History of the Zoo
How Did It Come To Be? Why Does It Exist?
The Phoenix Zoo is one of America's most successful, privately-owned, nonprofit zoological parks. It began as the vision of one person, Robert E. Maytag, who worked tirelessly to rally community support on behalf of the Zoo. Unfortunately, Maytag himself did not live to see his dream fulfilled. He died suddenly in March of 1962, six months before its scheduled opening.
When opening day did arrive in November, the new Zoo was christened the "Maytag Zoo" in honor of its founder. Still, the Zoo owes its existence to the support of the entire community. To better acknowledge this partnership, the name was later changed to the "Phoenix Zoo" – at the request of Maytag's heirs.
Operating then – as now – without government funding, the fledgling zoo struggled during its first decade. Stability came with time and it has subsequently flourished, emphasizing quality of both exhibits and public programs.
Though still comparatively young, the Phoenix Zoo has already gained an international reputation for its efforts on behalf of wildlife. The Zoo participates in numerous local and international efforts on behalf of endangered species, including the Mexican wolf, thick-billed parrot, black-footed ferret, Bornean orangutan, Sumatran tiger, Asian elephant, and many more.
Important as on-site conservation programs are, they are not enough by themselves to ease the biological crises facing wildlife and people alike today. Times have changed since the Phoenix Zoo's opening – so has the state of the environment.
The larger challenge is enlisting the active support of people – this community, this country, this world – in living so that the long-term survival of as many species as possible, including our own, is assured.
To help meet this challenge, the Phoenix Zoo has rededicated itself to functioning as an advocate for the natural world, communicating with people about animals, plants, humanity, and the needs we share. Our purpose can best be expressed by the Zoo's Mission Statement: