A Walk Through the Zoo

DSC_0529Zoos have always fascinated me. Nothing else really captures how singularly beautiful and diverse our biosphere is more than seeing some of that variety together in one place. Seeing a sterling example of what a zoological garden like the Louisville Zoo can be has proven to me that zoos both protect animals from unnecessarily harsh conditions and also educate people on the multitude of wonderful creatures that walk the planet.

One of the Louisville Zoo’s missions is to provide leadership in conservation education, and they do so by subtly presenting it to guests and patrons as soon as they walk through the gate. The Zoo is divided into native animal regions, and within that region, the animals are further organized to educate on the relationship between predator and prey, which is why the polar bears are kept near the seals and sea lions.

DSC_0516_webWith this layout in mind, I began with the new camel ride attraction. I have fond memories of riding horses on my dad’s farm as a child, and I learned to ride hunt seat when I was a little older. My past experiences made riding the camel a breeze, but for those who don’t have similar times to draw on, the zoo employees will help make it just as easy for you – and so will the camels. Amos was the name of the camel I rode that day, and he seemed like a pretty easy-going fella. He won’t give you any trouble.

DSC_0465_webBy ride’s end, I was impressed at how strong the camel seemed and how differently he moved than a horse. It’s slower to be sure, but I also got the impression that he could keep this up for days. It was easy to imagine why camels are used for long journeys through the desert. Camel rides cost $6 for non-members and $5 for members if you or your children want to experience a ride for yourselves.

Next, I attended some of the Zoo’s informative animal presentations. I met two female elephants, one African and one Indian. Just in case you’ve forgotten some of those biology classes from your grade school days, here’s a fun animal fact: The main way to tell the difference between the two varieties of elephant is by looking at the ears. African elephants have bigger ears that roughly resemble Africa, while Indian elephants’ ears resemble India. The keepers also use this opportunity to have the elephants perform tricks not only to entertain the audience but also to give the animals some exercise.

DSC_0497_webI additionally got to see a presentation of the maned wolves of South America as well as one of the seals and sea lions from Earth’s coldest regions. Resembling large foxes, maned wolves do not hunt in packs. They are solitary – even a little skittish – and love fruit just as much as meat. When I next saw the seal and sea lions, I realized that I had never seen them in person before. These adorable creatures are sure to win your heart, and since their presentation is by the water, it can serve as a nice opportunity to cool off if things get too hot this summer.

Near the seals and sea lions are the Zoo’s newest fixture: little penguins. Also called blue or fairy penguins, these little guys are the world’s smallest species of penguin and are known for their unusual cerulean coloring. Like most penguins, they are irresistibly cute, and they enjoy showing off their swimming skills to the visitors. Another fascinating tidbit is that they from hail Australia, so unlike their brethren in the poles, these guys are warm-weather penguins. They’re sure to be a success for the Zoo.

DSC_0565_webWhile walking from attraction to attraction, I of course couldn’t help but notice the astounding amount of animals that populate the Zoo. I saw a newborn addix that had entered the world a mere few days before. I saw the Zoo’s world-famous Gorilla Forest where the reminder that humans and gorillas are more alike than we are different was on full display. I saw giraffes, lions, rhinos, orangutans and the elusive snow leopard. I even attended a live bird show by Joe Krathwohl, internationally renowned as “The Birdman.” During his free-flight show, “Wings of the World,” I saw such exotic avians as an Andean condor, an African crowned crane, a bateleur eagle, a red-breasted cockatoo and a double-wattled cassowary. The show only opened this past May, so make sure you take in this new attraction.

What’s truly remarkable is that I could continue to write on and on about the fun and activities that the Zoo offers. In addition to the animals, there are also rope adventure courses, an informative tram tour and a historic carousel. It’s also worth repeating that there are countless ways to beat the heat like cold and tasty treats, water mists and indoor air-conditioned animal displays. Whether going for the first time or going back to try out some of the new activities, the Louisville Zoo is an ideal destination for you and your family to learn about the rich and diverse life on this planet. VT

The Louisville Zoo is located at 1100 Trevilian Way, Louisville, KY 40213. Admission is $16.25 for adults and is $11.75 for children ages 3-11 and seniors age 60+. Parking is $5 per vehicle. For more information about the Louisville Zoo visit louisvillezoo.org or call 502.459.2181.