Zoo Atlanta’s history began in 1889, when businessman George V. Gress purchased a bankrupt traveling circus and donated the animals to the city of Atlanta. City leaders opted to house the collection in Grant Park, a popular Victorian picnic and promenade spot. Original residents of the zoo included a black bear, a jaguar, a hyena, an elk, a Mexican hog, a raccoon, lions, monkeys, camels, pumas and snakes. The zoo’s collection expanded in the 1930s with the personal donation of a private menagerie owned by Asa G. Candler, Jr.
A twenty-year period of aggressive restoration and revitalization followed, marked by several significant exhibit openings, includ-ing the Ford African Rain Forest and Masai Mara, in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In 1999, ten years after its 100th anniversary, the zoo celebrated the long-awaited debut of giant pandas Lun Lun and Yang Yang.