Top Zoos for Kids
If truth be told, zoos used to be an unlikely addition to a family’s holiday plans. If your recollection of a zoo is of caged, listless animals in a boring, non-friendly environment then read on.
Most zoos today have open, realistic habitats where you can appreciate the beauty of many endangered species – spotted, striped, big, small, wild and meek – housed nowadays in an environment compatible with the current debate on saving the planet.
In 2007 there were over 16000 endangered species in the world and some of these do not exist outside of zoos. Today, Zoos are involved in major conservation, breeding and educational programmes, providing great opportunities for a kids day out and for them to get up close to the animals, reptiles and birds.
In this article we feature the top Zoos for kids. Obviously, any such lists are subjective in that one’s particular choice is dependent on various factors such as the type of exhibits, programmes available and family-friendly facilities.
We suggest that the following are worthy of inclusion in your travel plans as a break from the beach, scenic tours and historic sites. These provide a truly great kids day out.
LOWRY PARK ZOO, TAMPA, FLORIDA.
This zoo has over 1600 species on its 56 acre site. Within it is an Australian-Theme Children’s Zoo where kids can get up close to kangaroos and wallabies, pretend to herd sheep and cool off in a Billabong – a water playground. At Lowry, kids can ride camels, pet koi fish and have exotic birds such as lorikeets, land on their fingers.They can feed sharks and stingrays and visit the only hospital for sick manatees in the world.
SAN DIEGO ZOO
San Diego has more than 30 exhibits aimed at the younger visitor. The Petting Paddock allows kids to touch a woolly sheep or comb a gentle goat’s beard. The animal nursery has large windows allowing kids to watch baby animals being fed or cuddled. There are species not found in many zoos, including spider monkeys and naked mole rats. The zoo’s racing pigeons fly overhead returning to the Children’s Zoo Roost. There are educational and functional gardens such as The Colour Garden, The Butterfly and Backyard Habitat and The Wig L Worm Composting Garden. At weekends, Dr Doolittle delights the kids with his zany science shows.
ZOOLOGISCHER GARTEN, BASEL, SWITZERLAND
Founded in 1800’s, this zoo in the heart of the city, on 13 acres, is in the top ten of zoos worldwide. The Zoo has moved away from traditional cages to an open park environment. It houses many exotic species in its vivarium, with fish, penguins and reptiles. The Bear House has many different bears and the Monkey House houses orangutans, gorillas and the strange proboscis monkeys. There is a separate Children’s Zoo. Here elephants perform and provide rides. The Zoo has an acclaimed breeding programme for rhinoceros.
OKLAHOMA CITY ZOOLOGICAL PARK AND BOTANICAL GARDEN.
With around 1500 animals on 110 acres this is a zoo ideal for kids. It has an unique monthly Stroller Safari for the toddlers. Led by a nature expert, the kids can examine insects, plants and leaves at eye level.
This year it celebrates its 100th Birthday with special attractions including Swan Paddle Boats, a Choo-Choo Train and a new Butterfly House. The new Jungle Gym is a kids playground with a slide resembling an elephant’s trunk, a giant birds nest, underground tunnels and a climbing wall.
Oklahoma City is one of a few zoos with a certified Botanical Park which allows the animals to be placed in superb settings. In the Children’s Area, The Flamingo Pond is surrounded by an Azalea Garden, The lakeside Butterfly Garden has over 15000 plants and The Great Escape exhibit recreates a Rain Forest allowing the Kids to see gorillas and orangutans up close.
CHESTER ZOO, ENGLAND
Chester Zoo is the largest in England. It was the dream of George Mottershead who founded it in the 1930’s, as The Zoo Without Bars. With more than a million visitors each year, it is a favourite for kids of all ages. With around 7000 animals and 400 different species it houses some of the most endangered in the world. Chester’s aim is conservation with most of the species being involved in breeding programmes.
The latest exhibit is The Realm of The Red Ape, which houses threatened Sumatran and Bornean Orangutans. Two births this year are examples of a successful breeding programme. The Tropical Realm contains much of the tropical bird collection in an enormous free-flight and walk through area.In the collection is The Wild Soccoro Dove, which is now extinct in the wild, together with the critically endangered Bali Starling and The Monteserrat Oriole.
The Twilight Zone, one of the most popular exhibits, is unusual in that visitors share the space with Bats. The rare Rodrigues Bat, from Mauritius has been breeding well since 1984.
The Islands in Danger house the Komodo Dragons. These intelligent reptiles reach 3 metres in length and weigh up to 100Kg. The Jaguar Houseis modelled on both Savannah and Rain Forest to display the normal habitats of these animals.
Finally, for the kids is The Kids Ark with a range of activities,games and rides, including face painting and pottery design and painting to keep them amused.
The modern Zoo has changed drastically in recent years and is now a great kids day out. Full of fun-filled attractions for all the family. Well worth adding to the holiday plans on your next vacation.