Visitors know the zoo as a rangy place that's home to more than 250 animals from 101 species.
The existence of Zoo Boise makes certain experiences possible: walking among iridescent blue morphos during the annual "Butterflies in Bloom" exhibition; speeding past the zoo on a bike, catching a glimpse of a heavy-lidded giraffe looking back; hearing mysterious, jungly screeches echoing across the park, utterly out of place in the Intermountain West.
A recent program even let visitors throw down their sleeping bags and spend the night among the beasts.
The zoo's origins were more modest. It opened in 1916. Its first residents: a circus refugee and a collection of rare birds given by a local sportsman's club.
As the story goes, a circus was traveling through town.
"A chimpanzee escaped. The circus left. The chimp stayed," said Liz Littman, Zoo Boise spokeswoman.
The first zookeepers were officers from the Boise Police Department. They fed the animals with food donations from local restaurants and grocery stores.
By WWII, the zoo had 40 different species. But over the next few decades, it fell into disrepair and nearly closed in 1961.
That year, the group now known as Friends of Zoo Boise formed. It has raised money and community support for the zoo and its creatures ever since.
On Zoo Boise's horizon: A new monkey habitat, with construction to start this spring; the installation of two recently selected public art works, a series of mosaic animals by Reham Pearson Aarti and a totem by Stephanie Inman meant to promote conservation of the hyena and the vulture - current and future zoo residents, respectively.
Anna Webb: 377-6431