Lowry Park Zoo
Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo is a 63-acre (25 ha) nonprofit zoo located in Tampa, Florida. In 2009, Lowry Park Zoo was voted the #1 Family Friendly Zoo in the US by Parents Magazine, and is recognized by the State of Florida as the center for Florida wildlife conservation and biodiversity (HB 457).
The zoo is operated by the Lowry Park Zoological Society, an independent 501(c)(3) charitable organization. The zoo also exists as a center for conservation of endangered wildlife both locally and around the globe.
Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) as well as a member of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA), Conservation Breeding Specialist Group (CBSG), the Florida Association of Zoos and Aquariums (FAZA) and the Florida Attractions Association (FAA).
Tampa's first zoo was a small collection of exotic animals in Plant Park on the grounds of the University of Tampa across the Hillsborough River from downtown.
During the middle 1950s, Mayor Nick Nuccio led the push to move the zoo to a more spacious location. Land further up the river near the neighborhood of Seminole Heights was chosen. The combination zoo and park was christened Lowry Park after General Sumter Loper Lowry, a local resident celebrated for civic contributions and his service in several wars, but vilified by some for his controversial political views.
Lowry Park Zoo opened in 1957. The zoo shared the park with Fairyland, where concrete statues depicting fairy tales and nursery rhymes were along a winding maze of paths beneath the limbs of sprawling oak trees. This whimsical area was accessible via a large rainbow bridge.
As the wildlife collection grew, other attractions and rides were also added. By the early 1980s, the zoo featured a small roller coaster, a skyride, and a kid-sized train, among other kiddie rides. However, the zoo facilities were in need of repair and renovation, with the animals cramped concrete quarters so poor that the Humane Society called it “one of the worst zoos in America”.
After several years of fundraising and with the help and support of mayor Bob Martinez and the city of Tampa, the original Lowry Park Zoo closed on September 7, 1987 for a $20 million reconstruction in which nearly all traces of the original zoo (including Fairyland) were removed and replaced with more modern facilities. The first phase of the revamped zoo opened in March 1988. Several additions and expansions since then have brought the zoo to its current configuration.
One of the zoos oldest sections, the Asian Domain, was renovated and renamed the Asian Gardens in 2007. Exhibits there include Indian rhinoceros, Malayan tigers, babirusa, Komodo dragon, clouded leopards, sloth bears, and an Indonesian-themed aviary. They are also home to a disabled white tiger who will spend the rest of his days in comfort. The pagoda-like design is subtle but noticeable, giving an authentic Asian feel.
The area also has a Sulawesi aviary, which includes bleeding-heart doves, mandarin ducks, giant Asian pond turtles and Reeve's muntjac deer.
The Florida Wildlife Center is an American-based exhibit that stretches across nearly a half-mile, accessible through Asian Gardens. The exhibit includes many North American species and a few Central American species, including striped skunks, Orinoco crocodiles, North American black bears, a small pack of red wolves, West Indian manatees, and alligator snapping turtles.
It also includes a manatee education show, an aquatic center with sharks, eels, seahorses, and a wide collection of snakes, including eastern diamondback rattlesnakes, copperheads, and eastern coral snakes. A Discovery Center highlights the amphibian residents of the zoo, showcasing various species of frogs, toads and other creatures.
The primate section of the zoo is possibly the best designed portion of the zoo, with every exhibit seemingly being connected by a running system of rocky waterfalls and waterways that stretch across the entire section. There is an array of great apes in the siamang gibbons, chimpanzees and Bornean orangutans that swing and hoot around their exhibits. There is also a wide array of other primates, including Angolan black-and-white colobus monkeys, golden lion tamarins, ring-tailed lemurs and mandrills.
The Wallaroo Station Children's Zoo re-opened on February 27, 2015 after its first renovation since opening in 2002. It is home to an array of Australian-native species including koalas, yellow-footed rock wallabies, Australian singing dogs and emus, along with a varying collection of cockatoo parrots, and flying fox bats.
This section of the zoo is home to an interactive bat habitat, a "Flying Bananas" ride, a budgie encounter and a family rollercoaster. It also has splash play area for younger kids titled "The Billabong".
The latest addition to Lowry, providing a completely authentic African experience. Shaded by acacia trees, the area is home to a safari tram ride that provides an in-depth look behind the scenes of the zoo. Martial eagles and Patas monkeys are visible only by this ride. This exhibit is home to many landmark African species, including meerkats, duikers, Reticulated giraffes, zebras, African elephants, East African crowned cranes, African penguins and southern white rhinoceroses.
The Ituri Forest, a later addition to the Safari Africa section, brought in the concept of a washed-out African river bank. The area includes a wide array of species, including greater flamingos, pygmy hippopotamuses, saddle-billed storks and shoebill storks. Cheetahs and striped hyenas actually share an exhibit, alternating throughout the day.
In mid-to late 2014, the warthog exhibit was closed down and renovated to house Aldabra tortoises and juvenile Galapagos giant tortoises, who were previously behind-the-scenes exclusive animals.
The main free-flight aviary, accessible nearly at the entrance, is almost hidden in overgrown brush and plants, giving the feel of a wild experience. Inside, the whole area is covered head-to-toe in free-flight birds and waterfowl, including great hornbills, red-legged seriemas, toco toucans, scarlet ibises, white-faced whistling ducks, guineafowl, Raggiana Birds-of-paradise and an array of ducks and tanagers. Every so often, if you hang around, you can observe two-toed sloths lazily hanging in the trees.
This show, held twice a day at Zooventures Theater, is a fun and interactive experience that provides kids and adults alike with fun facts of birds of prey and what we can do to protect them. Some of the exhibited species include the Eurasian eagle-owl, the bald eagle and the Andean condor.
The zoo has 95 Species Survival Plan projects, which includes threatened and endangered species and species of special concern. These include chimpanzees, Bornean orangutans, mandrills, siamangs, black-and-white colobus monkeys, golden lion tamarins, Indian rhinoceroses, clouded leopards, sloth bears, babirusa, red wolves, African elephants, Bali mynah, Victoria crowned pigeon, great Indian hornbills, palm cockatoo, and Komodo dragon programs.
The zoo hosts a hospital for Florida manatees in which injured animals are rehabilitated with the intent of returning them to the wild. It is the only non-profit hospital in the world specifically dedicated to critical care for injured, sick and orphaned wild manatees. The zoo works in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to rescue, rehabilitate and release Florida’s endangered manatees. In 2012, Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo was honored with a “Significant Achievement in North American Conservation Award” for its work with manatees, presented by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).
Back in 2010, Lowry Park initiated what they called the 'New Horizons Capital Campaign', an endeavor to grow the zoo and provide more resources to help the sick and injured animals they rescue, along with an attempt to further educate visitors on the animals of the world. There were many proposed components to this campaign, some of which, like a new manatee research hospital, have already been accomplished. The mission also calls for an expansion on the African collection, hoping to introduce a pride of African lions into the Lowry family.
The Primate World area is also scheduled to be redone, as the campaign will provide funds to introduce bonobos and gorillas into the area, being one of the few zoos to have representatives of all four families of the great apes. However, the biggest achievement of this project will come in a brand-new area: Latin America. They plan to include various species that are symbolic to South America, including jaguars, giant anteaters, macaws and giant otters, growing the zoo into a nearly complete collection of creatures from every continent.
Starting with the Australia addition, Lowry Park Zoo has added several children's rides, including a merry go round, "Flying Bananas", and a mini roller coaster called the Tasmanian Tiger Family Coaster.
Gator Falls, which opened in June 2008, is a log flume ride. It is the largest and most expensive ride in the zoo to date, costing US$1.5 million to build. The ride features a single 30-foot (9.1 m) drop, and the track carries riders over the park's Philippine crocodile exhibit.
Many animals' names and genders have been revealed in newspaper articles, international and North American regional studbooks, and by Lowry Park Zoo's Twitter, Facebook, and website. Many of the animals lineage can also be tracked down using studbooks and other zoos that take credit for the animal's birth.
Note: Dagwood is not the name Lowry Park Zoo refers to the male by, however this is the name recognized by the international studbook. On October 11, 2014, Zuri was born to Zsa Zsa and Dagwood. This is the second child after Zola (F).
Note: Juanpur switched places with a male named Arjun on May 11, 2014. Jiyu was born in 2013 to Jamie and Arjun. This is their third child, they previously had Jahi and Jaya (Clara).
Note: Bzui and Mata have bred in the past at Busch Gardens, and Lowry Park Zoo is in hopes they will do so again.
Note: Mpumi was born to Mbali and Sdudla in late 2012. In July 2013, Matjeka and Sdudla had a calf named Mavi. Ellie previously had a calf named Tamani via artificial insemination. According to a collection plan from 2013, the zoo plans on artificially inseminating Ellie a second time.
Note: Ahadi was born to Alake and Ongava in May 2015. In 2013, Kidogo gave birth to a calf named Khari. She previously gave birth to a calf whose name is unknown and Kande.
Note: Keeva was born at Baltimore Zoo, but when her mother Carole rejected her, Abby became he surrogate mother. Abby has been a surrogate mother three times before adopting Keeva.
Note: Malu was born Haddie and deceased male Cyrus at the zoo.
Note: Bingwa is a Reticulated giraffe, Randle is a Rothschild's giraffe, and Sekani and Jyota are Masai giraffes
Note: Bahati was born to Betty and Zack in 2013. He is their second calf.
Note: RanDee was born to DeeDee and deceased male Ringo. Ringo also fathered Hadiah, the mother is Josie. Both were born in 2012.
Note: Meru was born to Myrtle and Toomey in 2015.
Note: Mowgli was born to Malee and Yim in March 2015, and the zoo claims he has become a "superstar" since his birth.
Note: Another male lives at Lowry Park Zoo, however his name is not public.
Note: Tembikai was born to Ubi and Albert on January 1, 2015.
Note: Amber's chick hatched to Amber and Violet, Thalia and Topanga hatched to Thumbelina and Flannigain, and Aurora hatched to Amber and Violet.
In 2006, one of the zoo's two Sumatran tigers, a 14-year-old female named Enshala, slipped through an unlocked gate and into an area undergoing renovation. The zoo director, Lex Salisbury, defended his decision to shoot and kill the animal after attempts to tranquilize the tiger failed and the animal lurched towards the animal doctor that had shot the tranquilizer dart.
Later in 2006, a group known as "Tampa's Zoo Advocates" formed. The organization seeks to improve the living conditions of the animals as well as working conditions of the employees of Lowry Park Zoo.
In April 2008, 15 patas monkeys escaped from Safari Wild, a for-profit animal attraction under development east of Tampa in rural Polk County. This brought media attention to the venture, which is owned and operated by long-time Lowry Park Zoo director Lex Salisbury.
Subsequent investigations revealed many questionable transactions between Safari Wild and Lowry Park Zoo, including the transfer of over 200 zoo animals to Safari Wild, zoo funds being used to build structures on Safari Wild property, and payments from the zoo to "board" animals at Safari Wild. The city of Tampa, which provides a portion of the zoo's annual budget, demanded an audit detailing the relationship between Lowry Park, Salisbury, and his outside business ventures.
The audit was released in December 2008 and disclosed many questionable dealing between the zoo and Safari Wild. It also uncovered violations of zoo policies by Salisbury, including increasing his own bonus payments, charging the zoo for personal travel, and using zoo employees for his personal work. Auditors estimated that Salisbury owed the zoo more than $200,000 and suggested a criminal investigation. On December 19, 2008, Salisbury, under pressure from the zoo's board of directors and the city of Tampa, resigned from his position at the zoo.
As a result of possible violations of animal transfer rules and species survival plans, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums suspended the membership of Lowry Park Zoo and of Larry Killmar, the zoo's Director of Collections who had authorized many of Salisbury's questionable animal transfers. Under Killmar, the zoo reorganized its internal policies over several months, and on March 27, 2009, the AZA reinstated the membership of both Lowry Park Zoo and its director of collections.
The saga came to a close in August 2009 when Salisbury and the Lowry Park Zoo board agreed to a settlement in which Salisbury paid $2,200 and agreed to return all the structures, fencing, and equipment that the zoo had built at Safari Wild but did not admit to any wrongdoing.