Private ownership of exotic animals continues to create controversy, but most of us likely agree that it is in the animals’ best interest to be cared for by concerned and qualified professionals. Julie and Spencer Penrose reached the same conclusion and established the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo to provide a more adequate environment for their menagerie. Tessie was only one of many unusual creatures in their collection, which had started in 1916, when Spencer was gifted a bear. The elephant was reportedly a present from an Indian Rajah, but had, in fact, been purchased from circus. The furred and feathered beings were either kept at El Pomar, the Penroses’ private residence, at their Turkey Creek Ranch south of town, or at their Broadmoor Hotel. It wasn’t only golfers who disliked stepping into pachyderm dung, but monkey bites also caused no small degree of consternation among the Broadmoor guests.
In 1926, the Penroses founded the Cheyenne Mountain Zoological Society and commenced construction of an animal park along what was then a gravel road, which was completed only the previous year and connected their hotel with Cheyenne Mountain’s northernmost summit. In 1938, Julie and Spencer deeded the zoo to the city as a non-profit public trust “for the sole purpose of establishing and maintaining a zoological park to provide recreation, education, conservation and scientific facilities in the field of zoology and related subjects, and to preserve the Zoo in perpetuity for the people of the Pikes Peak region.”
Metal bars and cages are part of our, at times, desperate attempts to save a species from extinction. No zoo in the world can completely recreate an animal’s habitat, but the best endeavor to. Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, consistently ranked among the top in the country, functions according to the highest standards. It cares for more than 30 endangered species, a Black Rhinoceros and several primates among them. Giraffes raised in the world-class breeding program are perennial favorites with guests. Each admission fee supports both our local institution as well as numerous global conservation projects through the Quarters For Conservation program, which has raised $3 million since 2008. The zoo’s elevated location affords splendid views of Colorado Springs and the Great Plains, and even though its footprint covers a mere 140 acres, it enables us not only to experience the Americas, but also to explore Africa, Asia, and Australia, all during the same memorable visit.
Generously Submitted by Tanja Britton, CSPM Volunteer Educator