Blank Park Zoo began life as the Des Moines Children’s Zoo in 1966. It had a miniature train, Monkey Island, barnyard, and a petting zoo. It gradually declined over the years until, in 1986, it reopened as Blank Park Zoo. It has been a significant tourist attraction in Des Moines ever since, with over 480,000 people visiting the zoo in 2015.
The zoo currently features animals from around the world, including endangered eastern black rhinos. It has an all-season aviary connected to the entrance complex, meaning it can even be enjoyed during trips to the zoo in the winter. There is an impressive African exhibit with elands, giraffes, and many other species. All combined, the zoo manages 104 separate species and over 1400 individual animals on a 22-acre site. It is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and has been reaccredited at each renewal.
The zoo is involved in several Species Survival Plans, including those for the ring-tailed lemur, snow leopard, Amur tiger, Japanese macaque, golden-headed lion tamarin, Panamanian golden frog, and red panda. In addition to this, the zoo has several other conservation and research programs. One of its significant outreach efforts is the Wild Bunch program, which is composed of staff and volunteers who work on local conservation projects in the surrounding community.