ABOUT TAMPA'S LOWRY PARK ZOO
Winner of 4.5 stars from TripAdvisor, Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo is one of the most popular zoos in the southeastern US, with over 800,000 visitors annually. The Zoo originated in the 1930s as a municipal department with a small collection of Florida native species. It grew gradually throughout the next four decades, but struggled to meet the developing professional standards of modern zoos. In 1982, community leaders created the Lowry Park Zoo Association to take over management of the Zoo for the City of Tampa with the goal of creating a world-class zoo through a public-private partnership. The Association then became the Lowry Park Zoological Society of Tampa, Inc., as it remains today. Working with a national zoo designer, the Society was able to create a modern, 24-acre facility that opened to the public in 1988. Accreditation by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) came shortly after in 1990, and we were most recently reaccredited in March 2015.
The mission of the Zoo is "to connect people with the living earth." We strive to do so by operating the Zoo in accordance with the highest professional standards of conservation, education, research and recreation, and by serving as a resource for the community regarding conservation and environmental matters affecting animals and habitats, both locally and throughout the world. Growing to what now encompasses 56 acres of naturalistic animal exhibits in a lush, tropical garden setting, the Zoo offers popular educational programming and fun recreational amenities, for which it has won accolades as one of the country's most family-friendly zoos.
The Zoo's collection now includes 1,300 animals. The Zoo participates in nearly 100 of AZA’s networks for managing endangered and threatened species (read more here), and has won numerous awards for its animal conservation and management programs. The State of Florida formally recognized the Zoo in 2004 as a center for biodiversity and conservation. It exhibits the most comprehensive collection of endangered Florida wildlife anywhere. One of its most important conservation programs is the David A. Straz, Jr. Manatee Hospital, the only permitted nonprofit critical care facility of its kind in Florida. Like a window on a manatee “emergency room,” Zoo guests have the unique experience of watching conservation at work as the Zoo’s veterinary and animal care staff treat sick, injured and orphaned manatees. Underwater viewing windows in the Manatee & Aquatics Center let guests come nose-to-nose with manatees that the Zoo staff return to the wild when they have fully recovered.
The Zoo emphasizes endangered, threatened and vulnerable species from climates similar to that of the Tampa Bay region, with park areas devoted to Asia, Africa, Australia and Florida. Additional areas exhibit primates and birds. Exhibits balance support for the maximum well-being of the animals with the importance of the guest experience in relation to our mission. Keeper talks, animal encounters, behind-the-scene tours, and other special experiences expand the Zoo’s opportunities to promote a connection to the living earth.
The Education Department supports the Zoo’s mission with entertaining and educational programming designed to inspire guests with respect and appreciation for the natural world so that they leave the Zoo motivated and empowered to take positive conservation action. Programs can be formal or informal, on-site or off-site, and tailored by age group and interest. The Zoo’s Florida Environmental Education Center, or “Zoo School,” is a year-round, full-time, licensed childcare center that enrolls over 100 children ages one through five. It was the first full-time, licensed childcare center operated by a U.S. zoo.