By Rachel Nelson

Twenty-five years ago, a “new” Lowry Park Zoo re-opened its doors as a private nonprofit organization dedicated to the management and ongoing development of a superior zoological garden. What was once labeled “one of the worst zoos in the country” by the Humane Society (prior to reorganization), has since been named the “no. 1 zoo in the United States” by two national parenting magazines.

From humble beginnings, Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo has become the top-attended zoo in the southeastern U.S. and a world-class family destination. Generation after generation of families have returned to the Zoo to discover new ways to enjoy time together and connect with one another.

”It is an honor to continue to build on the Zoo’s many successful years for this silver anniversary year,” said Craig Pugh, executive director and CEO.  “It is the tremendous support from the Tampa Bay community that makes the Zoo the exciting and engaging place that it is.”

A new anniversary logo has been introduced to commemorate the silver celebration as well as the recent birth of the Zoo’s second African elephant calf, “Mpumi.”  Throughout the year-long celebration, the Zoo will also introduce exciting new activities, discount offers, products and experiences for guests.

The first program, known as “Silver Connections,” recently launched. Zoo staff members will connect with visitors by awarding unsuspecting guests with prizes or special experiences, including a new line of “Premier Behind-the-Scenes Experiences” which incorporate guided tours, animal training observation sessions and interactive encounters.

Social media users are also invited to connect with the Zoo online by sharing memories and historic photos on the Zoo’s Facebook page. A photo album has been created which is called “Making Memories: It’s Your Zoo.” Within a few hours of launching the photo album with a historic image of the Fairyland Rainbow Bridge at Lowry Park, more than 130 Facebook users replied with comments or memories of the Zoo over the years.

“Like other cultural facilities, the Zoo has a noble mission: To connect people with the living Earth,” added Pugh.

The Zoo is located at 1101 W. Sligh Ave. in Tampa and is open seven days a week, from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, with extended hours on select nights during special events. Parking is free. For more information, visit


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Kelly Wise Valdes
Kelly Wise Valdes has been writing for the Osprey Observer since 2008. She graduated in 1989 from Florida Southern College with a B.S. in Communications and enjoys writing and traveling. She currently resides in northern Hillsborough County with her husband, David. When not traveling and writing, Kelly and her husband enjoy spending time with their five grown children (as well as their grandchildren) that still keep them very busy.