Prospect Park’s 585 acres house a wealth of treasures that keep Brooklynites and visitors coming back again and again. Nestled along the park’s eastern edge is Prospect Park Zoo, a 12-acre mass of land inhabited by a variety of amphibians, avians, mammals, and reptiles.
A zoological garden was featured in the original plans for Prospect Park, but proved to hold low priority as the park’s development pressed on. In 1874, eight years after work began, Prospect Park’s only zoologic features were a deer paddock, a wild fowl pond, and a flock of sheep that tended to the park’s meadows. By 1890, an informal Menagerie had cropped up on the park’s grounds. Donations of animals by prominent individuals increased the Menagerie’s zoologic diversity, which counted seals, foxes, bears, and peacocks among its charges by the time the park was dedicated in 1935.
For more than five decades, the zoo was operated by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. In 1988, it closed for a major renovation and repopulation. Prospect Park Zoo reopened in 1993 in its current form, doubling as a wildlife conservation center.
The Sea Lion Court, located in the center of Prospect Park Zoo, proves a highlight for most visitors. Sea lions are especially active during autumn, eating more than usual in preparation for winter. To maximize your exposure, visit the court during one of three daily sea lion training sessions. Prospect Park Zoo’s Animal Lifestyles Exhibit, home to exotic species including Pallas’s cat, Geoffroy’s marmoset, the Golden Lion tamarin, and Hamadryas baboon, is another major crowd-pleaser
The zoo’s other exhibits are a Barn and Garden, Discovery Trail, and Hall of Animals. The barn houses alpaca, Cotswold sheep, and Juliana pigs. Animals you can spot along the Discovery Trail include the red panda, dingo, emu, and North American river otter. The Hall of Animals, heavy on amphibians and reptiles, is home to a Chinese big-headed turtle, poison dart frog, and fennec fox.
Using educational concepts developed through the Wildlife Inquiry through Zoo Education, Prospect Park Zoo sponsors numerous educational programs. These programs introduce participants to zoological theory and professional laboratory equipment, and are designed to help school-age children develop a sustainable interest in biology and wildlife.
If you’re staying at the NU Hotel in Brooklyn, the Prospect Park Zoo is just a ten-minute drive. Visit with your family to reconnect with nature and keep your children entertained. Children under two get in free of charge.