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Once known as the World Famous Topeka Zoo, the city’s zoo inside Gage Park continues to entertain.
Exhibits are continually being added and new births, including lion cubs in 2007 and a zebra in 2009, bring renewed life to the zoo. Its history goes back about 100 years.
Officially, the Topeka Zoo opened its gates in 1933 after the first planned animal exhibits were built by the Works Progress Administration (WPA).
The featured attraction was Monkey Island, which included a miniature city hall building and trapeze surrounded by a moat containing sea lions. The monkeys could sit in windows labeled with the titles of city officials.
But animals (some exotic) were kept in Gage Park as early as 1912, when there were monkeys, alligators and buffalo. There also had been bears, coyotes and other small animals.
The zoo, despite some troubles in the early 2000s, has come a long way from Monkey Island and chained-up animals. Today, the 30-acre site features modern exhibits and is home to more than 380 exotic animals.
Among the major exhibits are Animal and Man (1966), Tropical Rain Forest (1974), Discovering Apes (1981), Gorilla Encounter (1985), Lions Pride (1989), Children’s Zoo (1992), Black Bear Woods (1996) and Jungle Cats (2005). Renovations have improved the outdoor Elephant Exhibit (1996), Water Bird Lagoon (2000) and outdoor Orangutan Habitat (2003).
Located in the northeast corner of Gage Park, the zoo remains one of the state’s leading attractions, hosting between 150,000 and 180,000 visitors annually.
The zoo is open daily year-round — except Jan. 1 and Dec. 25 — from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., with exhibits remaining open until 5 p.m.
Admission is free for children 2 and younger, $3.75 for ages 3-12, $5.25 for ages 13 and older and $4.25 for seniors. Group rates are available with advance notice. Call (785) 368-9143 for more information.
Additional general information about the zoo is available at: http://www.topeka.org/zoo/index.shtml or by calling (785) 368-9180.