Brookfield Zoo Marks 100 Years Since Groundbreaking With Eye Toward the Future

Brookfield Zoo is celebrating a big milestone. It was a century ago when construction on the grounds began.

A lot has changed over the last 100 years on the 235-acre parcel of land.

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The land was donated by Edith Rockefeller McCormick to the [Cook County Forest Preserve District] with the promise it must be built as a zoo. Over the course of time, it took quite a while to put these habitats for the different species,” said Leah Rippe, vice president of marketing and communications at Brookfield Zoo.

On Oct. 27, 1922, dozens of people gathered for the groundbreaking.

“I love looking at the historical photos and seeing how people dressed for the occasion to come to the zoo. Actually, the opening of Brookfield Zoo … we’ll be celebrating that 100th year in 2034,” Rippe said.

From giraffes to rhinos, the zoo is now home to more than 2,500 animals

“In the time since the zoo first opened, so much change has taken place and it really was conceived as a modern zoological park with open spaces, exhibits and that’s what we are really trying to do as we look forward for the centennial celebration is take it back to that level of what’s new and exciting and innovating,” said CEO Dr. Michael Adkesson.

Adkesson says his team is focused on a master plan and projects to revitalize habitats for the animals.

The zoo’s Tropic World transports you into the rain forest of three continents. It’s one of the exhibits on the list for renovation

“On the outside of this building we will be putting new outdoor habitats for gorillas, orangutans and some smaller monkeys,” said Adkesson. “We want them to have the space to play, roam outside and get to feel the sunshine on their face and be able to walk around on grass.”

Adkesson started as a veterinarian at Brookfield Zoo and the rest is history. One of his passions is the conservation of animals. He says Brookfield Zoo operates multiple conservations around the world.

“So many species would no longer exist in the world if it wasn’t for zoos and other conservation organizations breeding these populations for re-introduction,” Adkesson said.

Find out more about upcoming programs at the zoo at 

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