KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — To celebrate its 75th anniversary, Zoo Knoxville is asking the community to share their memories from the zoo.

The zoo plans to feature several stories on the zoo’s website and social media accounts. In addition, one participant will be chosen at random for a VIP behind-the-scenes experience with the zoo’s red pandas.

“We are inviting the community to get nostalgic with us and share all the ways that the zoo has been a part of their lives. We want their favorite memories, their cherished stories, the times that they’ve shared the zoo and those special moments with the animals here,” said Lisa New, President and CEO.

New went on to say that the zoo would not be celebrating 75 years without the love and support of the community.

“The community of Knoxville in East Tennessee has always embraced the zoo. It is. They’ve always been very firm that it is part of what makes Knoxville a great community,” said New.

Founded in 1948, Zoo Knoxville’s first major attraction was an alligator named Al. In 1963, Old Diamond, an African elephant left behind by the Ringling Brothers Circus, joined the zoo’s ranks after the community rallied to build him a barn. In 1970, Guy Smith became acting director and saved the zoo from being shut down. Over the following decades, the leadership of directors Ted Beaty, Patrick Roddy and Jim Vina helped accelerate the zoo’s growth.

“Our success is because of the support we receive in Knoxville and East Tennessee,” said New. “That is why it is so important to mark the 75th anniversary of our founding by including the moments and memories of our guests over the years. There is a lot of pride and ownership in Zoo Knoxville, and rightfully so. The community has supported the vision to make our Zoo a world-class facility.”

If you’d like to share your own Zoo Knoxville stories, photos, and memories, you can do so by visiting, or by sharing your story on social media using the hashtags #ZooKnox and #Zoo75. The zoo will begin accepting submissions starting on August 28 through September 1. The winner of the behind-the-scenes experience will be announced on September 4, 2023.

Since its founder, Zoo Knoxville has become an accredited member of the National Association of Zoos and Aquariums. It also boasts the incredible accomplishment of having more red pandas born on its premises than any other zoo in the entire world.

“We look forward to the next years and what’s coming for the zoo. We’re old and established, but we have got a lot of great things still in store,” said New.