The Bronx Zoo and Wildlife Conservation Park is the largest network of metropolitan zoos in the entire United States. It officially opened its gates to the public on November 8, 1899 by William T. Hornaday who wanted a way to preserve the American bison that were heading towards extinction. It started out with 843 animals and now features 4,000 animals from all over the world on 265 acres of land. The Bronx Zoo was the first zoo in the Western hemisphere to display snow leopards. Between 1966 and 1999 82 cubs had been born in the zoo. The zoo is known for its award-winning Congo Gorilla Forest. This is a 6.5-acre, African rain forest that is home to 400 animals from 55 species.
The Congo Gorilla Forest features 23 lowland gorillas making it one of the largest and most important breeding groups in North America. Visitor's vote to decide which Wildlife Conservation Park (WCP) African conservation project the exhibit's entry fee will fund. Other popular attractions in the Bronx Zoo include: Himalayan Highlands: A one-acre exhibit that allows visitors to see endangered snow leopards, red pandas, white-naped cranes and Temminck's tragopan (a kind of pheasant). JungleWorld: A 37,000 square foot re-creation of an Asian rain forest that features 780 animals representing 99 species.