The Palm Beach Zoo had its beginnings in the 1950s when Paul Dreher, Parks Director for the City of West Palm Beach, developed a lush botanical garden in what was then known as Bacon Park. Dreher decided to add a “barnyard petting zoo” for the children of the community. Using just $18 of his own money, he opened his zoo with two ducks, a couple of chickens, a goose, and a goat. The collection was located on just one and one-half acres, and became known as the Dreher Park Zoo. The attraction soon became a favorite place for families, and the collection grew to include many more animals. In 1969, a group of committed citizens created the non-profit Zoological Society of the Palm Beaches and assumed responsibility for operating the Zoo.
In order to better fulfill its mission to “protect wildlife and wildlife habitat, and to inspire others to value and conserve the natural world,” the Zoo began working with the Palm Beach County school system and in 1981 established a formal education division. This was the foundation for a successful program that now offers animal encounters, field trips, on-site classes, teacher training, summer camp, overnight adventures, and outreach programs. The Zoo education division now presents more than 2,400 programs each year that reach more than 128,000 individuals. An additional 113,300 individuals are reached by keeper talks and other animal care staff initiatives.
The Palm Beach Zoo now houses over 700 animals from Florida, North, South and Central America, Australia, and Madagascar. More than 314,000 people visit each year, and over 5,900 households maintain annual memberships. The Palm Beach Zoo remains fully accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).
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