This small urban zoo, located on eight acres of manicured greensward known as Barrett Park, is home to 443 animals representing 206 species, including monkeys, ocelots, birds, badgers, otters and prairie dogs. The zoo is especially well known for its collection of reptiles and its large bat community—including vampiric species—and its Rattlesnake Collection is one of the largest in the country.
The aquarium contains 70 species and a children's zoo allows youngsters to feed domesticated animals and participate in other educational activities. Built during the Work Projects Administration, the zoo opened in 1936 as the first educational zoo in the nation. It has maintained this focus over the years by offering students, seniors and others a range of lectures and educational courses. The Tropical Forest exhibit is an exciting combination of flora and fauna and the newly opened African Savannah at Twilight is a simulation of one of the world's most delicate, dramatic and beautiful environments.
Zoo Snooze: Just like some of its inhabitants, the zoo can be nocturnal. In this program, children and their parents, or kids in groups accompanied by adults, sleep at the zoo on a Friday or Saturday night and indulge in midnight behind-the-scenes tours, research and diorama craft projects, snacks and an early morning breakfast.
Breakfast with the Beasts: One-hour sessions for younger children and two-hour sessions for older ones include kid-friendly food and presentations on such topics as insect life and animal diets. Other age-appropriate weekend get-togethers include Reptile Discovery and Family Picnic. Kids and Critters, a program specifically designed for preschoolers and accompanying parents, provides one-on-one fun getting to know animals, with games and crafts.
Zoo Day Camp: The Staten Island Zoo operates a day camp on the premises, offering one-week sessions for children in Pre-Kindergarten through grade 6. Kids engage in noncompetitive recreational activities, singing and games and receive an up-close introduction to the zoo's residents. Call for a schedule.
The zoo offers age-appropriate programs for students year-round, both at the zoo and in schools, on everything from tropical rain forests (for primary grades) to extinct animals (grades 3 through 5) to advanced animal behavior (high school students). Programs involve games, discussion and live animals. Before class visits to the zoo, the staff recommends instructing students on how to interact with live animals. The zoo program will also go on the road to nearby schools; call for information.
Programs offered for special education groups whenever possible. Sign language interpreter may be available at the zoo on request.