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- The Inaugural Asian Lantern Festival: Into the Wild, was held at the Central Florida Zoo. In partnership with Tianyu Arts & Culture, 35 hand crafted illuminated lantern elements transformed the Zoo and more than 38,000 guests took part in the event.


- Giraffes become part of the animal collection at the Zoo for the first time. Giraffe feedings are offered and volunteer Giraffe Ambassadors assist guests in learning more about these amazing animals.


- The Zoo receives a young mated pair of clouded leopards to continue our breeding success as part of AZA’s Species Survival Plan program. A new home is built for our North American River Otter pair, featuring a guest viewing panel.


- The Zoo officially announces its botanical garden status and becomes the Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens. The same year, the Wharton-Smith Tropical Splash Ground opens to the delight of visitors of all ages.


- Little Florida Coastline Train comes to the Zoo. The quarter scale G-16 miniature train was built in 1951 and modeled after the Florida East Coast "Champion" streamliner.


- The Central Florida Zoo becomes an accredited member of the American Zoo & Aquariums Association, today now known as the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA).


- The first animal hospital was constructed on Zoo property that included an operating room and laboratory.


- The Sanford Zoo relocated to new facilities on the shores of Lake Monroe in downtown Sanford. Visitors enjoyed watching playful spider monkeys on ‘Monkey Island’ and lion vocalizations could be heard throughout downtown Sanford. Sanford City Hall presently occupies this corner site.


- The Zoo unveils an interactive educational habitat, featuring two young Florida Black Bears!


- Greater one-horned Indian rhinos become part of the Zoo’s animal collection.


- Two hundred volunteers show up at the Zoo to help build a KaBOOM children’s playground in one day.


- The Wayne M. Densch Discovery Center and ZooLab open. The buildings feature classroom and hands-on instructional space, as well as a multi-purpose banquet room available for private meeting and event rentals.


- A network of elevated boardwalks was constructed providing visitors enhanced viewing of animals and better access for those in strollers and wheelchairs.


- The Reptile House was reconstructed and opens with 45 venomous and non-venomous snakes, lizards and amphibians.

July 4, 1975

- With the support from a group of dedicated citizens, and the donation of a 106-acre piece of land from Seminole County, the Central Florida Zoological Park opened at its current location along Lake Monroe, with Jack Hanna as Director.


- The Central Florida Zoo was first established as the Sanford Zoo in 1923 when a rhesus monkey was given to the Elks Club in Sanford by a traveling circus. More animals were added to the collection, held by the Sanford Fire Department, including a female monkey, a bulldog, a skunk, an opossum, a raccoon and a squirrel.

  • Saving reptiles and amphibians
  • Saving Animals From Extinction
  • Culture Builds Florida
  • Florida Association of Zoos and Aquariums