BREC’s Baton Rouge Zoo: Connecting people with the natural world

Zoo Director Jim Fleshman

BREC’s Baton Rouge Zoo has provided engaging and educational experiences that connect people with wildlife and the natural world since 1970. With a multimillion-dollar, multiphase reinvestment underway, BREC is deepening that connection with improvements for the experience of visitors, staff and animals.


Top executive: Jim Fleshman, Zoo Director

Phone: 225.775.3877

Address: 3601 Thomas Road, Baton Rouge, LA 70807


“This is a reinvestment in the zoo that will transform it into a 21st century world-class institution,” says Zoo Director Jim Fleshman. Phase One, funded by BREC, will be completed next year and focuses on providing improved infrastructure, new exhibits, a new entrance and other impactful advancements. 

The first upgraded exhibit available features pygmy hippos. A new underwater viewing structure provides visitors a different perspective on the animals in their natural habitat. Colorful African cichlids will live in the water alongside the hippos, while black and white Colobus monkeys, which are historically native to the same African region as the hippos, will be visible in the exhibit’s trees and ropes. An African aviary featuring a variety of exotic and endangered birds from the region connect to the exhibit, as well.

Additionally, a state-of-the-art barn will vastly advance the giraffe exhibit. Some of the barn’s features include hurricane shutters, elevated waterers, and heated and cooled flooring for the animals’ augmented comfort. The larger barn will also enable future expansion of the giraffe herd.

The new barn also features a device that will give zoo staff access to the animals from head to hoof for top-notch medical care. A platform inside the barn will allow donors to get near the giraffes for a unique up-close experience. The public can access a feeding platform in the new exhibit where they can feed purchased lettuce directly to the giraffes, as a staff member provides educational information about the species.

The zoo’s main entrance will shift from Thomas Road to what has been the rear, administrative entrance, offering a more synergistic connection with Greenwood Park. A redesigned entry plaza will feature an expanded gift shop and educational and meeting rooms. Locating administrative offices at the entrance will better connect staff to visitors, as well. 

The zoo’s popular train also is being adjusted so the tracks weave through some of the exhibits, allowing visitors to see the animals in a new way.

One driving factor for the significant investment is regaining the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ accreditation, which is expected to occur in spring 2024. This will place BREC’s Baton Rouge Zoo in the top 10 percent of all zoos in the nation. These substantial improvements will transform the zoo into a cultural cornerstone of the region, providing a more immersive and educational experience for all Baton Rouge area residents.