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Indianapolis Zoo Opened 50 Years Ago At Washington Park

Old Zoo Entrance

The date was April 1964. The musical “West Side Story” won Best Picture, Lyndon B. Johnson was President and animals were the main attraction in Indianapolis.

The headline from the Indianapolis Star reads, “Zoo’s Opening Tomorrow Tops 20-Year Effort.” Indianapolis spokesperson Carla Knapp says the original location of the Indianapolis Zoo opened 50 years ago at the Washington Park Children’s Zoo.

“The location there was a little smaller, the collection was a little bit smaller, and beginning in the 80s we started to look at expanding.”

In its first year, 270,000 visitors toured the exhibits of Asian elephants, camels and tortoises.
The current location at White River State Park opened in June 1988. The zoo is still expanding today keeping with its mission of animal conservation.

“With this exhibit that is opening in May, the International Orangutan Center, that’s a huge part of the focus with that exhibit as well. We have designed this exhibit to be what we call a hundred year exhibit,” Knapp says.

The Orangutan Center will be the most dynamic exhibit yet, and is expected to be a global model in conservation and innovation.

After 50 years of operation and expansion, the zoo has over a million visitors each year and is still home to multiple animals first spotted at the original location.

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