Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo is today the number-one family-friendly zoo in the U.S. (Child magazine) and recognized by the State of Florida as a center for Florida wildlife conservation and biodiversity (HB 457).
The region's only dedicated zoological garden, Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo was designed to enhance quality of life in greater Tampa Bay as an affordable leisure destination and center for education and endangered species conservation.
Natural outdoor exhibits for more than 1,800 animals from Florida and similar habitats include a Florida wildlife center and manatee hospital, Asian Domain, Primate World, aviary, Australian-themed children's zoo, and Safari Africa.
The Florida Environmental Education Center (The Zoo School) serves more than 100,000 children annually. Programs offered are summer and holiday camps, daycare, preschool, and kindergarten .
Lowry Park Zoological Society, in agreement with the City of Tampa, operates Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit charitable organization and provides programs in education and conservation to benefit the general public and to enhance the quality of life in Tampa Bay. Lowry Park Zoo also exists as a center for conservation of endangered wildlife both locally and around the globe.
Tampa's first zoo was established in the late 1930s on the banks of the Hillsborough River in Plant Park. It consisted of a small collection of indigenous animals such as raccoons, alligators and an aviary with a variety of exotic birds. As the collection grew, the animals were moved to the more centrally located Lowry Park in 1957, by Mayor Nick Nuccio, where it was maintained by Tampa's Parks Department.
In 1961, General Sumter L. Lowry, Jr. gave the Zoo its most prominent exotic animal, Sheena, an 18-month-old Asian elephant. This event provided the impetus for expanding and diversifying the animal collection. As the collection continued to grow through the 1970s, the need to upgrade the habitats and present the animals in natural settings became an issue fully embraced by the Tampa Bay community, which resulted in the formation of an organization dedicated to building a first-class zoological garden.
The Lowry Park Zoo Association was formed in 1982, at the suggestion of the Tampa Parks Department, Mayor Bob Martinez, and private citizens who shared a common vision. Its mission was to raise awareness of Lowry Park Zoo and promote a public-private partnership to fund the renaissance of Lowry Park Zoo.