The Denver Zoo: A 125-Year Legacy That Began With a Bear

It all started with a bear. That’s how vice president of animal sciences Brian Aucone describes the origin story of the Denver Zoo, which began 125 years ago when the city’s 23rd mayor, Thomas S. McMurry, was gifted a black bear.

In the decades since, the zoo has been at the forefront of zoo evolutions, as their philosophies evolved from sheer entertainment to conservation. The Denver Zoo was one of the first to be accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, a title it has held since the 1970s, and the first in North America to design more naturalistic habitats. Since its inception, it’s been a leader in the industry and a treasured flagship in Denver’s community.

Photo courtesy of the Western History Department at Denver Public Library