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    Venue

    Roger Williams Park Zoo

    1000 Elmwood Avenue
    Providence, RI 02907

    Phone: 401-785-3510   |   Email

    Official Website

    zoo_logo_vertical.jpg

    Roger Williams Park Zoo, one of the oldest zoos in the country, has entertained and delighted Rhode Islanders since its opening in 1872. Its beautiful Victorian buildings have been home to many legendary animals.

    But by the mid 1960's, like so many zoos across the country, Roger Williams Park Zoo was showing visible signs of neglect. One determined individual recognized that the zoo was an extremely valuable institution in need...

    Roger Williams Park Zoo, one of the oldest zoos in the country, has entertained and delighted Rhode Islanders since its opening in 1872. Its beautiful Victorian buildings have been home to many legendary animals.

    But by the mid 1960's, like so many zoos across the country, Roger Williams Park Zoo was showing visible signs of neglect. One determined individual recognized that the zoo was an extremely valuable institution in need of organized assistance. In 1962, Sophie Danforth founded the Rhode Island Zoological Society, whose mission was to increase public awareness and support for the zoo and to raise funds from the private sector.

    Its first project was to build a membership program. "Our aim is to keep our members informed about the zoo and to encourage you to visit the zoo more often," said the first zoo newsletter. Membership dues also helped purchase animals and zoo supplies, but more funds were desperately needed. In 1970, the Society opened food and gift shop concessions for the benefit of the zoo.

    In 1974, Mrs. Danforth and then Society President Richard Goss lobbied a Senate sub-committee to adopt a bill providing federal support to non-profit zoos. Their efforts paid off in 1976 when federal funds enabled the construction of a mile-long perimeter fence, securing the exhibits. Simultaneously, the City announced that it had earmarked $2,500,000 of federal dollars for a major zoo upgrade.

    In 1978, the gates were closed and for the following two years major new exhibits were built: a Children's Nature Center, a naturalistic Polar Bear exhibit, a boardwalk through the lush wetlands and a North American Bison exhibit. The Zoo Society raised $100,000 to pay for the exhibits in the Children's Nature Center which later won national recognition.

    Other exciting displays were built in the 1980s: In 1982, RIZS raised $100,000 towards the construction of a South American Pampas exhibit. A year later, a Lemur exhibit was made possible by $30,000 raised by the Society.

    By the mid-80's, major projects required the Society to raise a great deal of revenue - $750,000 towards the renovation of the Sophie Danforth Center in 1986, $665,000 for the new Sea Lion Pool in 1987, and a year later, it co-hosted a ball that raised $35,000 for the popular Black-footed Penguin exhibit.

    Making plans for the future.
    The new exhibits inspired tremendous expansion of the education programs both at the zoo and in the surrounding communities. With the help of over 100 volunteers and through the use of the Zoomobile, these programs travel to schools, camps, senior centers, festivals and other events in Rhode Island, Connecticut and Massachusetts. Over 20,000 people a year see the zoo's education animals through the mobile outreach program.

    The single most exciting development came in 1986. As a result of the new construction and the growth of education programs, Roger Williams Park Zoo became the first zoological park in New England to receive accreditation from the American Association of Zoological Parks and Aquariums (AAZPA) - now known as the American Zoological Association (AZA).

    It was not an easy distinction to achieve. Some 115 requirements had to be met including employment of a full-time general curator, education curator and veterinarian. Accreditation is a significant achievement permitting eligibility to receive certain funds and acquire endangered species.

    Since accreditation, more sweeping changes have been initiated. In 1987, a small admission charge was instituted at the gate, the proceeds of which were designated specifically for new exhibits. At the same time, the Board of Trustees, along with the Providence Parks Department, recognized that significant planning and changes were still necessary to realize Roger Williams Park Zoo's full potential.

    Under the guidance of Coe Lee Robinson Roesch, architects widely experienced in zoological park planning, they joined forces and together formulated a Master Plan to dramatically expand the zoo over the next decade. They sought new staff members capable of overseeing the Plan's implementation.

    The much-loved Penguin exhibit opened in 1987, with $665,000 worth of funds from the Rhode Island Zoological Society.
    A national search among the top-ranking zoos produced new directors for the Society and the zoo. As a result, other zoo professionals from all over the country joined the staff - a new veterinarian and zoo and education curators. In addition, classrooms, administrative offices and the new animal hospital were centralized in the renovated Sophie Danforth Center.

    In October of 1990, an event occurred which significantly strengthened the Roger Williams Park Zoo's credentials in the scientific and academic communities - our newly appointed Director of Research obtained a Research Fellow position at Brown University. This relationship enabled zoo staff to conduct collaborative programs with Brown University faculty, to sponsor work study groups for undergraduate and graduate students and to use Brown University facilities, equipment and seminars. This prominent affiliation was the beginning of many ways in which Roger Williams Park Zoo has broadened its influence in the community and the entire region.

    The timing of this expansion coincided with a national resurgence in zoo popularity. Since 1990, Roger Williams Park Zoo has enjoyed an impressive upward trend in attendance and membership. In the last 15 years, attendance has more than doubled, from 341,000 to 700,000. Memberships have increased at an even more dramatic rate, from a mere 900 members in 1987 to over 16,000 members today.

    Over the last 30 years, the Society has worked with the City, Parks Department and zoo staff to help make Roger Williams Park Zoo one of the finest zoological parks in the nation. As the zoo's ambassador, it has effectively communicated the zoo's mission statement of recreation, education, conservation and research. The funds it has raised have created important exhibits, making Roger Williams Park Zoo one of the few nationally prominent zoos in the Northeast. It has successfully generated tremendous enthusiasm for the zoo, and in so doing has increased public awareness of our precious wildlife resources and the need to protect them.



    Full map and directions

     

    Admission:

    Adults: $14.95
    Children (ages 3 through 12): $9.95
    Seniors (ages 62+): $12.95
    Children under 3 and Zoo members are admitted free.

    Special winter rates for January and February, 2010:
    $6/adult, $4/child (ages 3 - 12) and $4/senior (ages 62+)


    Hours:

    Open year 'round, 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. daily (last admission at 3:30) Closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day


    Parking Information:

    Free Parking


    There is no accessibility service information available at this time.


    Upcoming Events

    Zoobilee! Feast with the Beasts

    June 24, 2017

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    Be a Kid Again!

    July 15, 2017

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    Family Overnight at Roger Williams Park Zoo

    July 22, 2017

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    Family Overnight at Roger Williams Park Zoo

    July 29 - July 30, 2017

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    Brew at the Zoo

    August 26, 2017

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