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Miller Park Zoo in Bloomington Celebrating 130 Years

Zoo entrance

Miller Park Zoo in Bloomington is celebrating its 130th anniversary on Saturday, continuing to operate through two pandemics, multiple wars, a depression, and many recessions.

In that time, the Bloomington cultural staple has brought people close to animals they may have never seen otherwise. City Parks and Recreation Director Jay Tetzloff credited it to the zoo adapting through the decades.

“If people tell me they have not been to the zoo in 10 years, I tell them they have not been here,” said Tetzloff, noting that Miller Park Zoo is the 13th oldest in the country.

The highest priority of Miller Park Zoo is the health and conservation of the animals in its care, followed by education and fun, said Tezloff, who thinks giving animals the highest quality of life makes the zoo an enticing place to go.

“If you do not learn from these animals or get engaged by them, you do not care to save them. We want people to have lots of fun here at the zoo, and we do that by conservation and education,” said Tetzloff in describing a zoo's place in society.

While the zoo has changed an incredible amount in 130 years, there also have been great adjustments in the years that Tetzloff has been working in zoos. Social media has completely changed the way Miller Park Zoo reaches out to the supporters, he said. And evolving health standards for animals have shifted the experience an individual can have with an animal. Tetzloff said it is a stark contrast to what it used to be.

“It is much more about having naturalistic exhibits so you can walk right up to a flamingo. Maybe 30 years ago, you could not do that. It is things like that where the field is going in the right place,” said Tetzloff.

Miller Park Zoo is located at 1020 South Morris Avenue in Bloomington.

The celebration will be from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday and includes crafts, vendors, food — and the animals, of course.

Jack Graue is a student reporter at WGLT. He joined WGLT in summer 2021. He is also a student in the School of Communication at Illinois State University.