2. The Central Park Zoo’s Biggest Attraction Was ‘Hattie the Elephant’


Photo from Library of Congress.

The biggest attraction of the zoo was Hattie the elephant. In an article published in 1904, The New York Times referred to her as the most intelligent elephant, even saying that she understood English. Carl Hagenback brought her over from Sri Lanka and sold her to the zoo where she played the harmonica and performed tricks. Other notable animals included Pattycake, the first gorilla successfully born in captivity in New York, Gus the polar bear who was euthanized due to an inoperable tumor, and a “tiglon” named Charles who was donated to the city in 1938. Charles was the offspring of a female African lion and a male Siberian tiger, a rarer combination than the majestic “liger” (offspring of a female tiger and male lion).

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One thought on “The Top 10 Secrets of Central Park Zoo in NYC

  1. The Central Park Zoo is a wonderful and underrated place…it’s a small zoo, but has a lot going for it — a great children’s exhibit, miniature jungles, a Penguin area, the seal island.

    Oddly enough, it owes all this to Robert Moses, who took the rundown zoo, and made it a modern facility, at the behest of his boss, the animal-loving Gov. Alfred E. Smith. At that time, the zoo was run by aging Tammany loyalties as sinecures, and the cages were disintegrating. The zookeepers were given rifles to shoot animals that got through the fence.

    At the zoo’s re-opening, Smith delivered the keynote, and cut it short so that the kids in attendance could join him in seeing the animals. Smith was made a “Night Superintendent,” allowing him to get into the zoo at any time, and after he left Albany, he spent a lot of time in the zoo, day and night, often consoling sick and dying animals.

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