Elephants in a Zoo Elephants in a Zoo

A Traveller’s Complete Guide to the Famous Zoos in Pittsburgh

The Zoos in Pittsburgh are renowned sanctuaries where the urban and the natural coexist. It is tucked away within the bustling cityscape of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Zoo has a long history spanning more than a century. 

This article will provide an overview of its remarkable history and its essential role in wildlife conservation. Additionally, it will explore its pioneering approach to fostering a deep appreciation of the planet’s abundant biodiversity.

The Pittsburgh Zoo has something for everyone. Whether you’re a kid or a senior, you’ll enjoy the primates’ fun at the Jungle Odyssey. You’ll also get to see the big cats strutting their stuff in the beautiful African Savanna.

All about the Famous Zoos in Pittsburgh

1. Overview 

There are just six significant zoo and aquarium combos in the entire country. One of them is the Pittsburgh Zoo and Aquarium.  This zoo is spanned on an area of 77 acres of parkland in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania’s Highland Park. This zoo is home to almost 4,000 animals from 475 species, 20 of which are threatened or endangered. 

The Zoo was dropped out of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) accredited membership in 2015.

PPG Aquarium: a toddler girl
By Caroline Hernandez / Unsplash Copyrights 2017

The zoo features a variety of exhibits, from the African Savanna to the PPG Aquarium. These displays provide visitors with close-up views of a variety of animals, from majestic lions to captivating sea life.

2. History

A testament to the Pittsburgh Zoo’s enduring heritage is the institution’s history. It started as a modest menagerie in Highland Park, founded in 1898, displaying a small variety of animals. It changed and grew over the years. The Zoo moved to its current location in Highland Park in 1949, where it now occupies 77 acres.

One important accomplishment was its conversion to a nonprofit organization in 1991, which represented a turning point in its dedication to conservation and education. The zoo strengthened its conservation efforts by breeding endangered species and contributing to international conservation initiatives.

The Pittsburgh Zoo has recently undergone extensive repairs and renovations, improving the visitor experience and animal habitats. It features themed attractions that focus on the natural environment, including the African Savanna, Jungle Odyssey, and the PPG Aquarium.

3. Exhibits

3.1. Kid’s Kingdom

The Children’s Zoo, known as Kid’s Kingdom, had its inauguration in 1949. The new name was given in 1994, following a contest won by Adam Mellinger of Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania.

Zoo in Pittsburgh : beautiful marine scene
By Keith Luke / Unsplash Copyrights 2018

With a petting zoo, reptile house, playground, and displays showing Pennsylvania wildlife, including white-tailed deer, North American beavers, river otters, barn owls, and a California sea lion exhibit, this interactive children’s area is a great place to take the kids.

In the meerkat exhibit, visitors can crawl through tunnels, experience a walk-through red kangaroo cage, and learn about the lives and activities of many animals.

Kid’s Kingdom provides a fun, informative experience for young explorers and has been acknowledged by Parent Magazine and America’s Best Zoos Travel Guide.

3.2. Aquarium

The PPG Aquarium was formerly known as AquaZoo from 1967 to 2000. This is a two-story structure that is 45,000 square feet in size and displays a variety of aquatic environments.

The exhibits depicting marine ecosystems are themed around the “Diversity of Water” and include galleries of tropical rainforests, Pennsylvania’s exhibits featuring Allegheny River species, penguin exhibits with kings, macaroni and gentoos, coral reefs, and open ocean displays.

It once held Amazon River dolphins, including Chuckles, who lived there until he passed away at the age of 34 in 2002. Chuckles was the longest-surviving dolphin in North America.

3.3. Forest Passage

As part of its voyage through Eastern and Southeast Asia, Forest Passage (formerly known as Asian Forest) features critically endangered big cats like Siberian tigers and Amur leopards as well as Asian species like Komodo dragons and red pandas.

With Canada lynxes added in 2018 following the death of the zoo’s snow leopard, Chaney, in 2017, the exhibit, which was first opened in 1983 as part of a masterplan to establish naturalistic exhibits, was renamed Forest Passage.

The name was changed to reflect the addition of non-Asian species to the display due to this expansion of the Lynx family.

3.4. Tropical Forest

The Tropical Forest is a 0.5-acre indoor rainforest that opened in 1991. With 16 different species, this facility mostly concentrates on primates.

This structure is home to Ring-tailed lemurs, black-and-white ruffed lemurs, red-ruffed lemurs, tufted capuchins, white-faced Sakis, black howler monkeys, northern white-cheeked gibbons, Angola colobus monkeys, blue monkeys, and large apes, including western lowland gorillas and Bornean orangutans.

Hoffmann’s two-toed sloths and other species from the Jungle are also on display here.

3.5. African Savanna

African Lions
By Dmitry Chernyshov / Unsplash Copyrights 2021

The Zoo’s master plan in 1980 led to the creation of both the Asian Forest and the African Savanna. It was completed in 1987. This area reproduces the experience of a river stroll in the African Savanna, creating an immersive visitor experience.

This section of the zoo is home to a variety of animals, such as Lions, African Bush Elephants, Masai Giraffes, Grant’s Zebras, Eastern Black Rhinos, American Flamingos, Common Ostriches, Nyalas, Dwarf Crocodiles, Galapagos Tortoises.

A portion of the African Savanna is Cheetah Valley. Due to the event on November 4, 2012, a pack of African wild dogs that had been living there had to be evacuated to protect the safety of the guests.

Cheetahs can now be seen in this display. From a glass panel, guests can observe them. Tall protective welded fencing and shrubs have completely taken the place of the previous observation deck.

3.6. Bears

The earliest exhibits in the zoo are the three bear displays. These were constructed in 1937 as part of the Works Progress Administration Program. There were three different kinds of bears in the exhibit: American black bears, spectacled bears, and a Kodiak bear.

The death of Rocky, a Kodiak bear who was 28 years old, was reported by the Zoo in August 2010. Since that, his display has been empty. 

3.7. Water’s Edge

Water’s Edge, a more recent zoo area constructed in 2006, is close to the PPG Aquarium. This portion, which is designed to simulate a fishing community along the shore, demonstrates the interactions between people and marine life in coastal environments.

A long tunnel runs through three large water tanks that house polar bears, sea otters, and two female elephant seals and sea lions.

3.8. The Islands

Turtle looking up
By Frames For Your Heart / Unsplash 2020

The Islands exhibit is a huge 22,000-square-foot area that was opened in June 2015. It’s home to a bunch of endangered species, like Tomistomas turtles, Philippine crocodiles, giant Aldabra turtles, warty pigs from Visayan, Clouded Leopards, Siamangs, and more. The display features a sizable stretch of sand with beach umbrellas and chairs to simulate the environment of a tropical island.

3.9. Jungle Odyssey

Jungle Odyssey is an addition that was launched in June 2017 and is located behind The Islands. The exhibit features a variety of species, including capybara, giant anteater, ocelot, fossa, and Pygmy Hippopotamus. The section showcases rainforest animal species from rainforests all over the world, including those in Africa, Asia, and South America.

4. Conservation and Breeding Program

The Pittsburgh Zoo has long been at the forefront of conservation and breeding activities, helping to safeguard threatened species and increase biodiversity worldwide. The zoo has launched a number of conservation initiatives out of a strong desire to protect wildlife. It serves as a beacon of hope for some of the most endangered species on the planet.

Participation in several Species Survival Plans (SSPs) recognized by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) is one of the defining characteristics of the Pittsburgh Zoo’s conservation initiatives.

These strategies have been painstakingly created to ensure the genetic diversity and long-term sustainability of threatened and endangered species. With a focus on restoring animals to their original habitats when practical, the zoo actively partners with other qualified institutions to breed and manage these species.

Additionally, the Pittsburgh Zoo has had tremendous success in breeding projects for species such as the Amur leopard, Sumatran orangutan, and African elephant, helping to ensure the survival of these majestic animals.

The Pittsburgh Zoo’s conservation and breeding initiatives extend beyond its physical limits, instilling in its visitors a sense of responsibility for the natural world and contributing to the larger worldwide effort to safeguard and conserve our planet’s valuable biodiversity.


 Two bears together
By Wilkins Morales / Unsplash copyrights 2021

In conclusion, Pittsburgh’s Famous Zoo has evolved into a symbol of our commitment to preserving endangered species and building a strong bond between humans and the animal realm.

It welcomes visitors to go on a voyage of exploration and amazement with its broad collection of displays, interactive activities, and attention to breeding programs. Not only does this world-renowned zoo entertain visitors, but it also teaches them how to care for the planet’s natural resources.

  1. Your content and images of the Pittsburgh Zoo portray the place so well that it does not appear to be a zoo but rather a larger entity. It sounds like a lively and fun place, like a safari in the African jungle. What more can I ask for than the opportunity of spending time with those adorable animals? Wonderful updates with a delightful picture selection!

  2. The content and images of the Pittsburgh Zoo portray the place so well that it does not appear to be a zoo but rather a larger entity. It sounds like a lively and fun place, like a safari in the African jungle. What more can I ask for than the opportunity of spending time with those adorable animals? Wonderful updates with delightful picture selection 

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