You Won’t Believe Zoo Boise’s 1916 Origin Story
Zoo Boise is such a special place. So many of you have already experienced it and will find this history fascinating. I certainly did. If you have not been to Zoo Boise, it is well worth a visit. Kids or not, it is a great place to be and explore. I went with my son and met with Jeff Agosta, Friends of Zoo Boise, Marketing & PR. He has lots of fun knowledge about the Zoo and its history and after telling me about it also led me to the website which showcases the history beautifully.
I was in awe when he was telling me about how Zoo Boise got started. In 1916 there were 'rare and highly-valued birds from the Sportsman’s Club' donated to the City of Boise. Not long after, still 1916, a circus came through Mountain Home. A monkey decided to retire from his life in the circus and escaped. He was found later in the desert of Mountain Home, well after the traveling circus had moved on and was taken to the city for care.
According to Zoo Boise, the Police Department took care of the animals in the 1920's. Police would visit local restaurants and grocery stores looking for leftover food to feed the animals. More and more animals were brought in and by World War II, the zoo had 40 different species of animals on display. It was a lot for the police to keep up with on top of their main job, plus the war made things difficult for everyone.
The Zoo suffered from neglect and was even in danger of being closed in 1961. Members in the city were not going to let the zoo fail so later that year, a citizens task force was appointed formed the Idaho Zoological Society. This group is now known as the Friends of Zoo Boise who make everything possible. Through donations, developments, and hard work the zoo continued to improve and by 1971 there was admission costs to enter the zoo for the first time. 35 cents for adults, a quarter for high schoolers and kiddos were just 15 cents.
Another historic milestone for the zoo was in September of 2002 when Zoo Boise was accreditation with the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA). This membership organization only includes members with the best zoos in the country. They help Zoo Boise by providing training and opportunities not offered to Zoos who don't meet the requirements.
Things continued to get even better for Zoo Boise thanks to the dedicated staff. Conservation is essential for continued animal life in the future and Zoo Boise is at the forefront. In 2007 they became the first zoo in the country to create a conservation fee. A small 50¢ fee, that is added to admission price goes directly to fund conservation projects taking place in Idaho and around the world. It may not sound like much but it along with some other money raising efforts have now generated more than $3 million.
Zoo Boise really is a special place. I also learned about the extensive work and research they do for conservation efforts. They even match up animals for breading, especially endangered species, using a giant collaborative animal zoo database. Its basically like match.com for animals. I will dive more into details on that in another post. Seriously this zoo is amazing and does great work behind the scenes. Help support the effort by becoming a friend of the zoo by visiting, becoming a member or donating. Find out more about Zoo Boise on their website here.