Stanley Park Once Had A Zoo And Here’s What It Was Like

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Stanley Park Zoo

When taking a stroll through Vancouver’s most iconic park, it’s hard to believe it was once home to a zoo that carried more than 50 species of animals.

Less than 30 years ago, there was a a zoo located in Downtown Vancouver at Stanley Park. It was free for the public, and a place where various types of animals from different regions of the world used to live.

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Stanley Park Zoo

The zoo was founded in the late 1800s by the park superintendent, Henry Avison. If the name sounds familiar, it’s because there’s also a trail named after him, as he was the park’s first superintendent up until 1896.

It all started with an orphaned black bear cub that was captured and placed in the park. After that came a large donation of local animals, which included seals, buffalos, raccoons and more.

Stanley Park Zoo

Photo: Vancouver Archives

stanley park zoo

Photo: Vancouver Archives

Located right beside the aquarium, it was a popular spot for many families. Visitors could also see animals up close while riding the miniature railway.

Over the years, more exotic animals were added. This included monkeys, penguins, wolves, kangaroos and polar bears.

Stanley Park Zoo

Photo: Vancouver Archives

Stanley Park Zoo

Photo: Vancouver Archives

There was chatter to expand on the zoo in 1994, but many people voted to do away with it altogether over concerns of animal cruelty. The animals were then relocated to other facilities that can better cater to their needs.

A few years later in 1996, the Stanley Park Zoo was shut down. Some of the land was then used towards the expansion of the Vancouver Aquarium.

Stanley Park Zoo

Photo: Vancouver Archives

The last of the zoo closed about a year later, when the last occupant, a elderly lone polar bear named ‘Tuk’ died. Although most of the infrastructure is now gone, the cement polar bear enclosure still exists in Stanley Park to this day, just west of Brockton Oval and south of the Vancouver Aquarium.

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For more nostalgia to do with Metro Vancouver, check out our History section. 

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