Topeka Zoo

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Topeka Zoo
Topeka Zoo Logo 2016.jpg
LocationTopeka, Kansas, United States
Coordinates39°03′25″N 95°43′33″W / 39.0569°N 95.7259°W / 39.0569; -95.7259Coordinates: 39°03′25″N 95°43′33″W / 39.0569°N 95.7259°W / 39.0569; -95.7259
No. of animals300+[1]
Annual visitors200,000
MembershipsAZA[2] WAZA[3] and Elephant Managers Association

The Topeka Zoo (formally the Topeka Zoological Park) is a medium-sized zoo in Topeka, Kansas in the United States. It is located within Gage Park, just off I-70 in the north central portion of the city. Despite its size, it houses over 250 animals in a number of exhibits, including one of the first indoor tropical rain forests in the United States, it is one of the most popular attractions in Topeka, with over 200,000 visitors a year.

The Topeka Zoo is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).


Entrance gate, c. 1912. The zoo was originally known as the Gage Park Zoo.

The Gage Family donated 80 acres (32 ha) to the city of Topeka in 1899 to use for a public park. Over the years, the park has accumulated playgrounds, a swimming pool, a fishing lake, a mini train, a rose garden, and a carousel.[1]

The zoo was opened in the park in 1933. Additional exhibits were constructed over the years, and in 1963 the city hired its first zoo director, Gary K. Clarke; the first major facility at the zoo was constructed in 1966 to house large mammals. Clarke went on to get many of the current exhibits constructed, including Gorilla Encounter (1985), the temporary Koala Exhibit (1986), Lions Pride (1989), the Tropical Rainforest, and Discovering Apes.[1][4]

The zoo lost its accreditation with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums in 2001, due to mismanagement, poor conditions for some of the animals being exhibited, and the deaths of several animals. In 2003, after a major overhaul of the zoo and the addition of several new exhibits, the Topeka Zoo regained its accreditation.[5]

In 2011, the City hired a new zoo director by the name of Brendan Wiley. After this hire, the general demeanor of the citizens toward the zoo has been more positive.


Kansas Carnivores

Kansas Carnivores, opened in 2009, features cougars and North American river otters in side-by-side exhibits.

Black Bear Woods

Black Bear Woods was built in 1997,[4] and features animals from North America. Units house Virginia opossum, Harris hawk, and red-tailed hawk. Bald eagles and golden eagles live in tall flight pens. A coyote inhabits a densely planted exhibit. Four black bears live in a spacious enclosure with trees to climb, they can be viewed from an elevated walkway, or a ground level window.

Waterbird Lagoon

Waterbird Lagoon features three ponds. Waterfowl such as trumpeter swans live in these ponds. Many wild waterfowl visit these ponds such as mallard ducks, wood ducks, and herons.

Jungle Cats

The Jungle Cats exhibit features rare Sumatran tigers in thickly planted, side-by-side exhibits. Both yards have water features. 3 Sumatran tigers cubs were born in May 2014.

Tropical Rainforest

The Tropical Rainforest was the first indoor rainforest exhibit in the United States. Birds, such as scarlet macaws, Bali mynah, roseate spoonbills, and scarlet ibis, are free roaming, as well as Hoffman's two-toed sloth, and indian flying foxes. Individual exhibits house three-banded Armadillo, Red-footed tortoise, and greater mouse-deer.

Animals and Man

The Animals and Man building features exhibits for small animals, such as Black-and-white ruffed lemur and African crested porcupines; this building also serves as the indoor house for the zoo's hippopotamus, African and Asian elephants, and giraffe. They all have large outdoor yards, and the giraffes share theirs with East African crowned cranes.

Camp Cowabunga

Formerly Lion's Pride, this exhibit have three lions in a spacious exhibit, African Wild Dogs in an adjoining yard, and Patas monkey in an exhibit spanning the entrance to Camp Cowabunga; the main feature is a central plaza where guests can view various artefacts from Africa, sit in a canoe used in the Zambezi, and view the animals from safari tents. In the future, this area will view a new exhibit for African Elephants.

Lianas Forest

In the Lianas Forest (formerly Discovering Apes) building, orangutans live behind glass in an enclosure replicating the treetops in Borneo, they also have a spacious outdoor yard, meant to emulate Camp Leakey. The Treetop Conservation Center is now part of the building. A tunnel leads visitors through an outdoor enclosure which now houses sun bears that once housed gorillas.

Children's Zoo

The Children's Zoo was added in 1992,[4] and has domestic animals, such as sheep and goats to feed. There is a playground next to the Children's Zoo.

Adventure Trail

Adventure Trail was added in 2015 and includes many family friendly experiences; the Rainbow Lorikeet aviary houses several colorful lorikeets that you can feed for a fee. A playground includes many climbing structures, a place to ride tricycles, and a mining sluice; the general store in this area also serves as a point to purchase snacks and refreshments.

Successful births[edit]

  • Reticulated giraffe, Konza, 2018
  • Reticulated giraffe, Hope, 2011
  • Nile River hippopotamus, Vision, 2011
  • Three banded armadillo, 2010, 2011, 2015
  • Bornean orangutan, Bumi, 2013
  • Golden lion tamarin, 2013 and 2014, 2015
  • 3 Sumatran Tiger cubs, Raza, Shanti, and ChloJo, 2014
  • Hoffmann's 2-toed sloth, 2014, 2015 - They have a history of successfully breeding sloths
  • Greater Malayan Chevrotain, 2014, 2015 - One of 9 AZA zoos in the US to house this species in 2015.


One orangutan died in 2003 of tularemia, an infectious disease carried by rabbits and some rodents but sometimes found in humans and primates. A dead rabbit was found outside of their enclosure and officials think all three primates handled the rabbit before the five orangutans took ill. In reaction, the zoo has installed a rabbit-proof fence around the orangutan area.[5][6]

On May 6, 2010, a bobcat in the zoo escaped its cage after a vandal apparently pried the animal's cage open; the bobcat was found several hours later in some bushes not far from its cage, and was tranquilized and returned to its cage without further incident.[7]

On April 20, 2019, a Sumatran tiger attacked its keeper in its exhibit, causing the keeper to need surgery.[8]


  1. ^ a b c "Welcome". Topeka Zoo. Retrieved 11 September 2010.
  2. ^ "List of Accredited Zoos and Aquariums". Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Retrieved 11 September 2010.
  3. ^ "Zoos and Aquariums of the World". WAZA. Retrieved 31 December 2010.
  4. ^ a b c Hall, Mike (27 February 2003). "Zoo bullish on reaccreditation". The Topeka Capital-Journal. Retrieved 11 September 2010.[dead link]
  5. ^ a b Adamson, Erin (28 March 2003). "Zoo roars back with accreditation". The Topeka Capital-Journal. Retrieved 11 September 2010.[dead link]
  6. ^ "". The Topeka Capital-Journal. 19 September 2003.[dead link]
  7. ^ "Topeka Zoo finds bobcat after vandals let it loose". KTKA. Retrieved 12 July 2010.
  8. ^ Anderson, Phil; Moore, Katie (20 April 2019). "Topeka zookeeper 'tackled' by Sumatran tiger Saturday morning". The Topeka Capital-Journal. Retrieved 21 April 2019.

External links[edit]