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Building the Future

Over the years, you’ve watched your Houston Zoo undergo enormous changes and growth. We completed the most dramatic transformation in our history with our brand-new exhibit, Galápagos Islands, which opened in April 2023. 

We are redefining what a zoo can be with beautiful and immersive habitats, compelling guest experiences, and an unyielding commitment to saving wildlife. 

To create these new spaces, our construction projects may temporarily shift pathways, close buildings and move some animals to new habitats. During this process, the Zoo is working diligently to minimize impacts, while continuing to maintain the best experience possible for both guests and our animals.

Read more below!

Completed Projects:

A first-of-its-kind exhibit starring the landscape and wildlife that made history, plus enhancements to the Houston Zoo’s main entry. No place better illustrates the wonder of unique species, the delicate balance of ecosystems, or the pressing need for conservation action than the Galápagos Islands. This exhibit will immerse visitors in the Islands’ starkly beautiful environment; highlight the Zoo’s ongoing field work with giant tortoises, birds, and marine animals; and serve as a jumping-off point for educational experiences, including eco-travel.

The Zoo’s main entrance is new and improved and reopened officially in January 2021.  This is part of the construction plan for Galápagos Islands, which is set to open for the Houston Zoo’s 100th anniversary in 2022. 

This new plaza greets guests upon entering the Zoo and was designed with plenty of seating areas. This is part of the construction plan for Galápagos Islands, which opened in April 2023. 

South America’s Pantanal allows guests to explore the tropical wetlands of Brazil right here at the Houston Zoo. The lush habitat highlights animals we are protecting in the wild, including giant anteaters, tapirs, and more. Partnered with on-the-ground conservationists, the Zoo offers visitors the chance to see these animals in an immersive and engaging trail. As guests enter South America’s Pantanal, they will encounter a set of rustic buildings, set on piers, evoking the eco-lodges that can be found alongside the rivers and streams in the Northern Pantanal region. The nature tourism these lodges support is one of the important ways this vital landscape and unparalleled wildlife assemblage is being protected.

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In 2020, the Houston Zoo’s orangutan habitat got an extreme makeover! The orangutans have an all-new climbing structure, more shade, and a beach for the turtles who live in the moat surrounding the orangutan habitat.

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Our Zoo Store has been completely remodeled and has ample room to showcase the latest Houston Zoo swag including T-shirts, caps, mugs, and more.

Even better, guests can now purchase Zoo Store items online.

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The Texas Wetlands brings together three native Texas species—bald eagles, whooping cranes, and American alligators—in a lush wetland habitat. Thanks to the Endangered Species Act and the efforts of Texans, these three species, once close to extinction, now thrive in the Lone Star State.

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The fully re-imagined Cypress Circle Café, in the heart of the Zoo, opened just in time for TXU Energy Presents Zoo Lights in November 2018. This conscientious café focuses on providing locally sourced, sustainable fare. Guests can see signature pizzas pass through pizza ovens and watch their seasonal bowl be created in front of them. Cypress Circle Café also overlooks the Kathrine G. McGovern Texas Wetlands and boasts stunning views of the exhibit.

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The Hamill Foundation Black Bear Exhibit was the first project to be completed thanks to generous donor support of the Zoo’s Keeping Our World Wild centennial capital campaign. This expansion more than tripled the space for black bears Belle and Willow to explore. The expanded habitat was designed to give the bears the highest quality of life and includes engaging features throughout like a revamped water feature, specially created climbing structures, and ample shade.

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Retired Exhibits:

Fischer Bird Garden - Closed in 2020

From 1991 to 2020, the Fischer Bird Garden delighted guests with up-close encounters with some of the world’s most fascinating birds. Its closure will make room for a brand-new entry plaza experience that will welcome guests into the Galápagos Islands.

KIPP Aquarium - Closed in 2020

The Zoo began construction on the Galápagos Islands habitat in 2020. To make room for this exciting new habitat, Kipp Aquarium closed to the public in Spring of 2020. While our Houston Zoo will no longer have a stand-alone aquarium, we will still feature many aquatic animals and habitats throughout the Zoo.

Tropical Bird House - Closed in 2020

Built in the 1960s, the Tropical Bird House was an innovative-for-its-time bird exhibit that allowed guests to be among birds from around the world in a free flight aviary, and see colorful birds in various habitats. Recently, the Zoo closed and removed the building to make way for new and improved guest experiences.

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By 2022, nearly half of Houston Zoo’s acreage will be redeveloped into experiential zones that highlight wildlife and ecosystems found in Texas and around the world. With conservation messaging integrated throughout these zones, guests will leave the Zoo inspired to take action to save animals in the wild.