A look back at the Fresno Chaffee Zoo's history as they celebrate 90th anniversary

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- For 90 years, the Fresno Chaffee Zoo has delighted millions across the Central Valley and beyond.

New exhibits like African Adventure bring in new people while crowd favorites like elephants keep others coming back for more.

Chief marketing and development officer Alisha Anderson says they have a lot to be proud of.

"We are standing here in the middle of this beautiful world-class zoo because our community loves our zoo so much," she said.

But it hasn't always looked that way.

When it all started back in 1903 things were very different.

The Roeding family donated 75 acres of land for a zoo and park. In 1929, the Roeding Park zoo opened.

It was small and some of the animals included unwanted pets kept in make-shift cages.

"A lot of birds and a few bears were kind of the more traditional zoo animals that you saw and then within about 20 to 30 years then you started to see more animals like we know today," Anderson said.

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Some animals were housed in log cabin type exhibits; one which still stands near the entrance of the park.

In the late 1940s, the community came together to bring in a new addition. The Fresno Rotary and thousands of school children raised money to purchase "Nosey" the elephant.

"There was even a parade walking Nosey down the streets to come to the zoo, very different things that we don't see these days," Anderson said.

Slowly the zoo continued to grow and change until the early 2000s. Lack of funds put the zoo in jeopardy of losing its accreditation and closing its doors. All that changed when Measure Z was passed by voters in 2004.

Over the last 10 years, it's generated more than $110 million. It's already funded two big expansions, Sea Lion Cove and African Adventure.

"The community rallied together and said no way, we are not going to lose this. Now when you look around and see our world-class zoo, that is what our community did for us," Anderson said.

And the zoo's future continues to look bright.

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The next big expansion is Kingdoms of Asia. Officials hope to break ground by the end of this 2019.

Over the next 10 to 15 years they want to establish a new entrance and bring back the hippos via the African river exhibit.
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