Did you know Central New York is home to the country’s fifth oldest zoo?
Located in Binghamton, the Ross Park Zoo was established in 1875 by Erastus Ross, a local bank owner.
“He had been selling property around what is now considered Ross Park, and he thought that by donating the land to the city, it could actually help him sell more property around that area,” said Daniel Laskaris, community engagement manager for the zoo. “So, he did just that. Then shortly after, about 1,000 volunteers got together and helped clear the way for the park. They helped clear brush, they made roads, they made bridges, and then about halfway through the day, they all stopped and had a community picnic with everybody that was helping. And then after their picnic, they kept on, and created what is now Ross Park.”
Today, the Ross Park Zoo houses a variety of species large and small, including: a two-toed sloth, a snow leopard, a red wolf, a fennec fox, howler monkeys, pythons, tortoises, African penguins, red pandas and binturongs, one of its newest additions. Many of the zoo’s animals are endangered or have populations that are threatened.
“It can be anything from climate change to the loss of their habitat,” said Laskaris. “For instance, we have Geoffroy’s marmosets up in our tropics building. They’re native to Brazil, and their biggest challenge in the wild right now is deforestation. Humans are clearing out big stretches of forests, which is forcing them to leave the areas that they call home, and try to find somewhere else to relocate, which in turn is unfortunately hurting their population. So, a lot of the animals we feature here, the goal is to help stabilize their population and then increase their population as well.”
But the zoo is home to more than just animals – its grounds also feature a snack shack, a gift shop, and a carousel (it dates back to 1920!).
And if you’ve never visited before, Laskaris has a few pieces of advice.
“I recommend bringing your walking shoes,” he said. “Our zoo is about a mile loop, and we are positioned on the side of a mountain, so some stretches can be quite the incline. We do have a tram that runs through the zoo for guests who are unable to walk certain stretches or just want a ride back down to the gift shop…We’re a smaller zoo, but I would say we’re almost a hidden gem of Binghamton.”
Ross Park Zoo
Where: 60 Morgan Road, Binghamton.
Hours: Daily from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. (through Labor Day) – then open weekends from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. (last ticket sold at 4 p.m.).
Admission: $9/adults; $8/seniors (55+); $8/college students; $8/military; $7/children ages 3-11; free/children ages 2 and under.
More information: (607) 724-5461. rossparkzoo.org.