Los Fresnos News

Glady’s Porter Zoo & Valentine’s Celebration

Mike Villarreal

The Glady’s Porter Zoo which is named after the daughter of Earl C. Sams, Former President of J.C. Penny. It is a zoological and botanical park located in Brownsville, Texas.

The Zoo officially opened on September 30, 1971 and currently averages over 425,000 visitors annually. The zoo houses about 400 animal species (Including 47 endangered) and over 250 tropical and neo-tropical species and sub-species. It is the first zoo to have successfully bred the endangered lentinks duiker. It is also the birthplace of Harambe, the gorilla.

The zoo was planned, built, stocked, and given by the Earl C. Sames foundation to the City of Brownsville. It opened on September 3, 1971. The first addition to its exhibits was the herpetarium, which opened in April 1973. The zoo has been the single largest recipient from the foundation funds established by Sams.

In 1978, the zoo launched its summer study program on a trial basis with classes for children in grades 1st through 12th. Although only four classes were taught that summer, the program has expanded over the years and now includes classes in the spring and fall as well as summer. The zoo also received accreditation from the association of zoo’s and aquariums.

In the following years, orangutan island was enlarged, the herpetarium was expanded with a new aquatic wing, and many other exhibits, as well as facilities such as the gift shop, offices, and concession stands, were remodeled or added. Most of these projects were made possible by the zoo’s animal zoofari fundraisers.

In 1986 the zoo created an endowment fund with the help of matching grants from the Earl C. Sams and the Lightner Sans Foundation. Income from this permanent endowment now ensures that the zoo can maintain and improve itself.

The Australian exhibit opened in February 1988 – the largest addition to the zoo since its opening. The education department was also expanded in 1989 and a walk-through aviary was also opened.

Last week, on Sunday, February 11th, 2024 the zoo had a Valentine’s Day themed animal play day. Zookeepers distributed Valentine’s Day enrichments to the animals throughout the day starting at 11 AM.

Enrichment is performed daily at the zoo and is essential to the physical and mental well-being of the animals. Enrichment encourages natural behaviors such as foraging, problem-solving, and play. The event was free with the purchase of a general admission or zoo membership.