View Full Version : The Bronx Zoo

August 26th, 2004, 09:47 AM

Bronx Zoo Photos (http://www.pbase.com/zippythechimp/bronx_zoo)

Bronx Zoo Website (http://www.bronxzoo.com/)

August 26th, 2004, 11:32 AM
Very nice. How was the skyfari?

August 26th, 2004, 12:33 PM
Great photos. Thanks.

This summer, I went back to the Bronx Zoo for the first time in over ten years. I used to go regularly as a kid and have many fond memories, but this was my first time seeing it as an adult. I'm happy to say the Zoo hasn't lost much of it's wonder. While some of the old staples (the Serengeti Plain, the American Prairie) aren't as immense or exotic as my younger imagination made them to be, the new Gorrilla Forest and Tiger Mountain are truly impressive exhibits - especially the "surprise ending" to the Gorilla film.

The Bronx Zoo is one of NYC's treasures.

August 26th, 2004, 08:39 PM
At this time of year, with all the foliage, the Skyfari is really an easy way of getting across the zoo in a hurry.

Better for views is the Bangali Express monorail, especially early when the animals are active.

January 25th, 2006, 09:12 AM
thanx nyatknight i found this thread :)

anyone around who recently visited the zoo ?

since we stay in queens we wonder if its easy and safe to go there (and back ;) )

im not really scared about the trip but the ladies are ..

any tips or special offers about the location?

i would declare this place as a must see if u stay more than 5 days in nyc but i never went there so please let me know whats up there

thanx alot in advance!

January 25th, 2006, 10:27 AM
I was at the Bronx Zoo last year - always a worthwhile visit. Both the zoo and its neighbor, the NY Botanical Garden, are world class facilities.

Follow the directions on the zoo website. (http://www.bronxzoo.com/)

The 2 1/2 block walk from the W Farms Sq/East Tremont Ave subway station to the zoo is completely safe.

Besides Tiger Mountain and the Congo Gorilla Forest, the Butterfly Garden (Spring and Summer) is a hit with kids.

I like the World of Birds

If you visit during the summer, pick a cool day and go early, when the animals are more active. It's a big place; don't expect to take it all in.

January 25th, 2006, 12:06 PM
thanx zip

i didnt notice that the botanical garden is a neighbor of the zoo so far

i want to visit the botanical garden as well
i read that there is a place in the garden where you can do a picnic or stuff? prolly i wll open another thread about it if i cant find one via the search ?!

anyone did a picninc in botanical gardn so far? i imagine this would b amazing :)

.. now

we go on march 9th until march 21st
pretty cold tho
i hope we can enter the butterfly garden, coz i really love such places

January 31st, 2006, 10:05 AM
anyone been there recently?

February 7th, 2006, 05:57 AM
February 7, 2006
At Bronx Zoo, an Elephant Exhibit's End Plays Out in Elephant Time

Maxine, left, and Patty, who are in their mid-30's, roamed their two-acre corral Monday at the Bronx Zoo.

Elephants have never lost the capacity to astonish and delight. But in New York City in the not-so-distant future, they will not be doing their astonishing and delighting at a zoo.

The Bronx Zoo, the only zoo left in the city that keeps elephants, said yesterday that it planned to shut down its exhibit after the death of two of its three elephants, or even one.

The current generation of children need not despair: The zoo's three elephants Patty, Maxine and Happy are in their mid-30's and could live for decades more. But if one elephant dies, the remaining two may not get along. And if two die, officials say it would be inhumane to sustain an exhibit with a single elephant.

In either case, the zoo will not replenish the group. And then, except for the occasional circus visit, the five boroughs will be without a resident elephant for the first time in more than 100 years.

"I'm happy for the elephants. I'm sad for me," said Peter Rhall of Valley Stream, N.Y., as he clutched his 2-year-old daughter Sophie in yesterday's frigid wind at one of the zoo's entrances.

It's a shift occurring around the country. While once every zoo worthy of the title would boast an elephant, facilities in San Francisco, Detroit, Santa Barbara, Calif., and Lincoln Park in Chicago have either closed their elephant exhibits or decided to phase them out. The Philadelphia Zoo's board, citing financial reasons, has abandoned plans to build a $22 million, 2.5-acre savanna for its four elephants, and is mulling what it will do about a current corral that critics have called cramped, said Andrew Baker, senior vice president for animal programs. In New York, the Central Park and Prospect Park Zoos stopped exhibiting elephants in the 1980's.

The reasons behind the shift are complex and involve both the distinctive personality traits of pachyderms and America's changing standards when it comes to confining animals.

Keeping elephants happy in captivity can be a delicate balancing act, said Steven Sanderson, president and chief executive of the Wildlife Conservation Society, which operates the Bronx, Central Park, Prospect Park and Queens Zoos as well as the New York Aquarium. Elephants prefer living in herds at least a half-dozen strong, need a lot of space to roam, are prone to arthritis and foot diseases, and can become distressed when new elephants are introduced into their enclosures.

The Bronx Zoo, Mr. Sanderson said, has a two-acre corral in which the elephants can move about, and its zookeepers monitor the stumpy feet of its elephants daily, but he would prefer to give them more company. Elephants may show their discomfort with a new arrival by the equivalent of a hunger strike.

"These are really social animals built around a matriarchy," he said. "The senior females have a lot to say about the size of the group, reproduction, etc. They do a lot of communication and are not open to newcomers."

The zoo has kept elephants for more than a hundred years. In 2002, Tuss, the matriarch and pot-stirrer of its Asian elephant group, died in her 50's, leaving the other elephants without a leader and an institutional memory. Last week a fourth female elephant, Samuel R., who had been named after a benefactor's father, died at 14 of kidney failure. Rather than replenish the herd, the zoo decided to close the exhibit.

Breeding elephants in captivity has proved difficult; not even artificial insemination or the introduction of a bull has been helpful. The Bronx Zoo has not had a live birth in more than 20 years. Laws intended to clamp down on the illegal trade in animals have also made it more cumbersome for zoos to import elephants from the wild. Given those factors, Mr. Sanderson said, the society would rather steer its money toward preserving elephants in the wild in Africa and Asia, where it already spends $2 million a year.

Animal-rights groups like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals have been trying for years to close down zoos. "PETA opposes captivity in zoos for all wild animals. However, there can be no doubt that some species are less suited for captivity," said Lisa Wathne, a specialist in captive exotic animals for PETA. "Elephants are suffering horribly."

She said that half of the 45 elephants that have died since 2000 in the 210 accredited American zoos did not live to reach 40.

But Mr. Sanderson denied that animal activists played a role in the decision. "We were on this issue 20 years ago," he said.

Yesterday morning, Patty and Maxine (yes, they and a third elephant who died, LaVerne, were named after the Andrews Sisters, though Maxine's name does not quite match her namesake's, Maxene) lumbered around their dirt pen. Patty, roughly 10,000 pounds and identifiable by her smaller head, scratched the hide of her skull against a tree trunk while Maxine, at 11,000 pounds, sprayed dirt on her back. Both swallowed apples and bananas that Joseph Mahoney, the zoo's supervisor of mammals, lobbed at them.

Mr. Mahoney, who has worked with elephants for 25 years, has gotten to know their personalities. "Patty is more of a planner, and Maxine carries out the plan," Mr. Mahoney said, looking sad. "Patty will lead Maxine to a log, and Maxine will push it around."

Bronx Elephants Could Live Many More Years

If an elephant never forgets, then it must pile up an awful lot of information in its thick skull because elephants live a long time. Not quite as long as humans or bowhead whales (150 to 200 years), perhaps, but they live longer than cats or dogs.

That life span may be crucial to how many more years the city's children will get to see elephants in a zoo. The Bronx Zoo said yesterday that it would shut down its elephant exhibit after one, or two, of its three elephants die.

The Bronx elephants are in their mid-30's and could live into their 60's, according to Steven Sanderson, president and chief executive of the Wildlife Conservation Society, which runs the zoo. Joseph Mahoney, the zoo's supervisor of mammals, said he knew of an elephant in California that lived to the age of 65.

But for those inclined to wishful thinking, statistics may provide even more hope. According to research by Alison Power, director of communications for the wildlife society, an elephant at the Taipei City Zoo in Taiwan named Grandpa Lin Wang lived to be 86. He died of heart failure in 2003.

Ms. Power said Lin Wang was born in Myanmar, formerly Burma, and was captured by the Chinese Army during World War II. He was taken to China, and in 1947 was moved to Taiwan, where he remained a celebrity for five decades.

An animal rights group, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, says that elephants die in captivity far earlier than they do in the wild; according to PETA, half of the 45 elephants that died in North American zoos since 2000 did not live to be 40.

But Ms. Power said that a recent article in the journal Zoo Biology indicated that the average life expectancy of wild elephants was just a few years more than captive elephants. The average life span for female Asian elephants in zoos is 47.6 years in Europe and 44.8 years in North America, she said, adding that elephants in the wild average about 50 years.

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

February 7th, 2006, 08:43 AM
Guess we'll just have to go to the circus.

August 6th, 2006, 11:56 AM
The Scandal at the Zoo

Wildlife Conservation Society
Ota Benga, a Congolese pygmy, posed at the Bronx Zoo in 1906

NY TIMES (http://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/06/nyregion/thecity/06zoo.html?_r=1&ref=thecity&oref=slogin)
August 6, 2006

WHEN New Yorkers went to the Bronx Zoo on Saturday, Sept. 8, 1906, they were treated to something novel at the Monkey House.

At first, some people weren’t sure what it was. It — he — seemed much less a monkey than a man, though a very small, dark one with grotesquely pointed teeth. He wore modern clothing but no shoes. He was proficient with bow and arrow, and entertained the crowd by shooting at a target. He displayed skill at weaving with twine, made amusing faces and drank soda.

The new resident of the Monkey House was, indeed, a man, a Congolese pygmy named Ota Benga. The next day, a sign was posted that gave Ota Benga’s height as 4 feet 11 inches, his weight as 103 pounds and his age as 23. The sign concluded, “Exhibited each afternoon during September.”

Visitors to the Monkey House that second day got an even better show. Ota Benga and an orangutan frolicked together, hugging and wrestling and playing tricks on each other. The crowd loved it. To enhance the jungle effect, a parrot was put in the cage and bones had been strewn around it. The crowd laughed as the pygmy sat staring at a pair of canvas shoes he had been given. “Few expressed audible objection to the sight of a human being in a cage with monkeys as companions,” The New York Times wrote the next day, “and there could be no doubt that to the majority the joint man-and-monkey exhibition was the most interesting sight in Bronx Park.”

But the Ota Benga “exhibit” did not last. A scandal flared up almost immediately, fueled by the indignation of black clergymen like the Rev. James H. Gordon, superintendent of the Howard Colored Orphan Asylum in Brooklyn. “Our race, we think, is depressed enough, without exhibiting one of us with the apes,” Mr. Gordon said. “We think we are worthy of being considered human beings, with souls.”

One hundred years later, the Ota Benga episode remains a perfect illustration of the racism that pervaded New York at the time. Mayor George McClellan, for example, refused to meet with the clergymen or to support their cause.
For this he was congratulated by the zoo’s director, William Temple Hornaday, a major figure not only in the zoo’s history but also in the history of American conservation, who wrote to him, “When the history of the Zoological Park is written, this incident will form its most amusing passage.”


Mayor George McClellan refused to meet
with the black clergymen

Associated Press
William T. Hornaday, the zoo director,
defended the exhibit

The Bronx Zoo, which opened in 1899, was a young institution during the Ota Benga scandal. Those at the zoo today look back at the episode with a mixture of regret and resignation. “It was a mistake,” said John Calvelli, senior vice president for public affairs of the Wildlife Conservation Society, which owns and runs the zoo. “When you reflect on it, you realize that it was a moment in time. You have to look at the time in which it happened, and you try to understand why this would occur.”

That understanding may deepen with a recent spike in interest in Ota Benga, who died in March 1916 when he shot himself in the heart. His story has inspired writers, artists and musicians, and there is even an effort to exhume his remains from a cemetery in Lynchburg, Va., where he spent the last six years of his life, and return them to Congo.

“This was his wish,” said Dibinga wa Said, a Congolese involved in the exhumation campaign. “He wanted to go home.”

Picture Collection, New York Public Library
The Bronx Zoo on a sunny day around 1911. It opened in 1899

From the Bush to the Bronx

Ota Benga had already lived an eventful life by the time he arrived in the Bronx. According to the 1992 book “Ota Benga: The Pygmy in the Zoo,” by Phillips Verner Bradford and Harvey Blume, he was a survivor of a pygmy slaughter carried out by the Force Publique, a vicious armed force in service to Leopold II, the king of Belgium and the ruler of what was then called Congo Free State. Among the dead were Ota Benga’s wife and two children.

The killers sold him into slavery to a tribe called the Baschilele. He was in the slave market when his deliverance appeared one day in the form of Samuel Phillips Verner, 30, an Africa-obsessed explorer, anthropologist and missionary from South Carolina (and a grandfather of Dr. Bradford, the author).

Mr. Verner had been hired to take some pygmies and other Africans back to St. Louis for the extensive “anthropology exhibit” at the 1904 World’s Fair. There, for the edification of American fairgoers, they and representatives of other aboriginal peoples, like Eskimos, American Indians and Filipino tribesmen, would live in replicas of their traditional dwellings and villages.

After examining Ota Benga and being particularly pleased by his teeth, which had been filed to sharp points in the manner common among his people, Mr. Verner bought him from his captors and, along with several other pygmies and a few other Africans, took him to St. Louis. When the fair was over, he took them all back to Africa as promised.

Jessie Tarbox Beals/St. Louis Public Library
A photograph of Ota Benga taken at the 1904 World’s Fair

Ota Benga was unable to make a successful transition to his original way of life, and continued to spend a lot of time with Mr. Verner as the anthropologist pursued his interests in Africa, which included the collection of artifacts and animal specimens. Their friendship grew, and Ota Benga asked Mr. Verner to return with him to “the land of the muzungu” — the land of the white man. The blond South Carolinian and the pygmy arrived back in New York in August 1906.

Their first stop, as Dr. Bradford and Mr. Blume recount in their book, was the American Museum of Natural History, whose director, Hermon Bumpus, agreed to store not just Mr. Verner’s cargo of collectibles, including a couple of chimpanzees, but — temporarily, at least — Ota Benga himself. Mr. Verner, who was broke, left for the South to try to raise some money, and the pygmy’s residency in the Museum of Natural History began. He was given a place to sleep and seems to have been free to roam the museum. Mr. Bumpus bought him a white duck suit.

Don Hogan Charles/The New York Times
A sculpture of Ota Benga, in storage at
the American Museum of Natural History

Before long, though, the African became difficult to control. Among other things, he threw a chair at Florence Guggenheim, the philanthropist, and almost hit her in the head. Fed up, Mr. Bumpus suggested that Mr. Verner explore the possibilities at the zoo. Hornaday, the zoo’s director, was receptive, agreeing to lodge not just Mr. Verner’s animals but Ota Benga, too. Toward the end of August, the defining chapter in the pygmy’s strange life had begun.

Degradation and Darwin

Ota Benga was free to wander the zoo as he pleased. Sometimes he helped the animal keepers with their jobs. In fact, Hornaday described the African as being “employed” by the zoo, though there is no record he was ever paid. He spent a lot of time at the Monkey House, caring for Mr. Verner’s one surviving chimp and bonding as well with an orangutan named Dohong.

Contrary to common belief, Ota Benga was not simply placed in a cage that second weekend in September and put on display. As Dr. Bradford and Mr. Blume point out, the process was far subtler. Since he was already spending much time inside the Monkey House, where he was free to come and go, it was but a small step to encourage him to hang his hammock in an empty cage and start spending even more time there. It was but another small step to give him his bow and arrows, set up a target and encourage him to start shooting. This was the scene that zoogoers found at the Monkey House on the first day of the Ota Benga “exhibit.”

The next day, word was out. The headline in The New York Times read: “Bushman Shares a Cage With Bronx Park Apes.” Thousands went to the zoo that day to see the new attraction, to watch him carry on so amusingly, often arm in arm, with Dohong the orangutan.

But the end came quickly. Confronted with the protests of the Colored Baptist Ministers’ Conference, Mr. Hornaday suspended the exhibit that Monday afternoon.

To the black ministers and their allies, the message of the exhibit was clear: The African was meant to be seen as falling somewhere on the evolutionary scale between the apes with which he was housed and the people in the overwhelmingly white crowds who found him so entertaining.

“The person responsible for this exhibition,” said the Rev. R. S. MacArthur, a white man who was pastor of the Calvary Baptist Church, “degrades himself as much as he does the African. Instead of making a beast of this little fellow, we should be putting him in school for the development of such powers as God gave him.”

It was not just racism that offended the clergymen. As Christians, they did not believe in Darwin, and the Ota Benga exhibit, as Mr. Gordon of the Howard Colored Orphan Asylum said, “evidently aims to be a demonstration of Darwin’s theory of evolution.”

“The Darwinian theory is absolutely opposed to Christianity, and a public demonstration in its favor should not be permitted,” Mr. Gordon said.

As for the press, The Evening Post reported that Ota Benga, according to the zoo’s animal keepers, “has a great influence with the beasts — even with the larger kind, including the orang-outang with whom he plays as though one of them, rolling around the floor of the cages in wild wrestling matches and chattering to them in his own guttural tongue, which they seem to understand.”

The New York Times wrote in an editorial: “Not feeling particularly vehement excitement ourselves over the exhibition of an African ‘pigmy’ in the Primate House of the Zoological Park, we do not quite understand all the emotion which others are expressing in the matter. Still, the show is not exactly a pleasant one, and we do wonder that the Director did not foresee and avoid the scoldings now aimed in his direction.” The editorial added, “As for Benga himself, he is probably enjoying himself as well as he could anywhere in his country, and it is absurd to make moan over the imagined humiliation and degradation he is suffering.”

The New York Globe printed a letter from a reader that said: “I lived in the south several years, and consequently am not overfond of the negro, but believe him human. I think it a shame that the authorities of this great city should allow such a sight as that witnessed at the Bronx Park — a negro boy on exhibition in a monkey cage.”

And The New York Daily Tribune, evincing little interest in facts, wrote of Ota Benga’s past: “His first wife excited the hunger of the rest of the tribe, and one day when Ota returned from hunting he learned that she had passed quietly away just before luncheon and that there was not so much as a sparerib for him.”

Hornaday remained unapologetic, insisting that his only intention was to put on an “ethnological exhibit.” In a letter to the mayor, he defended “my action in placing Dr. Verner’s very interesting little African where the people of New York may see him without annoyance or discomfort to him.” In another letter, he said that he and Madison Grant (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madison_Grant), the secretary of the New York Zoological Society — who 10 years later would publish the racialist (http://nuremberg.law.harvard.edu/php/pflip.php?caseid=HLSL_NMT01&docnum=2703&numpages=3&startpage=1&title=Extract+from+the+book) tract “The Passing of the Great Race (http://www.churchoftrueisrael.com/pgr/pgr-toc.html)” — considered it “imperative that the society should not even seem to be dictated to” by the black clergymen.


The public, at any rate, had not yet had its fill of Ota Benga, whose name was now a household one. Though no longer on official display, the African was still living at the zoo and spending time with his primate friends in the Monkey House. On Sunday, Sept. 16, 40,000 people went to the zoo, and everywhere Ota Benga went that day, The Times reported, the crowds pursued him, “howling, jeering and yelling.”

The newspaper reported, “Some of them poked him in the ribs, others tripped him up, all laughed at him.”

Suicide, and MySpace

Toward the end of September, arrangements were made for Ota Benga to live at the Howard Colored Orphan Asylum. Eventually he was sent to the asylum’s facility in eastern Long Island. Then, in January 1910, Mr. Gordon arranged for the pygmy to move to Lynchburg, where he had already spent a semester at a Baptist seminary.

The Caulkins Studio Howard Orphanage Collection
Brooklyn Howard Colored Orphan Asylum
Teacher and male student at shoemaking class

In Lynchburg, Ota Benga had his teeth capped and became known as Otto Bingo. He spent a lot of time in the woods, hunting with bow and arrow, and gathering plants and herbs. He did odd jobs and worked in a tobacco factory. He became friendly with the poet Anne Spencer, who lived in Lynchburg, and through her met both W. E. B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington.

No one can be absolutely sure why Ota Benga killed himself that afternoon in March 1916. Dr. Dibinga, the Congolese who wants to return the pygmy’s remains to Congo, agrees with the view expressed in a Lynchburg newspaper report of the time: “For a long time the young negro pined for his African relations, and grew morose when he realized that such a trip was out of the question because of the lack of resources.” Mr. Verner himself wrote that Ota Benga “probably succumbed only after the feeling of utter inassimilability overwhelmed his brave little heart.”

Dr. Bradford, the author, would like to see the zoo erect a statue or some other sort of memorial to Ota Benga, but Mr. Calvelli of the Wildlife Conservation Society says he does not think that is necessary. He argues that the best way for the zoo to remember Ota Benga is for the wildlife society to keep at its efforts to preserve wild places in Congo.

“Congo is a very important area for us, and we’ve been there for many, many years,” he said. “The way we memorialize the Ota Benga experience is by making sure that the place where Ota Benga came from remains a place where his people can continue to live.”

After 100 years, Ota Benga seems to be having the last word. His name has been adopted by the Ota Benga Alliance for Peace, Healing and Dignity in Congo and by a Houston-based collective of African-American artists called Ota Benga Jones and Associates (http://www.myspace.com/ojassociates). This spring he was the subject of a three-day conference in Lynchburg that included lectures, readings and an ecumenical service. Dr. Dibinga and other participants in that conference are hoping to have an even bigger one next year, with Congolese pygmies in attendance.

In 2001, “Ode To Ota Benga (http://www.doctorhakeem.com/Congo_Project/otabenga.html),” a “historical lecture with piano improvisations” by the performer and composer Lester Allyson Knibbs, was presented at the Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance. In 2003, the Brooklyn-based alternative band Piñataland recorded the song “Ota Benga’s Name,” drawing many of the lyrics from a poem that appeared in The New York Times on Sept. 19, 1906:

In this land of foremost progress

In this wisdom’s ripest age

We have placed him in high honor

in a monkey’s cage.

To make the return of Ota Benga complete, he even has a page at http://www.myspace.com/otabenga (http://www.myspace.com/otabenga). The “About Me” section quotes the sign that hung briefly at the Monkey House, including its final phrase, “Exhibited each afternoon during September.”

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

Ota Benga's myspace BLOG (http://blog.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.view&friendID=36933234&blogID=59924192&MyToken=44a4c40f-47a1-4a22-9563-8a2f2ca7910c)

The Case of Ota Benga (http://emporium.turnpike.net/C/cs/hsota.htm)

Lynchburg, VA News & Advance: Demeaned in Life; Forgotten in Death (http://www.newsadvance.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=LNA%2FMGArticle%2FLNA_BasicArti cle&c=MGArticle&cid=1031782991730&path=!news!archive)

Poster for Alfeu Franca's documentary
'Ota Benga in America'

MORE (http://thinklings.org/?p=2906) on Ota Benga

And MORE (http://www.onehumanrace.com/docs/ota_benga.asp)

Ota Benga - The Pygmy in the Zoo (http://booksandotherstuff.com/Catalog_AllBooks_details.asp?Copy+ID=3907)


August 11th, 2006, 08:53 PM
Faces at the Bronx Zoo

http://img49.imageshack.us/img49/4257/zoo003qf3.th.jpg (http://img49.imageshack.us/my.php?image=zoo003qf3.jpg) http://img157.imageshack.us/img157/2853/zoo001ow2.th.jpg (http://img157.imageshack.us/my.php?image=zoo001ow2.jpg) http://img82.imageshack.us/img82/4488/zoo004yj4.th.jpg (http://img82.imageshack.us/my.php?image=zoo004yj4.jpg) http://img104.imageshack.us/img104/5109/zoo005fc1.th.jpg (http://img104.imageshack.us/my.php?image=zoo005fc1.jpg)

August 16th, 2006, 02:14 AM
Great shots there!

Hmmm... where you at the Zoo on monday? I could sware I saw that same bear in the water bitting that wood log when I was there on monday.

August 16th, 2006, 04:04 PM

The place was full of kids, and one was constantly sitting on my shoulders.

August 16th, 2006, 04:30 PM
Bears sure are cute.

Come to think of it, so are tigers.

June 20th, 2008, 09:37 AM
Critters of a Wondrous Isle, Meet Your Friend and Foe

Madagascar! Lemurs, above, as well as spiny-tail iguanas, hissing cockroaches, mock habitats and special
events are all part of a new exhibition in the remodeled Lion House at the Bronx Zoo.

Published: June 20, 2008 (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/20/arts/20zoo.html)

How the mighty have fallen!

Well, maybe not fallen. Let’s say they’ve been displaced or supplanted.

Two proud life-size lions still stand sentinel at the doors of the Lion House at the Bronx Zoo, just as they did on the day the building opened in 1903. Fierce sculptured representatives of leonine species still roar from the side of the Beaux-Arts building and loom over visitors on the decorative outdoor friezes. Beware what lies within!

No more. The lions, leopards and tigers have long since moved on to other habitats at the zoo, and after six years and $62 million their old home — where 12 cages once lined a long corridor in classic zoo-house style — has been completely refashioned into a prime example of the contemporary zoo’s altered vision. The remade building opened on Thursday and is being celebrated this weekend (and the five following) with music, dance and family events. (The project’s architects were FXFowle, which also carved a catering hall and meeting space out of the Lion House.) A sharper contrast with the old zoo vision can hardly be imagined.

The Lion House, 1906: a snow leopard at the Bronx Zoo.

“Madagascar!” the signs of the new permanent exhibition declare, their cartoon graphics clashing a bit with the building’s limestone lions. Inside, the visitor moves along what is called a “Conservation Trail.” Habitats of cliffs, caves and forests in this mock Madagascar contain extraordinary lemurs that sport about, seemingly confident that they are still at home — the only place where, we are told, lemurs (36 species!) are found in the wild. “Only in Madagascar,” the labels proudly proclaim, next to descriptions of animals like the spiny-tail iguana, the radiated tortoise or a small bird, the red fody.

Forget the lions’ warnings. Do not beware what lies within at all. These animals — the lemurs in particular — are intoxicatingly cute, their long tails wrapped around branches, their lean narrow faces with round peering eyes looking curious, eager, animated. Even lemurs’ natural predators, fossas, don’t seem particularly threatening, however lithe their feline physiques. To unsuspecting eyes these mongoose relatives can seem eminently pettable. Disney would have to work hard to give them appropriately demonic appearances.

But then where are the bad guys? Where is the unsettling edge that gives zoo exhibits, even in their contemporary incarnations, their compelling pull on the attention of Homo sapiens? Zoos thrive on confrontations between the human observer and the nonhuman wilds of nature; they rely on the sense of an uneasy relationship in which threat and power intertwine.

The old Lion House must have had some of that edge, the array of cages attesting to human control, the fearsome roaring creatures attesting to its tenuousness. In “Madagascar!” some of that thrill is provided by a 13 -foot-long Nile crocodile, which lies in a 15,000-gallon tank with a transparent side revealing the mass of underwater armor that backs up the smiling jagged jaw. Another kind of discomfort is to be felt inside a hollowed-out shell of what looks like a decaying baobab tree: the viewer is surrounded by the glass-enclosed innards of the tree, which swarm with Madagascar hissing cockroaches — creatures which, for city dwellers, inspire the same fear lions do in the wild.

But these are not the real threats. Beware not what lies within but what lies without. That should be the message proclaimed by the new Lion House. Danger and threat are not coming from within these many habitats (Madagascar, we are told, is a “a fragile island of wonder and mystery”) but from the human world that impinges on them (“the threats of a rapidly developing world”). Madagascar is remarkable for the number of unique species found there; it is an island that drifted away from southeastern Africa 150 million years ago, creating a nearly isolated evolutionary laboratory. But “when people first arrived, over 1,500 years ago,” the exhibition continues, “Madagascar’s larger unique species began to go extinct.”

There is no doubt, then, who should be feared. He is us. Without us, even the Nile crocodile would be less of a threat. A cartoon strip on an explanatory panel tells of recent events at a Madagascar village. After an era of seemingly uneventful coexistence, crocs began to attack humans aggressively. The Wildlife Conservation Society (the umbrella organization of several New York zoos, with the Bronx Zoo as its flagship) helped the villagers, showing that the problem arose because of a diminished food supply because of overfishing; after the river’s resources were better managed, we are told, “things went swimmingly!”

Ring-tailed lemurs in a simulated habitat, part of the exhibition "Madagascar!" in the Lion House at the Bronx Zoo.

As for an environmental crisis in Madagascar, “there is hope,” a label explains, because of the zoo and conservation society. In stressing this theme, of course, the zoo is confirming how thoroughly its central preoccupations have changed. Zoos have a complicated history, their early aristocratic menageries giving way to public bourgeois spectacles in the 19th century. In retrospect some of Europe’s great zoos of that era can seem callous amusements, the displays of wild nature even including now-unthinkable displays of live specimens of exotic human life, living tableaus of peoples ranging from Laplanders to Samoans. That practice stopped. Ultimately even the animal cage gave way to the seemingly unbounded habitat, within which we imagine the animals running free, though they are constrained by the presence of unseen moats and ditches.

Now even the contemplation of such habitats has been eclipsed by preoccupations with endangerment and conservation. Those themes have long been part of the heritage of the Bronx Zoo since it opened in 1899 under the auspices of the New York Zoological Society. But the emphasis shifted dramatically in the last 50 years, and in the 1990s the Zoological Society officially became the Wildlife Conservation Society. The Bronx Zoo, which has 265 acres holding 17,000 animals of more than 600 species, is clearly a subset of that larger enterprise and has been increasingly reflecting its concerns.

The “Madagascar!” exhibition is another confirmation of that transformation, since even its subject was chosen because of the work done by the society, which has been involved in Madagascar for more than 20 years, helping to protect and manage its endangered wild places, including the country’s largest tract of rain forest and one of the largest coral reef systems in the world. The society has also just announced that it is helping Madagascar sell more than nine million tons of “carbon offsets,” raising money to help preserve the country’s wildlife-rich Makira Forest.

Environmental principles are being applied at home as well. The renovation of the Lion House, we are told, is meant to be a model of “green” construction: the building’s heating and cooling systems are aided by the circulation of 55-degree water from five geothermal wells dug a third of a mile deep; its toilets flush using recycled water from sinks’ drains.

So here is the zoo’s new drama in its latest form. The display of animals is not an assertion of mastery or power; it is an assertion of care and conservation. The threat does not come from the uncanny forces on display, but from humans interfering with them. And arrayed with the animals against less-enlightened humanity, is the zoo as conservation society.

The message is self-consciously virtuous and explicitly self-promotional. And though much environmental concern is justified, the message here also feels overly intrusive and too elementary. I wanted to know more about these creatures than I was told, all the more so because some are endangered; videos incorporate some facts, but they couldn’t convey information without immediately justifying it: “Studying animals contributes to conservation.”

This persistence made the exhibition seem smaller than it was, just as, to the child’s imagination, old caged-animal exhibits often seemed larger than they really were. In the world of those extinct, less sophisticated zoos, the effort required to contain wild creatures in cages made their enormous powers more clear; humanity, in confronting them, was both elevated and humbled. Now the animals are better off — and there are many pleasures to be had — but the message is limited and humans are meant to feel little pride.

How the mighty have fallen!

Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

The Benniest
July 10th, 2008, 04:47 PM
Authorities investigate Bronx zoo cable car breakdown

Thursday, July 10th 2008, 1:55 PM

The fire department had to use a bucket attached to a crane to rescue some passengers.

Investigators were examining whether a wind gust might have been to blame for a gondola breakdown that left passengers dangling over the Bronx Zoo (http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Bronx+Zoo) for almost five hours.

The zoo's Skyfari ride remained shut down Thursday, a day after the mishap.

Thirty-seven passengers were stranded Wednesday at heights of up to 100 feet when one of the cable cars became misaligned in mid-flight.

No one was hurt, and Fire Department officials said there was no danger the gondola would fall. But one family was evacuated by crane and other passengers were stuck until mechanics got the ride going again at 10:20 p.m.

The accident was being investigated by the state Department of Labor, which, in addition to monitoring workplace standards, inspects cable cars and amusement park rides.

Authorities said the Skyfari halted automatically when one of the wheels in the gondola's arm popped off its cable.

It wasn't immediately clear why it dislodged, but the mishap occurred just as a fast-moving thunderstorm began to roll through the Bronx (http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/The+Bronx). The ride stalled before the rain hit, but it is possible that an early gust might have knocked the wheel loose.

"That's something we're looking into," said Linda Corcoran (http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Linda+Corcoran), a spokeswoman for the Wildlife Conservation Society (http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Wildlife+Conservation+Society), which runs the zoo.

Operators of the ride are supposed to shut it down when they suspect that a storm is approaching. Thursday's thundershower was brief and was preceded and followed by fair weather.

The breakdown was the Skyfari's first since it opened in 1973, Corcoran said.

Labor Department records indicate it was last inspected by the state on April 9, and passed all safety checks, except for a minor violation related to the improper use of an extension cord to charge radios in a control booth.

Copyright 2008 NYDailyNews.com

July 10th, 2008, 07:45 PM
Considering the Gandola has been operating for 35 years and finally has a breakdown, it would still be rather safe to ride on once the investigation is concluded.

Meryna Lou
July 30th, 2008, 05:18 PM
I went there last week end ... it was the best place for me in NYC !!!!! nature, animals and silence !!!!

August 1st, 2008, 05:58 PM

Skyfari Reopens At Bronx Zoo For First Time In Three Weeks


August 01, 2008

The Skyfari is once again moving over the Bronx Zoo, a little more than three weeks after mechanical problems brought it to a halt.

Thirty-seven passengers were trapped about 100 feet off the ground when the ride stopped on July 9th.

No one was injured.

The Department of Labor says part of the problem was that a pulley on the tram derailed. There were also some issues with an electrical wire. Officials say the high winds that day may have contributed.

The zoo says the ride has now been inspected and certified.

The Skyfari opened at the zoo in 1973, offering visitors a bird's eye view of the park.

November 16th, 2009, 06:23 AM
The Bronx Zoo turns 110: Here are 110 things you need to know about this NYC favorite

BY Jacob E. Osterhout

A red eyed tree frog that makes it's home in the Bronx. The Bronx Zoo is celebrating its 110th birthday this year.

A red ruffled lemur mesmerizes with giant golden eyes.

A Palawan peacock is one of the zoo's feathered inhabitants.

When the Bronx Zoo first opened its gates to the public in 1899, William McKinley was in the White House, the first city subway line was being dug, and the paperclip had just been patented. So much has changed since, but the Wildlife Conservation Society's Bronx Zoo remains an integral part of New York City's character.

In honor of the largest metropolitan zoo in the United States turning 110 years old, here's a list of 110 things every New Yorker should know about the Bronx Zoo.

1. The Bronx Zoo opened to visitors on November 8th, 1899.

2. On opening day, the zoo featured 843 animals in 22 exhibits.

3. The zoo borders the south side of the New York Botanical Garden.

4. Most of the land on which the zoo was built was previously owned by Fordham University.

5. Fordham sold it to the city for only $1,000 with the stipulation that the lands be used for a zoo and garden.

6. More than 236 million guests have visited the zoo since its opening.

7. With 265 acres, the Bronx Zoo is the largest metropolitan zoo in the United States.

8. The zoo employs over 750 full-time staff per year.

9. Theodore Roosevelt and William Hornaday, the Bronx Zoo's first director, helped form the American Bison Society (ABS) at the zoo in 1905.

10. The buildings in Astor Court were designed by the firm of Heins & Lafarge, who also designed the original plans for the cathedral of St. John the Divine in Manhattan's Morningside Heights.

11. The African Plains exhibit opened in 1941 and was the first to allow guests to view predator and prey in a naturalistic setting.

12. The zoo is the largest employer of youth in the Bronx.

13. Approximately 2.15 million guests visit the Bronx Zoo each year.

14. The Bronx Zoo is run by the Wildlife Conservation Society, which protects more than 200 million acres of wild land in 65 countries.

15. The WCS supports conservation efforts across the globe and sends its animals around the country to breed.

16. The zoo is home to more than 6,000 animals representing more than 600 species.

17. In 1906, a Congolese pygmy named Ota Benga roamed the zoo's grounds for a time and lived in the monkey cage.

18. Overlooking the Buffalo Range, the Rocking Stone is a rough cube of pinkish granite roughly seven feet high and 30 tons that is balanced perfectly on a granite base and cannot be moved.

19. In 1999, the Congo Gorilla Forest opens as the first exhibit that directly links a zoo-based experience with WCS field conservation projects.

20. Tiger Mountain opened in 2003, allowing guests to view animal enrichment activities that help keep the animals stimulated and engaged by presenting them with choices in their environment.

21. The "Madagascar!" exhibit opened in 2008 and houses dozens of species from the African island country.

22. The Bronx Zoo was initially named the New York Zoological Park.

23. The original design called for the zoo's buildings to center around the circular sea lion pool.

24. The "World of Birds" and "World of Reptiles" exhibits maintain their original taxonomical arrangement.

25. The zoo has been designated a New York City landmark.

26. In 2006, the zoo installed state-of-the-art, eco-friendly public bathrooms to reduce water usage and recover waste for use as fertilize.

27. An abandoned snow leopard named Leo arrived at the zoo from Pakistan in 2006.

28. Since 1903, the Bronx Zoo has had 90 snow leopard babies at the Bronx Zoo.

29. Zoo guests are permitted to bring their own food and eat at the picnic areas located throughout the park.

30. On Saturdays and Sundays throughout the Holiday season, the zoo offers Clydesdale carriage rides for $5.

31. The Clydesdale horses are named Ranger, Jesse, and Monty.

32. All three Clydesdale horses were born in Shafer, Minnesota.

33. Watch white-throated bee-eaters hunt live cricket at the "Daily Bee Eater Buffet," every day at 2:45 pm.

34. Sculptor A.P. Proctor carved out the animal frieze at the Elephant House.

35. The WCS first veterinary department was established at the Bronx Zoo in 1901.

36. The "Madagascar!" exhibit used to be the Lion House.

37. Many of the zoo's original lions, pumas and snow leopards arrived in 1910.

38. In 1916, zoo visitors could ride a boat down the Bronx River.

39. In 2009, zoo visitors can stroll down the Mitsubishi Riverwalk for the same view.

40. The zoo received its first duck-billed platypus from Australia in 1922.

41. Helen Keller spent her 42nd birthday with her nieces at the Bronx Zoo in 1922.

42. The "Himalayan Highlands" exhibit is home to red pandas, which are nocturnal and can sleep up to 15 hours a day.

43. Around Halloween, the Bronx Zoo lets the snow leopards play with hollowed out pumpkins.

44. The Bronx Zoo houses a pair of king vultures named Dolly and Patsy.

45. In the "Madagascar!" exhibit, the zoo houses 100,000 hissing cockroaches, which can grow to two inches long.

46. The "World of Reptiles" exhibit houses Surinam horned frogs, which gets its nickname "Pacman frog" from its oversized mouth.

47. Every Wednesday, admission is a pay-what-you-wish donation. Suggested donation is $15 for adults; $13 for seniors (65 ); $11 for children (3-12). Additional fees may be required for various exhibits, attractions and rides.

48. The best way to get to the Bronx Zoo from Manhattan is the BxM11 express bus runs along Madison Avenue between 26th and 99th Streets, then travels directly to the zoo's Bronx River entrance.

49. The zoo is open year round except for the following holidays: Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, New Year's Day, and Martin Luther King Day.

50. The 16-year-old saw-whet owl named Arnica came to the zoo after colliding with a car in Buffalo.

51. Temujin the gyrfalcon, the largest falcon at the Bronx Zoo, is able to survive at temperatures of 70 degrees below zero.

52. Barf the turkey vulture received its name because regurgitation is the animal's main defense mechanism.

53. Coyote, the zoo's 24-year-old Harris hawk, once flew for the Buffalo Philharmonic and performs best in front of a crowd.

54. In October 2005, the zoo's Sumatran Rhinoceros, Rupunzel, died.

55. Vinu, the zoo's 38-year-old male Indian rhino, recently impregnated an 18-year-old female rhino at the Cincinnati Zoo by artificial insemination.

56. In the 1960s, the zoo opened "The World of Darkness" exhibit, the world's first major exhibit of nocturnal animals. Because of budget cuts, the exhibit closed in 2009.

57. The elephants at the Bronx Zoo - Maxine, Patty and Happy are all in their mid-thirties and won't be replaced when they die.

58. Maxine, Patty and Happy are named after the Andrews Sisters.

59. The zoo opened a new exhibit in June featuring two aardvarks from Tanzania.

60. All male giraffes born at the zoo are named for James Walter Carter, a benefactor who underwrote the giraffe building and died in 1981.

61. Female giraffes are named for Mr. Carter's wife, Margaret, who died in 1984.

62. Born February 17th, 2008, Margaret Abigail is the zoo's newest addition to its giraffe herd. Upon birth the baby giraffe weighed between 100 and 150 pounds and measured about five-and-a-half to six feet tall.

63. The Bronx Zoo has bred more snow leopards in captivity than any other zoo in the world.

64. The zoo's latest edition to its bird collection is a loggerhead shrike, better known as the "butcher bird" for impaling its captives on thorns and barbed wire before eating them.

65. The Asian one-horned rhinoceros Krishnan weighed 150 lbs. when he was born at the zoo on October 6th, 2008. He is expected to grow to 4,600 pounds.

66. Moxie the lion was born on November 6th, 2008, to her mom Sukari and her dad M'wasi.

67. "Lion Island," which opened in 1940, was the first exhibit in the groundbreaking African Plains habitat that allowed animals to wander without a cage.

68. "Tiger Mountain" cost $8.5 million to build and provides the Siberian tigers with heated rocks and cooled water.

69. New York City's most famous gorilla, Patty Cake, first came to the Bronx Zoo when her mother accidentally broke her arm.

70. With some 490,000 riders annually, the 30-year-old Skyfari, a two-mile long span of cable cars that passed over the Butterfly Garden and African Plains exhibit, was the zoo's third most popular attraction before it was shut down earlier this year for financial reasons.

71. The zoo's two most popular attractions are the Congo Gorilla exhibit and the monorail ride.

72. In 1916, the Bronx Zoo built the first fully equipped animal-hospital at a zoo in the world.

73. The Wildlife Health Center at the Bronx Zoo serves more than 15,000 animals from the four WCS zoos in New York.

74. Congo Gorilla Forest is the largest replica of an African rain forest on the planet.

75. The Congo Gorilla Forest exhibit has two troops of gorillas, totaling 19, each with its own male silverback leader.

76. Since Congo Gorilla Forest's opening in 1999, 14 gorillas, 23 red river hogs, 11 Wolf's guenons and four okapis have been born in the exhibit.

77. Seven million people have visited the Congo Gorilla Forest and donated $10.6 million in donations that have helped to create 18 national parks in Africa.

78. Wednesday the porcupine starred in a Youtube video decrying Bronx Zoo budget cuts and 83,000 New Yorkers sent letters to Albany in protest. The state cuts were later rescinded.

79. Fubo, one of two silverback gorillas at the Bronx Zoo, underwent a brain scan in March after suffering from a seizure. Doctors discovered a lesion on the left temporal lobe of his brain.

80. There are 1,043 reptiles and amphibians at the Bronx Zoo from 132 species.

81. When the Astor Court sea lion pool was reopened after renovation in 2007, Mayor Bloomberg threw out the first fish.

82. In 1951, a 14-year-old gorilla named Makoko drowned in a moat at the zoo, despite the valiant efforts of a bird keeper, who dove into the water to rescue the great ape.

83. In 2003, workers at the Bronx zoo reported that the cheetahs were most attracted to the scent of Calvin Klein Obsession for Men.

84. The sea lion pool holds up to 200,000 gallons of water and can accommodate 10 sea lions.

85. In 2004, a man stripped off his clothes and jumped into the caiman tank in the World of Darkness section. He was pulled out by police and zookeepers before he got hurt.

86. In 1914, a poem mysteriously appeared on the wall of the elephant house. No one ever claimed to have authored the verses and rumor has it that Gunda the elephant penned it himself.

87. There are five waterfalls in the "JungleWorld" exhibit and a bubbling stream that circulates 2,000 gallons of water a minute.

88. "JungleWorld" was the first large-scale exhibit in the world to incorporate multiple species into a single, shared environment.

89. A proboscis monkey knocked herself out when she tried to jump from a real rock onto a painted rock in the "JungleWorld" exhibit.

90. In 1996, the Bronx Zoo opened the a 170-foot-long caterpillar-shaped tent in the Butterfly Exhibit that would allow visitors to "interact" with the butterflies.

91. The zoo only officially received the name "Bronx Zoo" in 2004.

92. Over half of the species originally exhibited in the "Butterfly Zone" were from the metropolitan region.

93. Bird keepers at the zoo use a 24-inch-long sleeve that culminates in a sock puppet head to feed flamingo chicks that arrive too late in the hatching season.

94. Rainey Memorial Gate, located at the Fordham Road entrance, features 22 full-sized sculpted animals.

95. In 1902, a seven-month-old Mexican panther gnawed his way out of his cage and escaped from the Bronx Zoo.

96. Jocko, a 20-pound monkey, attacked head keeper James Riley in 1908 while he was cleaning the monkey's cage. Riley was so badly injured that he had to be taken to the hospital-- he nearly lost his right thumb.

97. In 2001, 32-year-old Peter Vitique of the Bronx scaled a 20-foot wall, dropped into the gorilla exhibit and stripped down to his red boxer shorts. He later told the police he wanted to be "one with the gorillas."

98. The bird kitchen at the Bronx Zoo makes 20 basic diets for the 200 species of birds at the zoo.

99. There is a beehive on the kitchen's roof for the bee eating birds.

100. A baby gaur was born to a dairy cow in 1981 as part of an experiment to increase the survival of endangered species.

101. The Bronx Zoo once ran the Wildlife Survival Center on St. Catherine's Island off the coast of Georgia before it was shut down in 2005
102. Samantha, formerly the largest captive snake in the world at 26 feet in length, died at the Bronx Zoo on Nov. 21, 2002.

103. White-naped cranes are born in pairs, and because the first chick to hatch occasionally kills the younger sibling, Bronx Zoo keepers rear the second chick, feeding it with long forceps and taking it on walks.

104. In 1915, all the keepers of the reptile house were convinced that it was haunted by an unknown ghost.

105. After World War I, the Bronx Zoo helped replenish animal populations in Europe and Africa.

106. Five lemur babies have been born in the "Madagascar!" exhibit in the last year.

107. The renovated Lion House received a LEED Gold rating from the U.S. Green Building Council.

108. Four Chinese alligators that were raised at the Bronx Zoo were returned to Chongming Island at the mouth of the Yangtze River and have become the first captive-born generation to successfully breed in the wild.

109. Jose the beaver is the first wild beaver to return to the New York City in at least 200 years. He lives on the banks of the Bronx River at the Bronx Zoo.

110. Chris Rock often takes his children to the Bronx Zoo.

http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/bronx/2009/11/15/2009-11-15_the_bronx_zoo_turns_110_here_are_110_things_you _need_to_know_about_this_nyc_favo.html

November 19th, 2009, 08:51 PM
"6. More than 236 million guests have visited the zoo since its opening."

I can only vouch for three in this figure. My sister and one of her girl-friends took me in 1965. I don't remember anything except that there were animals and we were happy.

I don't remember a gondola. Maybe we didn't take it.

April 2nd, 2010, 11:40 AM
http://images.ny-pictures.com/photo2/l/23938_l.jpg (http://ny-pictures.com/nyc/photo/picture/23938/out_of_service_tramway_ride_bronx_zoo)

... more images from the Bronx Zoo (http://ny-pictures.com/nyc/photo/topic/1764/Bronx_Zoo)