This zoo is a really unique blend of zoo and botanical gardens that represents desert landscapes from around the world. There are plenty of animals to see, a carousel to bring out your youth, wildlife shows to entertain you, trails to hike, and of all things a model train exhibit.
Our friend from the RV park, Valerie, joined us for our excursion which I thought was only going to be a couple hour jaunt and get us back in time for lunch and an afternoon swim at the pool. Boy was I wrong! We spent a wonderful four hours plus immersed in the wilds of the desert and left saturated but satisfied (and exhausted and hungry).
First up was the Wildlife Wonders Show. This brought back memories when I was a cat trainer at the Cincinnati Zoo and performed in educational shows at the zoo’s amphitheater. The highlights of this show were free-flying birds of prey (a lanter falcon and golden eagle) and a leash trained serval cat.
A visit to a zoo hospital is usually not high on anyone’s list of things to see at a zoo but this state-of-the-art hospital is really amazing. The surgery suites are on a video monitor so you can watch surgeries live. Don't despair if there are no surgeries there are really cool videos of surgeries that show how snakes are operated on and how bladder stones are removed from turtles. The hospital has plenty of knowledgeable docents that guide you through the building and answer any questions you might have.
The zoo presents deserts ecosystems from around the world. One of my favorites was the African desert/plains environment which had giraffes, kudu antelope, sand cats, slender horned gazelles, and these beauties below....the yellow-billed storks...and many more animals. (What did you do with the babies you were supposed to deliver?)
|The fennec fox was not very impressed with our oh'ing and ah'ing over how cute it was and was not going to break its nap to give us a better look.|
One of our favorite things about the zoo were the sculptures that periodically arose through the bushes and peered out from the vegetation. They came in all shapes, sizes, and mediums but all seemed to have their own personality. It was the former zoo director (and Betsy's friend) Karen Sausman who loved animal sculptures and saw to it that they would be part of the zoo. She did a wonderful job.
Now a word (or two) about the train exhibit. It seemed odd that a zoo and botanical garden would have a permanent train exhibit that occupied so much prime real estate in the front of the zoo. But what started out as a small exhibit in 1998 blossomed and train-enthusiastic volunteers have indulged in their passion. Volunteers have built replicas of the Grand Canyon, Mount Rushmore, a mining town, a logging town, and much more. The trains (up to 11 running at one time) are designed to run in rain and wind, seven days a week and the exhibit is operated and maintained by 25 volunteers.
The zoo was such a great surprise and a real gem and we had a wonderful time. Betsy was sorry that she hadn't visited sooner. We were also glad Valerie joined us for the nature outing. It was worth foregoing the pool!
|a desert garden exhibit|
|Bighorn sheep resting comfortably in the mountain side|
|the ever-popular carousel|
|"wally" the chuck-walla - one of two native lizard species|
|a badger playing with its bowling ball|
|Isn't she pretty? The lovely javelina.|
|when this camel is not sleeping, you can ride him|