Zoo Parade, starring Lincoln Park Zoo’s director Marlin Perkins, was the first animal show in the history of television.

Zoo Parade pioneered the many wildlife programs that were to become popular to future television viewers. Its mission was simple: to provide entertainment and education through visits with zoo animals.

The show actually originated in 1945, when Marlin was asked to bring animals to the experimental television station WBKB and talk about them. A mobile unit came to Lincoln Park Zoo on May 22, 1949 to bring the show Zoo Parade to television viewers. Over the years the series had many sponsors, including Jewel Food Stores, Quaker Oats and Mutual of Omaha.

The show was a huge success and earned many accolades, including a Peabody Award (1951), TV-Forecast Award (1951 & 1952), Lions Club Award of Merit (1951), and School Broadcast Conference Award (1950). Other recognition followed for Best Children Show, Best Educational Show and Best Family View Show. Soon the series branched out to visit other US facilities such as Woodland Park Zoo, Brookfield Zoo, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo and Detroit Zoo.

Its’ last big push were two shows on location in Africa (1955) and the Amazon (1957). After the South American trip, the show had run its course and was cancelled, after a national broadcast run from 1949-1957.

Marlin Perkins instinctively knew the power of television and said “I knew it was going to be a dynamic medium, because television is radio that you can see”.

Zoo Parade’s legacy as a ground-breaking series is immense. Marlin and his animal friends brought zoos and natural history to the attention of the American public. Much of the support for today’s environmental movement may be attributed to the proliferation of wildlife programs on the small screen, and those in turn can be traced back to Perkin’s pioneering efforts with Zoo Parade.

We look at these early kinescopes of Zoo Parade and, as much as they seem dated, find that their message about animals and respect for all living things is timeless.

About Marlin Perkins

Marlin Perkins
In Memoriam
Mar 28, 1905 - Jun 14, 1986
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Saint Louis Zoo: St. Louis, Missouri

Director Emeritus

Marlin Perkins was a zoo man. In 1928 he was named curator of reptiles at the St. Louis Zoo. Later his career path took him to the Buffalo Zoo, Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo and finally back to St. Louis where he retired in 1970.

While director at Lincoln Park Zoo he hosted the first ever animal show in the history of television. It was called Zoo Parade and ran from 1949-1957. This success spawned another show Wild Kingdom in 1963. His adventures even took him to the Himalayan Mountains where he joined Sir Edmund Hillary in an expedition to find the Yeti.

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