The Zoo was originally located near Wade Oval in University Circle. Jeptha H. Wade donated 73 acres of land and 14 American deer to the City of Cleveland.
Cleveland City Council relocated the Zoo to its current location once plans for the Cleveland Museum of Art were unveiled.
The Cleveland Zoological Society was created. The Zoo commissioned Cleveland-native Viktor Schreckengost to create two colossal relief sculptures for the exterior walls of a new Pachyderm Building. The 32-ton terra cotta Mammoth & Mastodon sculptures are still the largest ceramic animal sculptures in the country. They were removed and restored prior to groundbreaking for African Elephant Crossing, and are being installed at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.
The Cleveland Zoological Society transferred ownership of the Zoo to Cleveland Metroparks and became the supporting agency for Cleveland Metroparks Zoo.
The RainForest transformed Cleveland Metroparks Zoo to a true year-round experience. The two-story building is designed to give visitors an understanding of the importance of the world’s rain forests and is home to more than 10,000 plants and 600 animals. The Cleveland Zoological Society raised more than $1 million for various exhibits in The RainForest, and the Society's "Orang Gang Committee" raised another $12,000 for "Old Man of the Forest," a life-sized bronze statue of an orangutan by world-renowned nature sculptor Tom Tischler.
The 3,000-square-foot Wolf Wilderness Lodge is reminiscent of a 19th-century trapper's cabin and serves as an orientation/education center. The building was designed to give visitors a chance to learn about wildlife that was once found in Ohio. The Zoo Society received its largest gift at the time during this campaign, $1.5 million. Outside, a bronze statue of a wolf created by Bowling Green State University graduate Mary Wawrytko is a favorite photo opportunity for children.
Australian Adventure, featuring Koala Junction, Wallaby Walkabout and Kookaburra Station, provides an early learning experience for young children (ages 3 to 12). Children become acquainted with Australian wildlife and gain an understanding of the role of animals in the wild and at a working Australian ranch. The Zoo Society's capital campaign raised $4.6 million for Australian Adventure.
One of the most visible measures of excellence at the Zoo is the Sarah Allison Steffee Center for Zoological Medicine. Opened in 2004, the SAS Center articulates a powerful vision for the role of veterinary medicine in zoos. The world-class facility was made possible by a successful $4.4 million campaign that funded approximately half the total cost of construction. The SAS Center contributes to the scientific advancement of zoo veterinary medicine worldwide. The David Steffee Chair for Veterinary Medicine underwrites training for scientists and practicing veterinarians from developing countries, as well as innovative research.
The opening of the state-of-the-art African Elephant Crossing was an outstanding opportunity to raise awareness of conservation challenges in sub-Saharan Africa. Quadruple the size of the old Pachyderm Building, the exhibit is Gold certified through the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building certification program. The $12.8 million raised through the Zoo Society's capital campaign was three times larger that any previous campaign and introduced a total of 3,800 contributors,11 times as many as any previous campaign.
Located near Waterfowl Lake, the Circle of Wildlife is a destination for a special occasion or a restful moment during a busy Zoo day. Focusing on animals and habitats, the Carousel presents the global view, with exotic species from around the world, while Nature Discovery Ridge provides an opportunity to learn about our own local habitats and animals. With a goal of raising $2 million for the Circle of Wildlife and another $200,000 for related conservation funding, the Zoo Society reached out to generous donors who contributed nearly 80% of the goal by the end of 2013.
To lay the groundwork for a sustainable future, the Zoo and Zoo Society jointly engaged in an intensive, comprehensive planning process, with significant input from the community and in close alignment with Cleveland Metroparks.
Rosebrough Tiger Passage, which opened in June 2016, is five times the size of the previous Amur tiger exhibit. A key design feature is four separate, interconnected habitat areas for the tigers to roam, including two overhead elevated pathways that provide unique viewing for Zoo visitors and a way for the tigers to move between their habitat areas. Rosebrough Tiger Passage includes heated rocks, bodies of water and vertical climbing poles. The Cleveland Zoological Society committed more than $2.5 million toward the exhibit's $4.1 million total cost.
Asian Highlands opened in June 2018 along the outer pathway of Wilderness Trek, a hilly area that already highlights forest-dwelling species such as bears, wolves and tigers. It is adjacent to Rosebrough Tiger Passage, which features similar habitat design to Asian Highlands. This habitat truly maximizes vertical space and climbing opportunities that showcase the species’ agility and preference for being up high. Red panda spend most of their lives in trees. Snow leopards traverse landscape edges. Amur leopards are often seen resting in places with high vantage points. All of the species are cold-hardy, meaning they can remain outdoors throughout Ohio winters. In the warmer months, the habitat’s cooling caves and slabs will bring relief during the hottest summer temperatures.
Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Welcome Pavilion opened in June, 2018. The Mandel Pavilion, located at the entrance to the Zoo, raises awareness of the Zoo’s longstanding commitment to international conservation programs, and allows guests an easy way to Make a Difference for wildlife. Each guest who enters the Zoo is given a green token, which is deposited in a donation box in the Mandel Pavilion, with each box supporting a different Future for Wildlife program.