Columbian Park Zoo is one of the oldest zoos in Indiana dating back to 1908. The original animals housed at the zoo included foxes, skunks, pelicans, deer, lynx, prairie dogs, and a wolf.
In 1928, the main Animal House was constructed, which is still standing today. One of the first inhabitants of the Animal House was "Linco" the elephant, who was purchased from the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus in Peru, Indiana. Nearly 10,000 school students in Lafayette and West Lafayette raised more than $2,000 toward the purchase of the elephant, then named "Ruth." Lincoln School students exceeded their school's fundraising quota and earned the honor of renaming the elephant to Linco.
In the 1930's, the Zoo bred many animals for sale to other small zoos. By 1943, the Columbian Park Zoo had housed lions, monkeys, elk, leopards, zebra, bears, and alligators, among many others!
Buddy the Chimp called the Zoo home during the 1950's. He could often be found driving the train through the park (with assistance, of course!).
In 1976, Friends of Columbian Park Zoo was formed to advocate support and raise money for the zoo. This not-for-profit organization has been involved in countless projects over the years and put on many successful events each year including Zoo Run Run and Boo at the Zoo.
In 1988, a large walk-through bird aviary was added to the existing Columbian Park Zoo. The Zoo had acquired so many bird species that this extra space was desperately needed to showcase and hold them.
In the late 1990's the City of Lafayette revealed a grand Master Plan for a new and improved Columbian Park Zoo. This plan was developed through significant community input and placed an emphasis on education and focused on becoming a. Proposed improvements include a discovery center, naturalized exhibits, and the return of a carousel.
Columbian Park Zoo made history in 2004. Lafayette Parks & Recreation closed the zoo to the public and the renovations to implement Phase I of the Master Plan began.
Columbian Park Zoo reopened to the public on June 30, 2007. Completed exhibits included the IU Health Arnett Family Farm, Aerie #347 Bald Eagle Exhibit, Prairie Dog Town sponsored by Alcoa Foundation, Kirby Risk Corporation,and the Risk Family Foundation, Wal-Mart Butterfly Sculpture Garden, and the Interactive Fountain Entryway Plaza sponsored by The McAllister Foundation.
Since 2007, several additional exhibits and structures have been added: Entryway Canopy sponsored by Friends of Columbian Park Zoo, Butterfly Exhibit sponsored by Lawn & Shrub Incorporated, Wallaby Walkabout sponsored by Tippecanoe Laboratories, Galapagos Tortoise Exhibit sponsored by Friends of Columbian Park Zoo, Giant Tortoise bronze sculpture sponsored by the James K. Risk Family, Owl Exhibit sponsored by Subaru of Indiana Automotive and Toyota Motor Engineering and Manufacturing North America, North American River Otter Exhibit sponsored by Wabash National Corporation, bronze otter sculpture sponsored by the James K. Risk Family, and most recently, the Bill and Donna DeFouw Education Center.