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The Baltimore Zoo was created by act of the Maryland state legislature on April 7, 1876. (Its name was changed to The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore in 2004.) The Zoo is the third oldest zoo in the United States, behind Philadelphia (1873) and Cincinnati (1874). It actually had its beginnings as early as 1862, when the first of many citizens gave animals (the first being 4 swans) to Druid Hill Park for public display.
Today the 135-plus acre zoo property is owned by the City of Baltimore and leased to the State of Maryland. The Maryland Zoological Society, established in 1967, operates the Zoo under a lease agreement with the state. The Zoological Society assumed full management of the Zoo in 1984. Currently the Zoo’s animal collection encompasses more than 1,500 birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles, representing nearly 200 species. Animals are displayed in natural settings replicating their native habitats.
In the Maryland Wilderness exhibit, visitors "walk across Maryland " from the freshwater marshes of the Chesapeake Bay westward to a piedmont stream, mountain cave, woodlands, meadow and working farmyard. Visitors discover the wonders of their most accessible natural world, the Maryland wilderness. Through signage and school programs offered on grounds, they are encouraged to protect the Bay. They learn that the entire state falls within the Chesapeake Bay watershed and that every drop of water, polluted or pure, finds its way eventually to the Bay.