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In April 1980, the City and the Zoological Society settled on an agreement that would require the City to renovate the Central Park, Prospect Park, and Queens Zoos, and in return the Society would operate and maintain the facilities.Although the Zoological Society took a more humane approach, the changes dismayed many patrons.

Nearly all of us have visited or still regularly visit zoos, and their unusual position in the continuum between popular entertainment and benevolent conservation (with a significant educational component) makes zoos a fascinating and complex topic.

Zoo historian Bernard Livingston explains the dual nature of zoos in the foreword to his “Thus the zoo (or menagerie, its original name) has since earliest times been a social phenomenon, a saga of man's inhumanity—or humanity, if you will—to beast, whether for idle pleasure, civic enlightenment or ecological good.

There is something oddly ‘lite’ about a zoo dominated by creatures of water and air.

Even the smells are antiseptic, lacking that nostril-quickening pungency of yore.” (He apparently caught the penguin room on a good day.) From large game to small fish, the city's zoos succeed in delighting people of all ages while providing cutting-edge research and educational missions.

All applicants must meet the following requirements: NOTE: There is no animal handling or direct animal contact involved with any of our volunteer opportunities.

We currently do not have volunteer opportunities for teens under 18 years of age, but those interested may be able to get involved through the Education Department's Kids Programs.

The zoos feature some of the Parks Department's most artistic and notable art and sculpture, from mid-19th century bronze masterpieces to prime examples of WPA-era art from the 1930s to modern works.

Although the city's zoos went through periods of decline over the years, each of the zoos was considered to be an advanced, cutting-edge institution when it debuted (though there is the notorious example of the misguided 1906 exhibit at the then-fledgling Bronx Zoo featuring Ota Benga, a Congolese pygmy).

The idea to “professionalize” these three zoos became that much more attractive during the fiscal crisis of the 1970s, and by the time Gordon Davis took over as Parks Commissioner in 1978 (and was reportedly embarrassed to go near the dilapidated Central Park Zoo on his way to the Parks headquarters at Central Park's Arsenal), the operation of the city's zoos would soon be out of the Parks Department's hands.

Things got so bad at Central Park that the City-run zoo even lost support of its Friends of the Zoo volunteers.

While Philadelphia claims the first zoo chartered in the United States (1859), New York's own Central Park Zoo began as an ad hoc menagerie at the same time, and while Philadelphia's zoo opened in 1874, the menagerie at Central Park was fully institutionalized long before then.

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