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Rep. Daniel W. Lipinski, representing the Third District of Illiinois, recently commemorated the 75th Anniversary of Brookfield Zoo with remarks submitted into the Congressional Record last week.


June 26, 2009

Madam Speaker,

I rise to commemorate the Chicago Zoological Society’s Brookfield Zoo, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary. Located in Cook County, just outside Chicago and in my district, Brookfield Zoo has consistently been a leader in cutting edge animal science, zoo management and education programs. The zoo has been and will continue to be a wonderful resource for the people of metropolitan Chicago, the State of Illinois and beyond. I ask my colleagues to join me today in honoring Brookfield Zoo on the occasion this distinguished anniversary.

Brookfield Zoo, owned by the Forest Preserve District of Cook County and managed by the Chicago Zoological Society, has a stated mission to “inspire conservation leadership by connecting people with wildlife.” It plays host to 2.1 million visitors annually, and cares for 3000 animals representing 450 different animal species.

Brookfield Zoo first opened to the public in 1934. Following the overwhelming approval of a referendum by the people of Cook County, construction began on the Zoo in 1926. While the onset of the Great Depression hindered progress, the federal Civil Works Administration (CWA) assisted in completing construction of the Zoo, and today many of the original, historic CWA buildings remain in use at the Zoo.

Brookfield Zoo has been an innovative leader among zoos. Notably, the zoo was one of the first ‘bar-less’ zoos in North America. A revolution among zoos began in Europe in 1900, where cramped cages were disdained in favor of spacious enclosures, surrounded by moats and landscaped in natural settings. This was based on the belief that ‘animals should be exhibited in as near natural conditions as possible’, for the benefit of both the animal and the viewing public. Brookfield Zoo was designed with this modern concept in mind, and creatively overcame the challenges involved in maintaining safe, cageless environments in the northern climate of Chicago. Today, exhibits maintain their modern approach through a focus on ecosystems, incorporating native plants into animals’ habitats.

Another ‘first’ was the creation of a specific Children’s Playground at the Zoo in 1937, which was later formalized into the Children’s Zoo in 1953. This facility provided children not only with a location to play, but also enabled them to interact with animals, including goats, ducks, and lambs. Following the successful development of these facilities, Brookfield Zoo became the first zoo in North America to exhibit giant pandas in 1937, to breed black rhinos (1941) and okapi (1959) in captivity, and created the first inland ‘Dolphinarium’ in 1960. It was also among the first to open a zoo animal hospital and to launch animal nutrition programs.

Just like millions of others, I have fond memories of Brookfield Zoo from my childhood. Growing up in Chicago, I was a member of the zoo for many years when I was in grade school and high school. It was a fun and safe place to go at all times of the year. Although I did not think about it at the time, I received a great education at Brookfield Zoo, including learning about not only animals and habitats around the world, but also the environment and environmental stewardship.

Education is something that Brookfield Zoo is strongly committed to. Last year, 250,000 students participated in school field trips to Brookfield Zoo, and more than 1,700 teachers participated in training and certification programs there as well. Facilities such as Brookfield Zoo are important sources of informal science education, which can develop interest among children in future technological and scientific scholarship and careers. Brookfield Zoo has a remarkable research and professional training program organized under the Center for the Science of Animal Well-Being. Through the Chicago Zoological Society, field programs are sponsored and undertaken, now including long-term research on bottle nose dolphins, western lowland gorillas, and African lions, among other species.

I would like to commend Brookfield Zoo, as well as the Chicago Zoological Society, on their successful completion of 75 years of operation, and their continuing efforts to promote conservation leadership through education, research and family enjoyment. Congratulations on this notable anniversary, and I wish Brookfield Zoo and its dedicated staff and leadership many more years of success, effective research, and valuable education and outreach.