Monday, December 2, 2013

Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

I feel very fortunate to live in a city with a wonderful zoo! The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is a 90 acre zoo with over 10,000 animals, representing over 575 species! The Columbus Zoo opened in 1927, with just a few animals. Today the zoo has five distinct habitats with plans for a sixth currently in the works. The habitats include: North America, Asia Quest, Shores, Expedition Congo African Forest and Voyage to Australia and the Islands. The new region, Safari Africa, is set to open during the summer of 2014. Safari Africa will be a 43-acre region focusing on the savannah of southern and eastern Africa. This new addition will feature giraffes, zebras, cheetahs, warthogs, lions, meerkats, monkeys, ostriches and Jack Hanna as a virtual tour guide for safari adventures! Visitors will be able to visit a village market, feed giraffes and go zip lining. As with many programs at the Zoo, Safari Africa will support conservation efforts in the wild. I can't wait to check it out!

Caribbean Flamingo, photographed by Kenneth Brunson

Kenneth and I visit the zoo a few times a year, usually once in the spring or fall and then again during the holiday season for Wildlights. Our most recent visit was in September of this year, during our “Columbus Staycation.” At the time of our visit, the zoo was featuring a traveling exhibit called Dinosaur Island. The experience was so popular the exhibit’s stay was extended to the end of October! 

Dinosaur Island gave the zoo a Jurassic Park feel with large dinosaur eggs and expedition jeeps parked throughout the area. Twenty-five dinosaurs were introduced to the Australian Islands, including a 25 foot tall Tyrannosaurus, a brachiosaurus and stegosaurus. I talked Kenneth into riding the Dinosaur Island Boat ride (because I'm six years old at heart and love the movie Jurassic Park). The dinosaurs, which are made of steel and have waterproof skin, are able to move; blinking their eyes, moving their tails and making loud roars. Some of them squirted water at us on the boat ride!

Kenneth and I usually visit the zoo's regions by starting with North America and working our way counter-clockwise through the park (check out a map of the zoo here). To mix things up in our last visit, we went “backwards” and started with the Shores, the Australia and the Islands and Congo Africa before visiting Asia Quest and finishing up in North America. 

Red Kangaroo, photographed by Kenneth Brunson

In the Shores region, you can visit Humboldt Penguins, the Reptile Building, manatees and a wide variety of tropical fish. At the Tidepool Touchtank you can touch live starfish and other oceanic creatures!

My favorite part of the Australian region is visiting the nocturnal animals - the Feathertail Gliders, which remind me of gerbils, are always active, defying gravity and running up and down the glass in their exhibit. I managed to snap a photo of a still Feathertail Glider - a real feat since my other photos of their enclosure had no animals in it (they move so fast they didn't show up on the camera!). The kangaroos are fun to visit as well - they are very relaxed and reminded me of giant cats sleeping the sun.

African Grey Parrot, photographed by Kenneth Brunson

Blue-Bellied Roller, photographed by Kenneth Brunson

I love to visit the birds at the zoo. In Expedition Congo African Forest, you can visit the African Forest Aviary and African Gray Parrots. African Gray Parrots are my favorite - they make a ton of cool noises and some will interact with visitors. Also in this region you can visit gorillas (including 56 year old Colo, the first great ape born in captivity!), bonobos, okapi and leopards. 

Asia Quest has some of my favorite animals in the entire zoo! I've loved bats since I was a little kid, so I love checking out the giant fruit bats and golden mantled bats! They are the coolest! I also love to visit the Pallas' cat, the Siberian tigers, lagurs and red pandas.

Black Crowned Crane, photographed by Kenneth Brunson

North America is probably our favorite region at the Columbus Zoo! This region contains mammals and birds native to our own backyards, plus some barnyard animals and several cold weather creatures in the Polar Frontier exhibit. Some of my favorite animals in this region include the bobcats (I'm an Ohio University alum, and our mascot, the bobcat, is awesome!), cougar, Mexican wolves, otters and the birds in the Songbird Aviary. In the Polar Frontier there are polar bears, Alaskan brown bears (named Brutus and Buckeye) and arctic foxes. My Barn is a petting zoo where you can pet, feed and brush goats and sheep, and check out the chickens!

Killdeer, photographed by Kenneth Brunson

The Columbus Zoo is a great place for families and groups of friends! Kenneth and I both took photos during our most recent visit - his were much better than mine so I'm featuring them in the post. I took the photos in the slideshow below. 

Wildlights is now open and will be on view from now until January 5th. Be sure to check it out!