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Amazing Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, TX

I live in Houston and have worked as a nurse. I have a lifelong passion for traveling, nature, and photography (preferably all together!).

Gladys Porter Zoo Sign

Gladys Porter Zoo Sign

Brownsville Attraction

The famed Gladys Porter Zoo is an attraction worthy of a visit or multiple continuing visits in the City of Brownsville, Texas. This zoo and the botanical garden combination are on 31 acres of land. It officially opened in September of 1971.

Brownsville is in the Lower Rio Grande Valley near Port Isabel and South Padre Island and is a destination location for several reasons. Many people probably pass through Brownsville on their way to the beaches and some sun-kissed fun on the island.

Matamoros, Mexico, is just 2 miles south of Brownsville across the Rio Grande River, which is another reason people might wish to visit this southernmost town in Texas.

Birders are attracted to this southernmost region because of the many bird migration areas and nature preserves in which to photograph them.

A recent attraction to the Brownsville area is Elton Musk's SpaceX. A future astronaut might get inspiration from seeing this site!

But if they have never taken time to visit this wonderful zoo, they are missing out. Had this zoo been in existence when I spent my teen years in the Valley, I am sure my parents would have secured a family pass since we often passed through Brownsville on our way to Padre Island. It would have given us another form of entertainment plus a learning experience which we all would have enjoyed.

Entrance of the Gladys Porter Zoo

Entrance of the Gladys Porter Zoo

Origin of Gladys Porter Zoo

A foundation set up by former president Earl C. Sams of the J. C. Penney Company privately funded the zoo construction and furnishing all the zoo animals. That man's daughter, Gladys Porter, was a wildlife lover and wanted to do something that would be wonderful for the community and also help animals at the same time.

Once the zoo opened, it was given to the city of Brownsville with enough foundation money to help it operate. Continuing fund-raising efforts such as the annual one known as Zoofari meet the expenses of capital improvements.

Gladys Porter's philanthropy efforts impacted many other entities besides this zoo that bears her name. They include universities, hospitals, theaters, parks, scouting, wildlife conservation, among other things. Mrs. Porter took over the Sams Foundation upon the death of her father. She was honored with many awards. To read more accolades about her and learn about her other activities, click on the link at the bottom of this page under sources.


Animals on display come from Asia, Africa, Central America, Mexico, South America, Indonesia, Australia, the Philippines, New Guinea, and New Zealand. Plants are also beautifully grown there and make visiting this zoo even more colorful and enjoyable.

The zoo has grown over the years, with additional attractions added. The zookeepers successfully breed some endangered species plus rehab injured and sick animals, releasing them back into the wild, if at all possible. Research is also a large part of what they accomplish, and they team up with wildlife experts from around the world.

According to the TSHA Handbook of Texas, the world's largest single assemblage, some 1,800 endangered mammals, reptiles, and birds are in this Rio Grande Valley zoo. Four hundred species are among that number.

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The world's most dangerous bird, known as a cassowary, is among the zoo collection. Those dagger-like claws are about 5 inches long on each foot, helping protect the almost six-foot-tall bird from predators.

Whether wishing to see bears splashing about in the water with beautifully designed rocks, caves, and waterfalls, or walk through an aviary with birds in free flight overhead, or see a rare Komodo dragon or feed a friendly giraffe, that and so much more awaits one's discovery at the Gladys Porter Zoo.

"People forget the good that zoos do. If it weren't for zoos, we would have so many species that would be extinct today."

— Betty White

Hours, Prices, and More

As of 2022, the hours from Monday to Friday are from 9 AM to 5 PM. On Saturdays and Sundays, the hours are from 9 AM to 5:30 PM.

Admission prices are the following:

  • Adults, $15.50
  • Seniors (65 and older), $12.50
  • Children (2 to 13), $9.50, and under 2, Free

Because of Covid and safety protocols, group rates are not now available, nor are the train rides. To learn about the school rates, membership pricing (the best deal for those who live nearby), the summer teen programs, camps, and sleepovers at the zoo, consult the official site under sources.

Maps given to zoo attendees show a one-way direction which is now the social distancing norm as one goes through the sections of the park. This aesthetically beautiful park contains natural-looking habitats and islands surrounded by waterways. There is wheelchair access to all facilities, including concession stands and restrooms.

Be sure to take the time to look at these lovely videos below if you wish to see the overall appearance of the Gladys Porter Zoo from an aerial view, plus closeups of some of the wildlife.

"We need zoos to connect people with endangered animals, to help them understand these problems and to inspire the need for protection."

— Michael George

Zoo animals are ambassadors for their cousins in the wild.

— Jack Hanna


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Peggy Woods

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