New York City Zoos

The Staten Island Zoo

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"New York City Zoos" by Joan Scheier

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The Publisher: Arcadia Publishing

Staten Island Zoo

"The Staten Island Zoo is the only New York City zoo that is not part of the Wildlife Conservation Society. However, "New York's Biggest Little Zoo" has much in common with the Central Park and Prospect Park Zoos. The WPA used solid brick architecture, winding paths, and a park-like setting. The Staten Island Zoo has always been known for its reptile collection (especially for its collection of venomous snakes) and its educational programs. In fact, the zoo is host to over 20,000 children a year through their extensive agenda of educational programs. The Staten Island Zoo, like all zoos, has changed since the 1930's. The animals were in cages and exhibits that were sterile with little to engage the resident. Now they can be seen in a a natural setting with keepers providing enrichment specific to each exhibit. Clearly, the Staten Island Zoo is an oasis in a city craving for an experience that is fun, educational, and affordable."

John Caltiabano, director, Staten Island Zoo

Plan For The Staten Island Zoo

The plan for the Staten Island Zoo that opened in 1936 was for one red brick building in the shape of a T. The center of the T would be a rotunda that would house the aqaurium. Mammals and birds would be on either side. The straight let of the T would house the reptile collections.

Plan For SI Zoo

Barrett Park

Barrett Park was the location of the zoo and also the name of the zoo. As time went on it became known as the Staten Island Zoo. All the New York City zoos of that era used red brick with white trim and included ornate chimneys atop the buildings.

Barrett Park

Staten Island 1936

The zoo opened in June 1936. The school groups led by teachers were always charmed by the lions. Educational programs included demonstrations for biology students, meetings of natural history groups, and, lectures for the public.

1936 Opening

Dr. Parick O'Connor

Dr. Parick O'Connor, staff veterinarian 1945-1970, considered education of the public and especially of children very important. She gave them an opportunities to touch and learn about the snakes at the zoo. She visited hospitals and the children visited the zoo as well.

Dr Parick O'Connor

Indian Cobra

The Indian cobra is an example of a snake that was the cornerstone of the reptile collection. This is a highly venomous snake that feeds on rodents. When threatened it will raise the front one third of its body and elongate its long flexible neck.

Indian Cobra

"First Education Zoo In America"

When the zoo opened in 1936 it claimed to be the first education zoo in America. From the opening day through today, the reptile exhibits have aimed for naturalistic habitats. This postcard shows the rocky bottom that would have been natural to this species.

First Education Zoo


Sultana, one of the African lionesses, was shown in a typical enclosure of the time. The breeding of the big cats was successful and cubs were sent to other zoos. In 1967, renovations to the zoo make it necessary to remove the larger animals to other zoos, including Guadalajara, Mexico, where a new zoo was being built.


Lion In Outdoor Enclosure

This is an outdoor enclosure showing a lion lounging on a raised shelf. All the zoos in New York City have one thing in common when to comes to saving the best of the architecture. Whether the buildings were demolished or renovated, paving stones, chimneys, weathervanes, brick trim, friezes, and statues were kept in their original locations.


Peacocks and Prairie Dogs

In keeping with open enclosures and no bars it was decided to have more outdoor exhibits that did not need to be roofed in. This exhibit includes flightless birds, such as peacocks and an exhibit of praire dogs with burrows for digging.

Peacocks and Prairie Dogs


This is one of the newest residents at the Staten Island Zoo. Smaller animals replaced the large lions and tigers. An example of a smaller cat is the seval shown above, which was added to the collection in 2005. A seval is a wild cat that is a threatened species due to loss of habitat and over hunting.


Red Fox

This is Vixen, a Red fox from the Staten Island Zoo. She is a year old.


You may order The Central Park Zoo Book and The New York City Zoos and Aquarium book at:

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Joan is available for book talks with slides, for both the Central Park Zoo and The New York City Zoos and Aquarium books. Please contact her through e-mail or