1905: Zoo is founded in Point Defiance Park.

1936: Two young Tacomans build a saltwater aquarium on the concrete pavilion over Commencement Bay.

1954: New $123,000 animal house opens for lions, cougar, jaguar and white-cheeked gibbons.

1963: Aquarium is relocated to the present site within the Zoo.

1965: A 3-year-old elephant named Cindy captivates Tacoma when she's adopted by the Point Defiance Zoo.  A community fund-raising drive brings in the money to build an elephant house.

1978: $7 million bond issue for zoo improvements passes.

1981-82: Rocky Shores polar bear marine exhibits open with walruses, bottle-nosed dolphins, seals, sea lions and sea birds.

1984: Three beluga whales are acquired from Canada's Hudson Bay in cooperation with the Canadian government and the Inuit tribe for a breeding program at Point Defiance.

1986: $25.3 million bond issue for parks and zoos passes.

1988:  Zoolights, a seasonal outdoor program depicting zoo animals and other scenes in colorful Christmas lights, opens.

1989: South Pacific Aquarium opens.

1992: $2.3 million elephant barn and habitat opens.

1999: $35 million bond issue for zoo renovation, improvements passes.

2000: Pierce County voters approve one-tenth-of-1-percent sales tax hike for Point Defiance Zoo, Northwest Trek and parks countywide.

2004: A slate of animal education programs begins at the new $3 million Wild Wonders Outdoor Theater at the Zoo.  The $10 million Asian Forest Sanctuary opens.

2005: The $3 million Kids' Zone opens.

2008: The $4 million addition to Kids' Zone, Animal Avenue, opens.
  • Northwest Trek
  • MetroParks Tacoma
  • American Zoo & Aquarium Association
  • The Zoo Society
  • Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks & Aquariums