100 Years of Fun and History at the San Antonio Zoo
100 years after the first animals were brought to Brackenridge Park, the San Antonio Zoo attracts tourists from all over the world to see and learn about its extensive collection of animals. The zoo’s mission includes breeding and conservation programs for dozens of rare and endangered species. The San Antonio Zoo hasn’t always been this big, but it has always been innovative and educational!
The first “zoo” in San Antonio was held in a private collection owned by J. J. Duerler that he housed at San Pedro Park as early as the 1870s. Another group of animals lived at San Pedro Park around the turn of the 20th century. According to a 1949 article in the San Antonio Light, a circus got stranded in San Antonio and the city allowed the keeper to set up his cages at the park. When he started charging admission to help feed his charges, the city bought the animals and moved them to the new Brackenridge Park. In 1914, businessman and philanthropist George W. Brackenridge brought a small herd of elk and buffalo that were to be housed on the land that he had deeded to the city of San Antonio. Over time, animals such as golden eagles, lions, a black prairie wolf, and a weasel were added to the collection, and in 1928, the San Antonio Zoological Society formed to help purchase and maintain animals and to continue the growth of one of the world’s most advanced zoos.
One of the most important people in the zoo’s early history was Fred Stark. Stark was a San Antonio native who began working at the zoo in 1927 as the curator of the small bird collection. He was named director in 1929, a post that he held until his death in 1967. During that time, he oversaw the development of breeding programs and innovative open habitats as well as a tremendous growth in attendance.
This Saturday, August 2nd, join us at the Alamo Research Center for an exhibit that explores the history of fun and sun in San Antonio. Summer may be winding down, but we aren’t ready to let it go! Some of our Texas treasures will also be on display. We look forward to seeing you!