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The Zoo is established as a miniature mammal and bird display in Milwaukee’s Washington Park.


Through continuous growth, the zoo expands to 800 animals on 23 acres of land.


The Zoo becomes a Milwaukee County Park Commission entity, gaining the resources it needs to grow and prosper.


The Zoo moves to its present location on a 200-acre wooded parkland (near the Milwaukee interchange of Highways 94 and 45).

1958 — 1968

New buildings are created including the Primate building, Aquarium/Reptile building, Australian buildings and Winter Quarters. New habitats are created including Monkey Island, Grizzly Bear, Polar Bear, Brown Bear, Feline, Pachyderm, Giraffe, Bird and Small Mammals.  


New additions include the Children's Zoo, Dall Sheep Exhibit, Train Shed, Zoo Hospital, Zoo Pride and Gift Shop. 


An expansion/renovation master plan is initiated to address the growing needs of the zoo operation. Expansions include Wolf Woods, Polar Bear exhibit, Sea Lion exhibit, Dairy Complex and Peck Welcome Center. 


$10.7 million dollar Apes of Africa primate facility opens housing western lowland gorillas and bonobos in a West African rain forest-themed exhibit.


$3.3 million dollar newly renovated Aquatic & Reptile Center opens, featuring a 28,000-gallon Pacific Coast Marine Aquarium and Lake Wisconsin display.

2001 — 2008

$30 million dollar New Zoo II Capital Campaign, funded by the Zoological Society of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County, supports capital improvements.


Japanese macaques are introduced to their renovated outdoor Macaque Island exhibit that provides new and higher climbing areas. 


The Animal Health Center, made possible by Milwaukee County, the Zoological Society of Milwaukee, the Gretchen and Andrew Dawes Charitable Trust and the Holz Family Foundation, is completed. The center accommodates waterfowl and warm-and-cold-climate animals, plus allows public observation. 


The Karen Peck Katz Conservation Education Center is completed.  


$7.2 million dollar Florence Mila Borchert Big Cat Country opens, showcasing jaguars and young African lions.

Newly renovated Northwestern Mutual Family Farm, formerly the Children’s Zoo, opens allowing visitors to interact with native wildlife and farm animals.

New Stackner Animal Encounter Building and Bird of Prey Theater opens providing daily educational presentations.


The Zoo welcomes a flock of Caribbean flamingos, which take up residence in their lush Idabel Wilmot Borchert Flamingo Exhibit and Overlook. 

A new front entrance mall, The U.S. Bank Gathering Place, is unveiled featuring a light-filled atrium, café, counter-style snack bar, coffee shop, gift shop and customer service areas. This building marks the final project of the New Zoo II Capital Campaign. 


New outdoor bonobo exhibit opens providing these rare great apes 500 feet of elevated mesh passageways.


Completed the renovated entrance to the Northwestern Mutual Farm

Completion of the first phase of Black Bear Exhibit improvements, made possible by a MillerCoors donation

Completion of the first planning phase of a new 20-year Zoo master plan, addressing improvements in animal exhibits, visitor attractions, service facilities and operations


Installed a new emergency broadcast system on Zoo grounds

Continued improvements to the Black Bear Exhibit with focus on water conservation

Completion of the master plan proposal by Peckham Guyton Albers & Viets, Inc. (PGAV); will serve as a guide for the Zoo for the next 20 years


Moved forward on plans for the new auxiliary west entrance and adjacent parking lots.  Plans include construction of a new outdoor North American River Otter Exhibit


Renovation of the Outdoor Gorilla Exhibit
Began design of “Adventure Africa” Phase I:  Elephant Exhibit

Partnered with Goodwill Industries for the high school transition-to-work program, Project SEARCH

Installation of Mamava Lactation Suites; 3 comfortable and private areas for nursing mothers to use when visiting the Zoo


“Adventure Africa” Phase I: Elephant Exhibit design phase completed and demolition began.

Commissioned an economic impact study conducted by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Department of Economics.

Zoo has an estimated $155 million impact to the four-county area that includes: Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Washington and Waukesha.

Initiated composting partnership with local urban farming organization, Blue Ribbon Organics.


The Zoo celebrated its 125th anniversary.

West Entrance parking completed; further construction progressed on the North American River Otter Exhibit.

Site demolition began for “Adventure Africa” Phase I: Elephant Exhibit.