The most attended attraction in Forest Park is the world renowned St. Louis Zoo. Open since 1910, 2012 saw approximately 2.9 million visitors, enjoying, free of charge, the zoo’s claim of some 18,000 living creatures within its walls.
“There are two things a lively city needs — a good zoo and a good baseball team.” -George Vierheller, Saint Louis Zoo Director, 1922-1962
The St. Louis Zoo is a leader in animal conservation projects and has embarked upon an innovative captive breeding strategy to ensure the survival of many of the world’s most endangered species including cheetahs, black rhinoceros, okapis and more than 80 other breeds. The facility is considered among the Top Ten Zoos in the nation and is noted for its naturalistic animal habitats.
The World’s Fair of 1904 in St. Louis brought with it a walk-through flight cage commissioned by the Smithsonian Institution. St. Louisans fought for it to remain in the city once the Fair concluded, and it would later become a cornerstone for the Zoo. The City of St. Louis chose to buy it for $3,500 (original cost to build was $17,500) rather than have it dismantled and sent to Washington, D.C.
The popularity of the bird cage during the World’s Fair inspired civic leaders to build a real zoological garden in St. Louis. In November 1910, the Zoological Society of St. Louis was established. The founders formed the organization with the hope that a zoo would make the city more appealing for visitors and residents alike.
The initial excitement that surrounded the formation of the Zoological Society of Saint Louis soon faded as it became clear that establishing a new zoo in St. Louis wasn’t going to be as easy as the Society’s founders imagined.
The biggest obstacle? Agreeing where to put it.
Promoters argued for Forest Park St Louis. The land was available, the location was ideal, and the park already hosted a collection of animals. But not everyone was convinced. One of the biggest critics of the Forest Park location was the city’s park commissioner who said a zoo — especially its animal buildings — could ruin the natural beauty of the park.
It would take three years of arguments before the issue was resolved. On December 2, 1913, Mayor Henry Kiel signed legislation creating a Zoological Board of Control, and giving it authority over more than 70 acres of Forest Park became dedicated to the St. Louis Zoo.
Segways are not allowed in the zoo but amendments to existing Segway usage laws are currently being written by Missouri Legislators that will allow the use of Segways in the St. Louis Zoo! For now we can only enjoy a glimpse of some of the animals as we pilot our Segways past this historic site on a Zero G Touring tour through Forest Park!