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Synopsis

Opening day, September 18, 1875, dawned sunless and chilly, a shaky start for the second zoological garden in the United States. Exhibits were unfinished, and animals remained crated. The polar bear had not arrived, and the collection on display included a feeble tiger, a blind hyena, an elephant rescued from a bankrupt circus, a talking crow, eight small monkeys, and 400 birds. Despite the rough start, the venture by bird-lover Andrew Erkenbrecher and friends blossomed into a top-tier zoo inspiring a passion for nature-a champion of endangered species with its own college-preparatory high school and an unrivaled commitment to education, research, and innovative breeding programs. It has survived The Perils of Pauline economics as stubborn Cincinnatians came to its rescue time after time, charmed by animals and events found here: chimps Mr. and Mrs. Rooney, Susie the Gorilla who took tea and smoked Chesterfields, Rodney the boxing kangaroo, Martha the last passenger pigeon on earth, outdoor operas, and dancing under the stars.

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