Potawatomi Zoo is the oldest zoo in Indiana.
Spring 1902 – The Zoo began as a modest duck pond in Leeper Park, originally called the South Bend Zoo.
1912 – Location changed to Potawatomi Park with the addition of a herd of deer.
1936 – Work Progress Administration built the Zoo’s first permanent structure called the Cat House. This building is now known as the WPA building and houses Snow and and Amur leopards.
1949 – Farm Barn constructed.
1963 – A capuchin monkey was born at the Zoo, the first South American primate was born at the Zoo.
1970-1972 – New barn was built for the zoo farm (office and gift shop); wallabies were displayed at the Zoo for the first time; the Saint Joseph Zoological Society (renamed Potawatomi Zoo Society, PZS), was formed to raise funds and awareness for the Zoo.
1972 – A new barn silo was completed with a concrete pond, bridge and wishing well. The Zoo displayed venomous reptiles for the first time; two rattlesnakes and a cottonmouth moccasin.
1974 – The first Zoo Master Plan was developed.
1977 - Citizens of South Bend voted to fund a bond issue to renovate the Zoo that provided funds to construct many current exhibits including the Asian carnivore grottos (tiger), lion, Chimpanzee Island and hoof stock yards, as well as, expanding the Zoo to its current size of 23 acres.
1980 – Learning Center opened to the public.
1981 – Zoo began charging admission. The Bennet Wallabies reproduced for the first time at the Zoo with four new joeys.
1986 – A baby condor, Carlotta, pecked through her shell and was given to the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago. In this year only four baby condors were reared in the United States.
1991 – First zoo veterinarian hired. (Dr. Ann Duncan)
1992 – Flamingos were added to the Zoo.
1993 – Snow Leopards were put on exhibit.
1995 – Chimpanzee Indoor Habitat opened.
1997 – Ornamental Koi Pond opened.
1998 – A new Zoo Farm exhibit completed. Asian Carnivore exhibit for tigers and bears was renovated.
1999 – Debut of the Alligator house and the Warthog exhibit.
2000 – Tropical discovery section of the Learning Center opened. Zebra exhibit opened.
2001 – Two endangered White-naped Crane were eggs flown to Russia for incubation/reintroduction back into the wild.
2002 – The Potawatomi Zoo turned 100 years-old! State-of-the-Art veterinary hospital opened. Radiology Inc. Red Panda Forest opened.
2003 – Cotton Top Tamarins introduced to the collection and soon after birthed twins.
2004 – Zoo train opened, a 1/3-scale replica of a C.P. Huntington Locomotive. “Child Magazine” recognized Potawatomi Zoo as one of the top 20 zoos in the nation.
2005 - Old world monkey exhibit expanded to allow Colobus and DeBrazza monkeys to be on display at the same time.
2006 – The lion exhibit expanded and an additional exhibit was built to house the Diana monkeys.
2007 – The African Wild Dog exhibit opened. City Council approved $1.4 million for new a Zoo Improvement project.
2008 – Butterflies in Living Color exhibit opened allowing a full immersion opportunity for visitors. The Americas exhibit opened featuring a Giant Anteater, Collard Peccaries, Screamers and Bison, sponsored by the Zoological Society.
2009 – The Bobcat exhibit opened.
2009 – 2012- The Zoo saw births of Amur Leopards, Red Pandas, White-Naped Cranes, Sichuan Takin, a Diana Monkey and Ground Hornbills.
2011 – A $1 million North American River Otter exhibit opened with an Otter Outpost Concession stand. This exhibit was completely funded by donations and was the first major animal exhibit to come to the Zoo in well over ten years.
2012 – The Potawatomi Zoo Society opened a dedicated members gate at the front entrance.
2013 – Golden Lion Tamarin twins were born.
2014 – The Potawatomi Zoo Society assumed management of the daily operations of the Zoo in a landmark public/private partnership agreement with the City.
2014 – The Potawatomi Zoo received their five year Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Accreditation.
2015 – Zoo Master Plan was completed. Zoo farm renovation brings in new domestic species and opens feeding/petting area. Zoo opens new seasonal dragon exhibit. Over 100 new animals added to the collection. Three rare Amur Leopard cubs and a Sichuan takin kid born.
2016 – Zoo opens Endangered Species Carousel in April.
In 2014 Marcy Dean was appointed Executive Director of the Zoo and led the implementation of the public/private partnership between the City of South Bend and PZS. Marcy had been the Potawatomi Zoo Society Director since 2006.
Accreditation by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA): The Potawatomi Zoo is only one of 220 zoos accredited by the (AZA). "Accreditation" means official recognition and approval of a zoo or aquarium by a group of experts. These experts, called the AZA Accreditation Commission, carefully examine each zoo or aquarium that applies for AZA membership. Only those zoos and aquariums that meet the high standards of the commission can become members of AZA. AZA’s high standards for accreditation are constantly evolving and being raised. Fewer than 10% of the approximately 2,800 animal exhibitors licensed by the United States Department of Agriculture are AZA accredited.
Zoo by the Numbers
Zoo is open eight months of the year, April through November
Zoo is open 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. daily, seven days per week (last admission sold at 4:30 p.m.)
Zoo exhibits 400 animals on 23 acres
The Potawatomi Zoo:
• Education Department conducted almost 500 programs with over 65,000 people.
• Had 67 volunteers who contributed 2,802 hours of service to Potawatomi Zoo. The volunteers provided 138 onsite exhibit presentations for over 46,000 people.
• Education Department presented 24 Zoo-to-You Outreach Programs at area schools for 1,313 students and teachers and 21 programs at local preschools for 949 students and teachers.
• Zoo-to-You Outreach Programs also conducted 51 therapy programs at nursing facilities within Saint Joseph County for 1,256 people.
• Education Department hosted 45 camps and classes that enrolled 387 children between the ages of 3 and 12.
• Employed over 80 people.
• Directly spent $3 million on goods and services.
• Served over 219,667 visitors in 2015, increasing visitor numbers by 7.4% or 15,213 visitors from 2014. Our most recent visitor survey revealed 73% are from outside the South Bend area with 48% outside of St. Joseph County.
• Continues to be one of the most visited attractions in the City of South Bend and surrounding area.
• Had 6,549 member households representing 34,066 individuals.
• 92% of Zoo visitors believe the Zoo to be important economically to the South Bend area, based on a recent survey of 500 attendees.
• Provided and continues to provide an affordable family attraction delivering outstanding value for the experience.