Audubon Park housed collections of animals as early as 1893. But it wasn’t until 20 years later the zoo as New Orleanians know it began to take shape. In 1924, the park regained 50 acres between Magazine Street and the levee that had been used as a sugar experiment station. That year, the first elephant arrived at the site, purchased through a collection by school children. In 1928 the sea lion pool was constructed. Efforts for a zoo, however, stumbled until the depression-era Civil Works Administration provided $400,000 for the zoo – which among other things paid for the creation of the popular Monkey Hill. A completed zoo opened its gates in 1938.
By 1970, the zoo was in such poor condition there was talk of permanently closing it. But citizen efforts, led by the newly formed group, Friends of Zoo, pushed through a citizen referendum in 1972 to pay for a refurbished zoo with a new millage.
The park has recently added a new elephant house and a cool zoo. Today, the tigers, elephants and monkeys “axed for” and receive about 800,000 visitors a year.