The National Zoo at 125

Giant Pandas 7/8/2014

In celebration of the Smithsonian National Zoological Park’s 125th anniversary, we are proud to bring back the American bison—the animal that inspired the founding of our Zoo and helped spark the conservation movement. The Smithsonian’s National Zoo started in 1887 as an exhibit on the National Mall behind the Castle featuring American bison and a handful of species native to North America. Two years later on March 2, 1889, Congress passed an act establishing the National Zoological Park in Washington, D.C. dedicated to “the advancement of science and the instruction and recreation of the people.”

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Today the Smithsonian’s National Zoo has 1,800 animals from 300 species in its living collection and is one of Washington’s and the Smithsonian’s most popular tourist destinations. We welcome up to two million visitors—from our local community, the country and the world—every year, free of charge.

The Zoo provides engaging experiences with animals at its 163-acre campus in Rock Creek Park in Washington, D.C. and conducts veterinary and reproductive research to save wildlife and habitats at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, its 3,200 acre Front Royal, Virginia campus. SCBI pioneers basic-science techniques that are revolutionizing conservation biology. Its scientists study more than 20 endangered species that benefit from its unique facilities, space and staff expertise. Findings from these studies provide critical data for the management of captive populations and valuable insights for the conservation and management of wild populations.

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In addition to working to inspire the next generation who visit the Zoo, we partnered with George Mason University to create the Smithsonian-Mason Global Conservation Studies Program to train future conservationists in an interdisciplinary and interactive program at SCBI headquarters. There, undergraduate, graduate and professional students from the U.S. and abroad participate in courses taught by prominent scientists and educators from the Zoo, George Mason University and other institutions.

Blue Poison Dart FrogThe National Zoo is a long-standing accredited member of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, the organization that determines modern zoological standards for its 216 members. AZA accreditation certifies that the National Zoo has met or exceeded the AZA’s standards for animal care, veterinary programs, conservation, education and safety.

We are a place where visitors can marvel at animals, enjoy a beautiful, peaceful experience exploring our exhibits and outdoor habitats and learn about wildlife and conservation. Our scientists conduct research onsite and across the globe to preserve habitats and protect global biodiversity. Simply put, we save species.

The background image of this website is courtesy of Dennis Lingohr, American Prairie Reserve.


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