Crandon Park Zoo

From the late 1940s until August 1980, Crandon Park Zoo on Key Biscayne was the place to see bears, tigers, monkeys, reptiles and birds just a few steps from the beach. The zoo, located in the 900-acre Crandon Park, opened in 1948 and was the county’s first. It blossomed from the misfortune of a traveling animal show: The show’s caravan broke down, leaving two black bears, three monkeys and a goat stranded. Over the years, the zoo purchased animals, received some as gifts, traded with other zoos and picked up strays. It even had a miniature train that took visitors on a 1 1/2-mile track along the periphery of the zoo. The zoo also had its share of controversy. In the early ’60s, local news organizations reported that the zoo was mistreating its animals. In 1965, Hurricane Betsy slammed into the area. High waters drowned numerous animals in their cages and created a panic that resulted in the deaths of other animals. This sparked talks about moving the zoo to a larger, inland location. In the 1970s, Crandon’s size, location and format led to its decline. The island location threatened the safety of the animals every time a storm or a hurricane blew by. The animals were caged in concrete and steel, and the population continued to grow. When Metrozoo was built, Crandon became nothing more than a memory. In 1991, the site of the old zoo opened as The Gardens at Crandon Park, a botanical garden.
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