April Fools Bring a Headache for the Zoo

By Michael Dobuski

Despite its long and honorable past, pranksters inundate the Bronx Zoo with prank calls every April Fools’ Day, asking to talk to people such as Grizz Lee Bear. Mary Altaffer/AP

Despite its long and honorable past, pranksters inundate the Bronx Zoo with prank calls every April Fools’ Day, asking to talk to people such as Grizz Lee Bear. Mary Altaffer/AP

Last Friday marked the beginning of April as well as the holiday of April Fool’s day. Although many pranksters love the silly holiday, others dislike this day of tomfoolery. One Bronx establishment that perhaps dreads the holiday more than most is the Bronx Zoo. The zoo, in addition to many other zoos across the country, is inundated every April with a host of calls asking to speak to colorful characters such as Mr. Lyon, L.E. Phant and Al Egator. The prank traces its origins back to at least 1946. According to The New York Times, The Bronx Zoo had stopped taking phone calls for the day. The Times called it, “the silliest and most troublesome day of the Bronx Zoo’s whole year.”

“I can see how that would be really annoying. But at the same time it is refreshingly harmless considering of all the potential April Fools jokes that could be played,” said Emily Brooks, FCRH ‘17.

Brooks, like many Fordham students, likes to take advantage of the zoo whenever possible, especially considering admission is free. Like a number of other New York City landmarks, however, the Bronx Zoo does recommend a small donation before admission.

The Bronx Zoo is not the oldest zoo in the country. That honor is held by the Philadelphia Zoo, which was established in 1874. Nearly 25 years later, in 1898, the New York Zoological Society was given 250 acres of Bronx Park. The next year the Bronx Zoo opened, featuring over 650 different species of animals. Today, the Bronx Zoo is home to over 4,000 individual animals and welcomes over two million visitors annually.

A number of buildings on the zoo’s grounds are, in fact, New York City landmarks. The one that is probably most recognizable to Fordham students is the Fordham Road entrance, Rainey Gate, which was established as a landmark in 1967.

Other points of interest within the Bronx Zoo include Astor Court and Rockefeller Fountain, the latter of which was actually designed in 1872, before the park’s opening, by Italian sculptor Biagio Catella. A 30-ton, seven-foot-tall slab of pink granite called the Rocking Stone is also on display in the zoo and is thought to date back to the Ice Age.

When its not getting pranked, the Bronx Zoo hosts a variety of festivities throughout the year. Currently, John Cavelli, the Wildlife Conservation Society vice president and a Fordham Law graduate, is gearing up for the eigth annual WCS Run for the Wild 5K and Family Fun Run on Saturday, April 30. “Each year, this event raises awareness of the threats facing wildlife while raising money to help WCS conservation work at the Bronx Zoo and around the world,” he said. “After the run, everyone is encouraged to stay at the Bronx Zoo to enjoy the park for the rest of the day,” said Calvelli. This year’s festivities feature an entirely new line-up of activities including a beer garden, silent disco and rock climbing wall.

Robert Wagner, the former executive director of the American Association of Zoological Parks and Aquariums, once estimated that zoos across the country receive an excess of 60,000 prank calls on the first of April. Although the hijinks have reportedly subsided since their April Fools peak, that does not mean that there is no more fun to be had at the Bronx Zoo.


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