Last updated: 11/28/2013
Brownsville, Texas
Street Address
500 Ringgold St.
Brownsville, TX 78520
Mailing Address
500 Ringgold Street
Brownsville, TX 78520
phone: 956-546-7187
fax: 956-541-4940
The Zoo is open 365 days a year from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. with extended summer hours. Once on Zoo grounds you can stay until dusk.
Daily9 AM - 5 PM
Adults (14-64): $10
Seniors (over 65): $8.50
Children (2-13): $7
Children under 2: Free
Museum Type(s)
Gift Shop
Special Event Rental
Group Tours
Patrick M. Burchfield, Director
Greeley A. Stones, Facilities Director
Marilyn White,, Chief Financial Officer
phone: 415-794-5252
Colette Hairston Adams, General Curator
phone: 956-546-7187
Dr. Thomas W. Demaar, DVM, Senior Veterinarian
phone: 404-551-4450
Sergio Garcia, Curator of Education
Cynthia A. Garza Galvan, Director of Marketing
Natividad Ambriz, Maintenance Superintendent
phone: 956-546-2771
Oralia Berlanga, Comptroller
phone: 956-546-7187
Mario Calderon, Concessions Manager
phone: 956-546-0050
Darlene Campbell, Information Technology
Jaime Pena, Curator of Conservation
phone: 805-708-2282
Edna Peralta, Human Resources Coordinator
phone: 956-546-7187
Wendy James-Aldridge, Adjunct Curator of Research
phone: 700-381-3329

Over 1,500 mammals, birds, reptiles, invertebrates, fish and amphibians live in this lushly planted sub-tropical zoo and botanical garden. Emphasis is placed on creating a "survival center" for rare and endangered species. The multi-million dollar facility was built, stocked, staffed and then given to the citizens of South Texas in 1971 by the Earl C. Sams Foundation. Numerous awards have been bestowed on the Gladys Porter Zoo for the breeding of rare and difficult species. An average of 360,000 guests visit the Zoo annually. The Zoo's mission statement reads: Gladys Porter Zoo.....a visitor oriented zoological and botanical park dedicated to the preservation of nature through education, conservation and research.....


The Gladys Porter Zoo opened to the public on September 3, 1971. The facility was completely planned, built, stocked, equipped and then given to the City of Brownsville by the Earl C. Sams Foundation.

During the 1960s, Gladys Porter became increasingly interested in the plight of the world's wildlife when she and her husband, Dean, traveled extensively in Africa and other foreign countries. The idea of a zoo for the Rio Grande Valley developed at this time, and the members of the Sams Foundation decided that this would be their next major project. Mrs. Porter was closely involved with the planning, construction and stocking of the Zoo.

Over the years, the Earl C. Sams and the Lightner Sams Foundation have provided a major portion of the funds required to operate the Zoo. However, in 1986, due to changing financial conditions, the Board of the Valley Zoological Society voted to establish a permanent endowment fund to help strengthen the financial status of the Zoo. The Sams Foundation made their commitments through the establishment of challenge grants totaling $3 million. The Earl C. Sams Foundation committed to match dollar-for-dollar up to $2 million. The Lightner Sam's Foundation committed to match an additional $1 million on the same dollar-for-dollar basis to the Endowment. Since the endowment fund's formation, over $10 million has successfully been raised from businesses, corporations, foundations and concerned individuals. Income from the permanent endowment fund has ensured that sufficient funds are available each year to maintain and improve the quality of the Zoo's operations.

A few things have changed over the years, but many things still remain the same. The Gladys Porter Zoo is still dedicated to the preservation of nature through education, conservation and research. These traditions are alive and apparent in the day-to-day operations of the Zoo and it is with these basic missions in mind that the Gladys Porter Zoo continues plans for the future.

Artifact Collections

358 animal species; 1502 animal specimens; 150 plant species & over 2000 specimens

Research Collections

animal health; reproduction & behavior

Educational Programs

guided tours; lectures; TV & radio programs; formally organized education program for children, adults & undergraduate college students; docent program or council. Teacher workshops, classroom presentations, docent program, and other educational activities available.


ZooNews is published quarterly and distributed to members of Valley Zoological Society and area schools.


Birthday Parties

Kids will have a howling good time at a birthday party at the Zoo. We've made it easy to plan a fun birthday party. Our birthday party packages provide all the party basics. Birthday parties are arranged by our Education Department. A deposit is required to reserve your party date. Please contact or our Education Department at (956) 548-WILD (9453) to schedule your birthday party.

Facility Rental

Meetings or social events may be booked in the Education Building, at the Oasis (#1), Eagles Nest (#2), Asian Cafe (#3), or in the front of Small World. Rental fees for these areas are a minimum of $325 which includes the first two hours of use and $162.50 per each additional hour. This includes table and chair set up with proper prior notice and coordination, but additional fees will be charged if extensive decoration or set up are requested. Fee also includes one parking lot attendant and a Zoo employee on the grounds. Parties at any of the concessions food service areas will only be scheduled when the regular concessions business is closed in the selected area.


Food services may be catered by VZS Concessions. Catering can be done to meet the special needs of a social event. If an outside caterer is used, no food service areas may be utilized without a VZS Concessions employee being hired ($10.00 per hour) to coordinate the facility use and cleanup for the duration of the event.

Adopt-an-Animal program

Help us and help the animals! Gladys Porter Zoo invites you to help feed your favorite animal by participating in our exciting and rewarding Adopt-an-Animal program. Your tax deductible contribution helps to defray the cost of feeding and caring for the hundreds of animals in our care. Whether your gift buys grain or grubs, monkey chow or marmoset diet, crickets or corn, you will play an important role in the day-to-day activities of the Gladys Porter Zoo and in the future of the world's wildlife.

Zoofari Gift Shop

Don't forget to visit the Zoofari Gift Shop and pick up a souvenir to remember your amazing trip to the Gladys Porter Zoo. Our gift shop features many items such as t-shirts, stuffed animals, books, jewelry, toys and much more. Due to limited space, strollers are not allowed in the Gift Shop. We apologize for any inconvenience. Please ask one of the Gift Shop employees for help securing your stroller during your visit. Plans are underway for a more spacious gift facility, and this will not be a problem in the future.

Gift Shop

Special Event Rental

Group Tours

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Dallas, Texas

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