant Care Center includes five “rooms,” sand floors, and a permanent scale for weighing. African elephant, Belle, who arrived in 2019, has been fully introduced to resident elephants Brittany and Ruth, and all three are living as a cohesive herd.

Adventure Africa – Phase II

In summer 2020, the Zoo unveiled a spectacular underwater Hippo Exhibit, the Dohmen Family Foundation Hippo Haven. The expanded habitat features a 60,000-gallon underwater viewing tank and a beach area with varied substrates for the hippos to bask in the sun. The exhibit is open April-October, and hippos, male, Happy, and female, Patti, have become huge attractions, allowing for up-close, face-to-face viewing of these magnificent and powerful animals.

Adventure Africa – Phase III

The final phase of Adventure Africa includes developing a plan to create a new indoor and outdoor home for rhinos, a new indoor area for the hippos and a new central pathway. While the final design is yet to be determined, the Zoo is hoping to: build indoor hippo and rhino recreation rooms; repurpose the former elephant and rhino spaces into two large outdoor Rhino habitats; provide a soft substrate and overhead canopy in the indoor habitats; and establish a pathway through the center of the Zoo.

Construction is anticipated to start in 2023 with tentative completion in 2024.

Asia

Living in natural settings, visitors can see Bactrian camels and red pandas. The Red Panda habitat has been renovated to include an outdoor enclosure with platforms and structures for these arboreal animals to climb upon. In 2018, MCZ’s first red panda cub was born, a female, Dr. Lily, to parents, Dr. Erin and Dash.

Dr. Lily transferred to another AZA-accredited zoo, on a breeding recommendation, but the exhibit became active again with a second red panda birth in 2019, female Kiki, born to the same pair.

In 2022, two female yaks made their debut in the former rhino habitat. Everest and Tinley are long-haired bovid animals with sturdy legs and bulky frames, ideal for carrying supplies and goods through mountains in their wild habitats.

Idabel Wilmot Borchert Flamingo Exhibit and Overlook

Several years ago, the Zoo welcomed a flock of Caribbean flamingoes to their new home across from the Mahler Family Aviary. Here visitors can greet these beautiful birds up close, as they roam in their lush yard that includes a pond rimmed with benches for easy viewing. Chilean flamingoes also live with the resident group in the outdoor habitat.

Northwestern Mutual Family Farm

Formerly known as the Children’s Zoo, this renovated area recreates life on an actual farm. Guests can meet native wildlife and farm animals, as educational presentations are offered daily in the Stackner Animal Encounter Building. A large-scale playground with a variety of equipment is also featured, along with a renovated Kohl’s Wild Theater. From Memorial Day-Labor Day, interactive and educational theatrical performances take place in Kohl’s Wild Theater.

Dairy Complex

In the Family Farm’s octagonal barn, guests can see six varieties of dairy cattle in the cow barn; discover more about the dairy industry through hands-on experiences in the learning center; and sample and/or purchase various dairy products in the Dairy Store.

Seasonal Activities

(Available during warm-weather months)

Animals-in-Action

Take a closer look at some of the Zoo’s animals at these special presentations. Learn animal facts during a short presentation by zookeepers and Zoo Pride volunteers.

Safari Train sponsored by North Shore Bank

Relax and enjoy the miniature train ride through the beautiful Zoo grounds. Runs daily, weather permitting.

Zoo Expeditions sponsored by Meijer

Embark on a wild adventure either on our traditional open-air tram OR walking through the Zoo! Choose from several expeditions in a variety of price ranges, to suit your interests. Offering classic Zoo expeditions or longer, themed adventures.

Carousel sponsored by Penzeys

Experience a ride on an authentic, turn-of-the-century classic carousel. Detailed, handcrafted figures including giraffes, zebras, ostriches, and tigers are patterned from originals dating back to the early 1900s. Several new animal figurines were added in 2020. The carousel is ADA accessible.

Sky Adventure Zip Line and Ropes Courses sponsored by Tri City National Bank

This dynamic attraction features a 500-foot zip line and two ropes courses, one for children and one for adults. Operates spring and summer. May be open some weekends and scheduled special events through October.

Sky Safari sponsored by Mathnasium: The Math Learning Center

Visitors can go above it all and see the Zoo from a new perspective! Guests board the Sky Safari across from the South American Yard and travel roundtrip above the camels, tigers, and yaks.

Special Summer Exhibit

 

Dino Don’s Dragon Kingdom sponsored by Sendik’s Food Market

Visitors will enter an enchanting Renaissance world in Dragon Kingdom, encountering more than 15 awesome animatronic creatures found in cultures throughout the world.

With historical references, meet dragons that can breathe with fire, soar with wings, and mirror characteristics of enormous lizards and snakes!

Ranging in size from 10 to 40 feet, marvel at the dragons’ wildlife features that tie-in their existence to endangered animals on the brink of extinction today.

The exhibit runs May 28 through Oct. 1 and is $3 per person; located outside behind the Small Mammals building.

NEW ATTRACTION (opened July 2022)

 

Gorilla Trek Virtual Reality Experience

The Milwaukee County Zoo is the first zoo in the country to unveil this Experience – a 360-degree live-action virtual reality film with motion platform seating, to give an unprecedented look at one of nature’s most intriguing and endangered animals – mountain gorillas in their natural habitat of Rwanda.

Before the film, explore the interactive pre-show, including videos of gorilla behavior, an in-depth comparison of human and gorilla anatomy, and a quiz that matches your personality with one of the gorillas featured in the Experience.

Take part in the Gorilla Trek Virtual Reality Experience in the Otto Borchert Family Special Exhibits Building, behind Macaque Island. The cost for the Experience is $7 after regular Zoo admission, with a $1 discount for Zoo Pass members.

Boo at the Zoo tickets on sale now!