1916 ~ The City of Jackson acquires 79 acres of land from Samuel Livingston for $36,000.
1919 ~ The original Zoo consisted of fireman’s pets, squirrels, deer, raccoons, alligators and rabbits. This collection was housed in the Central Fire Station in downtown Jackson (now the Jackson Chamber of Commerce Building).
1921~ The City Council voted to situate the Zoo on the land acquired from Samuel Livingston and became known as the Livingston Park Zoo. Some of the initial exhibits still stand today (i.e. the Monkey Castle and the Elephant House Cafe).
The Zoo survived the depression and built an education center.
Jackson State College president, Dr. Jacob L. Reddix, helped expand the animal collection. New animals included chimpanzees, gray mangabey monkeys, a white-tailed colobus, an African loon, a lemur and two pythons.
1950’s & 60’s
The zoo was renamed The R.M. Taylor Zoo after the city commissioner who spearheaded some development of the giraffe exhibit and the large mammal moats (Asian Grottos).
The zoo was renamed the Jackson Zoological Society and started moving towards current zoo trends by changing from a varied menagerie to an organized, scientific collection.
The children’s petting zoo and animal hospital was built. The Friends of the Jackson Zoo were formed (1975).
The African Rainforest exhibit was developed.
The Zoo became AAZPA accredited (now known as the AZA). The children’s petting zoo was renovated to become the Discovery Zoo.
Original buildings were updated to include the conversion of the Elephant House into a café. The Zoo’s animal collection increased through intra-zoo trading and through SSP breeding programs.
State government approved legislation that provided $4 million for capital improvements.
The Zoo became a member of a community organization called ZAPP (Zoo Area Progressive Partnership), which assists in the regeneration of the neighborhoods surrounding the zoo.
The city agreed to a $1.5 million dollar match, making the African Savannah and Mississippi Wilderness exhibits possible.
The Endangered Species Carousel opened.
The African Savannah exhibit opened.
Wilderness Mississippi exhibit opened. The zoo was named a “Southern Travel Treasure” by AAA Magazine.
The zoo was named “Travel Attraction of the Year” by the Mississippi Tourism Association and “Attraction of the Year” by the Jackson Convention Visitors Bureau. Construction of the Gertrude. C. Ford Education Center began.
The new 8,000 sq ft Sumatran Tiger exhibit opens.
The Gertrude C. Ford Education Center Display Hall opens.
The Zoo undergoes a new and exciting branding image with a mission to “Zoo it Better.”
Endangered Sumatran tiger cub born on May 22. Jackson Zoo specialty license plate introduced.
Twin Red panda cubs born (endangered). Partnership with Jackson State University instated until 2018. Changing rooms and lounge added to Splash Pad.
Seating at the Gertrude C Ford Wildlife Adventures Theater completed. Rhino barn renovations finished with the support of Mississippi Department of Archives and History. Implementation of Experience Zoo, donating memberships to families of first responders and military through corporate donations.
Dinos! A selection of “life sized” animatronic dinosaurs arrive from Billings Productions for a three-month stay along the back trail of the Zoo. Two male Red ruffed lemurs (endangered) born in May. Belhaven University enters into a Memorandum of Understanding with the Jackson Zoo for educational outreach.
Critically endangered Asiatic Black bear joins the animal collection. Blue Bell Creameries becomes title sponsor for the popular Ice Cream Safari.
Introduction of the Sunset Safari event during the summer months, sponsored by . Jackson Zoological Society dissolves and zoo management reverts to City of Jackson Parks and Recreation Department. Park temporarily closes to the public to establish USDA licensing under City of Jackson. Modernization plans are initialized during the public hiatus.
Necessary infrastructure and deferred maintenance repairs begin. COVID-19 pandemic causes slow down of all renovations in the zoo due to lock down, but repairs continue. Standard operating USDA license is granted in July, and outdoor spaces in the zoo open to the public for limited hours and capacity on Saturdays and Sundays under COVID-19 safety protocols. COVID-conscious event “I Spy Halloween” created to fill in for highly requested Boo at the Zoo event.
Zoo hours are expanded to Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 10 AM to 4 PM. Another COVID-conscious event, Summer Fling, invites families to the zoo after hours in July, with Blue Bell Ice Cream. I Spy Halloween returns courtesy of Credit Unions of Mississippi, and Santa Station is back for the first time since 2018, sponsored by CU’s of MS, Visit Jackson, and Zoo Area Progressive Partnership.