Lions, and Tigers, and Bears, Oh My!

After months in quarantine children and adults alike are in need of some much needed fresh air and adventure, and what better place to find that then at the newly re-opened Point Defiance Zoo? Here’s a little bit of history on the zoo before you head out to see the animals! 

Photo Courtesy: Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium

When the locals of Tacoma think of Point Defiance Zoo, we think of cute waddling penguins, elephants chopping on cantaloupe, twinkling Christmas lights, and statues made of sand and ocean debris. But, this zoo didn’t used to be filled with all of the exotic animals that it has today. Back in 1899 the zoo first started visitors saw a bear and a small herd of elk, deer, and bison all of which you could have found in the wilds of Washington at that time. 

Over 60 years later in 1959 the zoo added a children’s farm to encourage local school children to interact with farm animals. The children got to play with animals such as cows, chickens, rabbits, ducks, and goats! During their farm animal period the zoo was being run with help from the local chapter of the Future Farmers of America. 

In 1997, voters passed a bond issue for wide-ranging zoological improvements and the zoo we all know and love today started to take shape under the leadership of the Metro Parks of Tacoma. The zoo started to focus less on farm animals and more on animals native to the Pacific Rim regions of the world. 

The latest update to the zoo came in September 2018 when the state-of-the-art, 35,000-square-foot aquarium was opened after decades of planning. While the aquarium is home to sea creatures from across the globe, the aquarium wanted to help people learn about their neighbors in the Puget Sound as well. There’s a 100,000 gallon tank dedicated to the Northwest Waters that is home to animals and barnacles alike that are natives to the Puget Sound. Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium is the only combined zoo and aquarium in the Pacific Northwest and is nationally accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums and the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums to ensure that it upholds a high standard of of care for it’s animals and sea creatures. 

Photo Courtesy: Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium

Much of the work done at the zoo today also focuses on conservation efforts for endangered species and education and research. The zoo works to encourage and engage visitors in helping save the environment. Just two years ago they collected pounds of ocean debris out of  Puget Sound to create animal sculptures in the middle of the zoo to show how much debris is actually floating around in the Sound and they shared information on how to recycle and keep our waters clean.

Point Defiance Zoo (and now aquarium) has come a long way from it’s humble beginnings as a home to a lonely bear and deer. If you are looking for fun ways to learn more about the zoo and it’s animals and sea creatures right from home, here are a few links to activities, art projects, and more! 

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