On July 4, 1975, the Central Florida Zoological Park, with Jack Hanna on staff, opened at its current location (with 39 animals!) to a crowd of thousands.

Over the next 40 years, the Zoo – which for 50 years was located where Sanford City Hall sits today – would be accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) and would become the Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens; a conservation and education resource exciting and inspiring children and adults to learn and act on behalf of wildlife.

To commemorate the 40th anniversary, and to celebrate the fourth birthday of Jahi and PJ, the Zoo’s rhinos, the Zoo will host “The BIG Celebration” on Saturday, July 4, 2015, from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

Senior Zoo staff, including Philip Flynn, Zoo President & CEO, will be present at this event which will begin at the entrance to the Zoo (near the Wayne M. Densch Discovery Center) with a 10:00 a.m. unveiling of a historical display focused on the Zoo’s past. After this, guests can enjoy many fun activities planned for the day including children’s crafts and games, musical storytime, up-close animal encounters, and more!

The rhinos’ fourth birthday will be celebrated at 1 p.m. Jahi and PJ will be presented with a “cake” made of their favorite foods, including hay and vegetables. Guests will be invited to eat cake as well. Don’t worry, for those who aren’t a fan of hay there will be a cake made especially for humans.

“We would like to welcome everyone to come out and help us celebrate this remarkable occasion,” said Philip Flynn, President & CEO. “Without the support of the public, the Zoo would not have made it to this milestone. This is a community achievement that has involved our visitors, contributors, and all those who have given their time and resources to make The Zoo a destination of choice and an exceptional educational experience.”

The Zoo has come a long way in the last 40 years. Currently, more than 581 animals and bugs, representing 204 species, make up the Zoo’s diverse animal collection. Conservation is paramount and the Zoo is actively involved in many of the AZA’s Species Survival Plans (SSP). SSP’s are managed breeding programs for individual species that are vanishing from the wild.

The Zoo’s Education Department and over 150 Zoo volunteers help over 189,000 school children participate in formal education programs every year, fostering an appreciation for animals and the importance of biodiversity. The Zoo now boasts a splash ground, playground, the largest reptile collection of any Zoo in Florida, two concession areas, the ZOOfari Outpost gift shop, and the tree-top obstacle and zip-line course ZOOm Air Adventure. Activities include summer camps and birthday parties, animal shows, giraffe feedings, rhino encounters, face painting, WOW (Walk on Water) Balls, and more!

About the Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens
The Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens is a 132 acre, private 501 (c) 3 not-for-profit conservation resource since 1975. With 500 animals representing more than 200 species, the Zoo provides the community with experiences that excite and inspire children and adults to learn on behalf of wildlife. The Zoo also operates the Orianne Center for Indigo Conservation in Eustis, FL. For more information visit http://www.centralfloridazoo.org or call 407.323.4450. The Zoo is located on I-4 Exit 104 in Sanford and is open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

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