Follow along the zoo’s journey dating back to 1900! The zoo has undergone multiple ownership over the years, housed various animals, but one thing remains constant: providing a happy healthy home for our animals, and engaging and inspiring our community to understand and preserve wildlife.


A permanent zoo in Warner Park is established with the construction of 4’x6’ cage for two Rhesus Monkeys.


By 1942, increased animal acquisitions make the Zoo one of Chattanooga’s favorite attractions. The collection includes lions, buffalo, alligators, and bobcats. The primary objective of the Zoo in this era is entertainment.


After thirty years without significant change, plans are made to shift the Zoo’s focus to a petting zoo environment. “Zooville” opens in spring 1969 featuring goats, sheep, and other domestic farm animals.


Conditions begin to rapidly deteriorate at the aging facility. On a national scale, zoos begin to shift toward natural habitat exhibits and conservation education.


Public opinion is strongly voiced about the conditions that the animals are being housed in. There is a consensus that the Zoo should either be improved or closed. A support group is formed called Friends of the Zoo (FOZ) and private donations are sought to help with improvements. The zoo staff is increased, and for the first time, professionalism is stressed. There is also a movement toward attaining accreditation with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). Facility renovations begin and educational programming is initiated.


The Zoo’s Master Plan is revitalized towards more education opportunities in 1993, a new jaguar exhibit opened in 1996, and the Zoo received its accreditation with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) for the first time in 1998. The completion of a new exhibit for Spider Monkeys followed soon after.  


The Zoo Master Plan underwent a comprehensive update to expand the Zoo from 5 acres to 12 acres. Phase 1 construction began in the fall of 2000. The $1.9 million Gombe Forest chimpanzee exhibit opened to great acclaim in 2001. In 2002, the African Aviary and Misunderstood Marvels exhibits are completed and opened. The Zoo receiveed accreditation with the AZA again for a new five-year term in 2003 and the Warner Park Ranch exhibit opened. The Himalayan Passage, the largest indoor Red Panda facility in the country, opened in August of 2004. In 2005, the Cougar Express was built to house two confiscated Cougars and Friends of the Zoo celebrated 20 years of progress and growth.


In 2006, the second phase of Himalayan Passage was completed with new exhibits for Snow Leopards and Hanuman Langurs. Later in the year, a fire destroyed the Zoo Education Center and the rebuild took place a year later. In 2007, work began on the Zoo's new entrance complex on Holtzclaw Avenue. A new $4.2 million entrance complex opened on the eastern boundary of Warner Park in 2008 featuring a new gift shop, ticketing area, concessions pavilion, a hand-carved endangered animal carousel, and solid steel chimpanzee sculptures were placed in the front entrance pavilion through partnerships with the Benwood Foundation and the Chattanooga Public Arts Initiative. The Zoo expanded its overall property by 35% and received AZA accreditation for a third time in 2008. In 2009, a bronze sculpture installation of a life-size Cougar is placed in the Zoo’s front entrance pavilion and in 2010, the Corcovado Jungle exhibit opened and Chattanooga is introduced to Jaguar brothers, Phil and Gene.     


In 2011, Chattanooga’s beloved chimpanzee, Hank, passed away and was honored a year later with a sculpture placed in Gombe Forest. Snow Leopard parents Czar and Kasimir gave birth to a girl cub, Renji, in 2011 and to twins Maliha and Everest in 2012. In 2012, the Chattanooga Zoo celebrated its 75th Anniversary, opened the new Deserts of the World exhibit, opened up a new camel ride attraction offering rides to zoo visitors, and announced the exciting discover of a subspecies turtle never before documented in the state of Tennessee, the Gulf Coast Spiny Softshell turtle.


In 2013, the Zoo acquired many new animals including 5-month old cougar cubs, black-crested managbeys, red pandas, and more, opened the Forests of the World exhibit building, partnered with Lee University and the Nashville Zoo to host the 6th Biennial Hellbender Symposium, and was once again received its accreditation from the AZA. In 2014, the Zoo partnered with students and faculty at the University of Tennessee Chattanooga’s Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences and College of Engineering to renovate the Zoo’s existing Prairie Dog exhibit. In 2015, the zoo continued to acquire more animals including a group of seven new chimpanzees donated from the Yerkes National Primate Research Center at Emory University. 2015 was a record breaking year for the Zoo with an annual attendance of 200,352 visitors, making it the most visitors in the Zoo’s 78-year history.  


In 2016, the Zoo announced the continued growth of its animal collection and offerings to the community, and acquired numerous animals to develop the zoo’s animal ambassador program including six domestic chicks, multiple species of tortoises, and more. In addition to the growth of its animal collection, the Zoo renovated and expanded its Naked Mole Rat exhibit. To help offset the additional expenses of an expanding animal collection and staff, the Zoo announced increased admission and membership pricing beginning June 1, 2016. That summer, the Zoo proudly presented its inaugural kid’s summer event, the Ice Cream Safari and announced the first time birth of two male red panda cubs at the Chattanooga Zoo. At the end of the year, the Zoo announced it has surpassed its all-time annual attendance and in 2016, the Zoo attracted a total of 249,928 visitors.


The Zoo kicked off 2017 with the announcement of the Kits and Cubs Program, which is a unique early childhood learning program designed specifically for the youngest of animal lovers. The Zoo partnered with Service Systems Associates (SSA), a national leader in culinary and retail management in cultural attractions, as its exclusive culinary and retail provider in order to boost guest experience. In addition, the zoo announced the first birth of critically endangered pied tamarins at the Chattanooga Zoo in May, and broke ground to expand the Corcovado Jungle exhibit adding six new outdoor and six new indoor exhibits to house small South American monkeys and mammals in June. The exhibit opening is set for Fall 2017.