SALT LAKE CITY — Nearly 90 years ago on August 1, 1931, Hogle Zoo opened in its current location at the mouth of Emigration Canyon. However, the Utah zoo's long history technically began several decades earlier at Salt Lake City's Liberty Park.
In 1911, Liberty Park opened a small animal display with several monkeys and a deer. This first exhibit was so popular that it earned the early zoo enough funds to acquire golden pheasants, Mandarin ducks, demoiselle cranes, blue peafowls, foxes, squirrels, white storks and white-faced ring-tail monkeys the following year.
By 1916, the zoo purchased its first elephant — Princess Alice — and hosted a total of 275 animals. Though beloved by Utahns, Alice caused plenty of trouble for the park by frequently escaping her cage and stampeding through city streets and neighbors' yards.
Thanks to Alice's terrifying habit, and a large donation of 50 acres of land by Mr. and Mrs. James Hogle, the zoo eventually moved to its present, more isolated location, allowing it more room to safely expand. On Aug. 1, 1931, the new Hogle Zoo officially opened its doors.
Here’s a look back at Princess Alice’s escapades and three other Utah zoo animals that made headlines over the years.
Princess Alice the elephant
Local schoolchildren collected coins and raised $3,250 to purchase and transport the elephant to Utah.
On Nov. 15, 1916, Alice fled from her Liberty Park enclosure and enjoyed a "brief jaunt in (the) hills" according to a Salt Lake Tribune story from that day. No one was hurt in her "lively escapade," but Alice made it all the way to Parleys Canyon and was found wrapped in barbwire and chicken fence.
The newspaper reported that "the path of the elephant's night was lined with astonished gazers, who stood long and looked in the direction in which she had vanished. Small boys followed until they were winded. Automobiles took up the chase and were lost in the network of roads to the eastward. A considerable crowd was in at the capture."
Tragically, Prince Utah died on March 14, 1919, when Alice accidentally rolled over on him. The Deseret News reported that the mother elephant shed tears and trumpeted mournfully after the loss of her son.
Princess Alice broke free many more times over the years, roaming 700 East with clothing from clotheslines draped across her back, causing uproar throughout the community.
She even enjoyed a "night out" at the new Hogle Zoo grounds in 1935 after snapping her chain and smashing the railing of her enclosure, according to a Salt Lake Telegram story.
In 1953, 68-year-old Alice was put to sleep, after a long lifetime of enchanting Utahns and keeping zookeepers on their toes.
Shasta the liger
Though rare, ligers aren't just mythical beasts of "Napoleon Dynamite" lore. Hogle Zoo welcomed its own half-lion, half-tiger hybrid with the birth of Shasta on May 6, 1948. Shasta was the offspring of a Hogle Zoo female tiger and male lion and was named through a contest sponsored by the Deseret News.
Shasta's birth was an unusual feat — previous attempts by other zoos to breed the hybrid animal typically ended in the lion or tiger killing the other prospective parent, according to a 1948 Deseret News article. At Shasta's birth, the only other known liger in America lived at the Central Park Zoo in New York.
Because her mother would not nurse her, Shasta was bottle-fed by the zoo director. She was so pampered, that a zookeeper joked she was called Shasta because "She-asta have this and she-asta have that."
As Shasta grew, she developed a tiger's stripes and a lion's body. Hogle Zoo held an annual birthday party for the liger every year, bringing thousands of children to each event.
On July 19, 1972, Shasta died at age 24. During her lifetime, she became a Utah icon, raising the profile of Hogle Zoo and attracting thousands of curious visitors.
After her death, a taxidermist preserved the liger's remains, which were displayed at the zoo for several decades. In 1999, Shasta moved to Brigham Young University's Monte L. Bean Life Science Museum.
Gorgeous the gorilla
Gorgeous the gorilla was born in Africa in 1949 and came to Utah's Hogle Zoo in 1985. In 1997, Gorgeous became the world's oldest gorilla living in captivity at age 48. (The record has since been broken by Colo, a 60 year-old gorilla at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium in Ohio, who died January 2017.)
Because she spent much of her life alone at the Cheyenne Mountain zoo near Denver, she wasn't very comfortable around other apes. Yet she was very close with the zoo's head primate keeper, Bob Pratt, who described her as "the epitome of a gorilla — she can act like a headstrong teenager, bless her heart, and basically she's soft, shy and curious."
Gorgeous also enjoyed the company of N'Gina, a zoo employee's kitten that was housed with the gorilla, helping Gorgeous develop social skills. Although she was initially afraid of the "frisky feline," the two quickly became "loving companions," according to a 1993 Deseret News article.
In 1990, Gorgeous became the first gorilla to undergo cataract surgery after Hogle Zoo officials noticed she was almost blind and was becoming more and more introverted. Dr. Alan S. Crandall, a professor of clinical ophthalmology at the University of Utah, performed the 50-minute procedure, removing a cataract in the gorilla's left eye and implanting the same type of synthetic lens used in human eyes.
Crandall noted that the unprecedented operation took longer than human cataract surgery and required operating staff to "fly by the seat of (their) pants."
Afterward, the gorilla "did a 180-degree turnabout," said Kimberly Davidson, a curator at the zoo.
Daphne the giraffe
Like Gorgeous, Daphne the giraffe far exceeded the average life expectancy of her species. Prior to her death in 2016, Daphne was the oldest living giraffe in North America at age 31. The average lifespan of giraffes is only 15 years.
Daphne came to Hogle Zoo in 1985 and mothered many calves during her time there.
Giraffe keeper Lisa Ellison said Daphne was "a very 'judgy' giraffe. She just had this look that looked like she was judging you. She was also very observant — she learned by watching the other giraffes."
In her old age, Daphne developed aches and pains the way any great-grandmother would and required medication to remain comfortable. Zookeepers monitored her degenerative musculoskeletal issues each day and eventually made the decision to euthanize her based on her low energy and decreased response to pain medication.
"She went on her own terms," Ellison said. "She had a nice week last week — the weather was warm, she was moving well and we had a good last week with her. It was just her time and she let us know that."