“connecting people with wildlife from Texas”
The Texas Zoo connects people with wildlife from Texas and the rest of the world; inspires caring for nature; and advances conservation through education, recreation, science and action. The Texas Zoo had its beginnings in 1957 when James L. Yates, who ran a packing plant near Foster Field, donated an African lioness to Mayor W.R. McCright. The Mayor decided that Victoria should have a zoo and approached the Lions Club, who provided a cage. Fire Marshall L.B. Richardson was assigned responsibility and the Victoria City Zoo was born. Sid Drew was hired to operate the zoo. In 1962, B.E. Leissner, a local pharmacist, and Lester A. Bugs Meis, a local pest control operator, who were active members of the Junior Chamber of Commerce and had supported zoo development from the beginning, proposed creation of a Zoo Commission to oversee operations and planning. The City council agreed and appointed City Manager John Lee and former Mayor W.R. McCright to the Commission along with Leissner and Meis. The Commission immediately renamed the zoo the Victoria Children’s Zoo and initiated a fund raising drive for expansion. Expansion plans called for a monkey island, snake house, large bird area, and cages for large animals. Visitors from 107 cities, 19 states, and Germany signed the guest register in the first nine days of the Children’s Zoo, demonstrating the value of the zoo as a tourist attraction. The Zoo grew to include many species that were housed in barred/wired cages and pens. Bears, Barbados sheep, a camel, Russian Boars, an Anaconda, monkeys, parrots, parakeets, penguins, and peacocks were gradually accumulated. Many were donated, including the pair of bears donated in 1959 by Tom O’Connor and Victoria Bank and Trust Company. Over the years the O’Connor brothers, Dennis and Tom, were consistent, strong supporters of Victoria’s zoo.
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