“Mr. Moke” – St. Louis Zoo

1960 - 1969

The St. Louis Zoo, established in 1904, is one of the country’s leading zoological institutions focusing on animal management, research, conservation, and education. The Zoo owes much of its national recognition to Marlin Perkins, who quit college to join the Zoo in 1926. Over the next eleven years, as Director of the Reptile Exhibits, Perkins grew the collection from six reptiles to over five hundred animals. In 1938 Perkins left St. Louis to become director of the New York Zoological Gardens in Buffalo and, in 1944, became director of the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago. During his tenure at the Lincoln Park Zoo, Perkins began his career in television and became a national TV figure with “Zoo Parade” and later with the highly popular “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom,” initiated shortly after returning to the St Louis Zoo in 1962.

Perkins is pictured here with the Zoo’s famous talking chimpanzee, “Mr. Moke,” who could say “No” and “Mama.” Perkins and Mr. Moke are surrounded by children from the St. Louis Hearing & Speech Center. In addition to being included in Perkin’s personal appearances, the Zoo continued presenting animal shows for the public’s enjoyment, and Mr. Moke was a major attraction. In performances with animals, like Mr. Moke, and through his television shows, Perkins helped educate the public on the importance of conservation to ensure endangered species’ survival.

A local of Carthage, Perkins retired as director of the St. Louis Zoo in 1970. After his death in June 1989 in Clayton, the St. Louis Zoo founded the Marlin Perkins society, dedicated to conserving endangered species in his honor.

Object Details

Categories: Education, Health, Science & Technology

Creator: Unknown

Date: 1960 - 1969

Subject: Animals; Zoo animals; St. Louis Zoological Park

Contributing Institution: Missouri Historical Society

Accession Number: P0972-00003

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Rights: The text and images contained in this collection are intended for research and educational use only. Duplication of any of these images for commercial use without express written consent is expressly prohibited. Contact the Missouri Historical Society's Permissions Office at 314-746-4511 to obtain written consent.

Region: St. Louis Metro

Type: Photograph

Latitude: 38.636493

Longitude: -90.292434