Day Trips: San Antonio Zoo, San Antonio

It’s all happening down at the San Antonio Zoo


Mopie the gorilla at the San Antonio Zoo, circa 1986 (Photo by Ernest G. Garrison / Public Domain)

The San Antonio Zoo has been without a gorilla exhibit for 31 years. That is about to change as a multiyear project refreshes many familiar aspects of the 108-year-old institution.

The last resident gorilla at the zoo was Mopie, a lowland gorilla with a mind of his own and a personality to match. He made headlines several times in the Alamo City before being relocated to Washington, D.C., in 1990, where he became a visitor favorite. He died in 2006 of heart disease at age 34.


Photo by Gerald E. McLeod

The zoo's $15 million Congo Falls addition scheduled to open in 2025 will be one of the largest primate habitats in the nation. The 2-acre site will include state-of-the-art facilities to house a bachelor troop and a family troop. They will join a community of lemurs, monkeys, gibbons, and other primates already at the zoo.

Jesse Vargas, the park's chief operating officer, says bringing back the gorillas has been on the zoo's wish list for a while.

As part of the zoo's overall conservation efforts, the new exhibit will follow the Species Survival Plan. The zoo has done groundbreaking research with other endangered species like the Texas horned lizard and whooping cranes.


Photo by Gerald E. McLeod

The zoo continued installing new attractions and infrastructure despite the pandemic. In 2019 they added rides from Kiddie Park, a one-of-a-kind local amusement park that had operated since 1925. Finishing touches are underway on the Kronkosky's Tiny Tot Nature Spot.

The zoo is getting better all the time, Vargas says.

The San Antonio Zoo is at 3903 N. St. Mary's St. in Breckenridge Park in north-central San Antonio. The zoo is usually open daily 9am to 5pm and until 7pm on Saturday.


1,616th in a series. Everywhere is a day trip from somewhere: Follow “Day Trips & Beyond,” a travel blog, at austinchronicle.com/daily/travel.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

San Antonio Zoo, gorillas, Mopie, Congo Falls, Jesse Vargas, Kiddie Park, Kronkosky's Tiny Tot Nature Spot, Breckenridge Park

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