New York City, New York, United States of America
The Wildlife Conservation Society was formed in 1901 and is an entity that includes 5 zoos, including one of the oldest but best zoos in the country, The Bronx Zoo. The WCS set up its veterinarian society at the location that is now the zoo, and it continues to be the primary care center for all 15,000 animals that make their homes at the five related zoos. Although relatively small compared to more recently built zoos, the Bronx zoo has programs that enrich the lives of the animals that are in residence, and offers a very comfortable and educational visitor experience. From the numerous shade trees that make strolling through the zoo a great time to the monorail tour where a guest can rest while continue their journey, the Bronx zoo has so much to offer.
In a smaller zoo, where building large enclosures can be tricky, enrichment programs are essential to the well-being of the animals and at the Bronx zoo visitors can watch these programs as they happen. Whether it is a keeper presenting a monkey with a mobile or a tiger cub being encouraged to tug on a giant cat toy pulley, these important exercises can be great fun to watch as well as educational in understanding animal behavior and care. Visitors can also few various animal feedings throughout the day, from sea lions feedings twice daily to the joy of a polar getting his daily “fishsicle”.
At the Monkey House, guests can also witness the daily primate training as the keeper interacts with the monkey’s in his or her care. These interactions not only keep the highly intelligent primates stimulated, but they also keep them hand able in times when medical care or check-ups are needed. In the monkey house, there are many species from Latin America, including the Cotton top Tamarin, white-faced sakis, and whimsical looking silvery marmosets. Latin America is home to more types of monkeys than anywhere else in the world, and one in 4 of the over 200 species are on the brink of extinction. At the monkey house, visitors can learn about what the WCS is doing to help protect both the animals themselves, and their quickly disappearing habitats.
Another interactive exhibit features magellic penguins, and their daily feedings. Kids can also play the “penguin wheel of fortune”, taking a spin to see what their fate as a penguin would be that day. Will they catch a bunch of slippery fish or end up in an oil spill? Other birds at the Sea Bird Colony include kookaburras, storks and the stinky but beautiful flamingos.
Take a journey to Madagascar to see the clownish antics of four different species of lemur. Leaping, swinging, or just cuddling up together, these little unique members of the primate family are endlessly entertaining. In continuing the experience of seeing animals that make their home only on the island of Madagascar, one may spot a Fossa, a small elusive creature much like a mongoose hiding in the rainforest exhibit. Other striking inhabitants include leaf-tailed geckos and tomato frogs, as well as some Nile crocodile. In this area of the zoo, there is information on another WCS program where the organization protects and co-manages 1.6 million acres of rainforest in Madagascar in hopes of protecting habitat for the wild cousins of the zoos critters.
Tiger Mountain features more animals the WCS is working hard to protect, the Siberian Tigers. The enclosures are modeled after the ecology of the Russian Far East, and 6 cubs from two different subspecies of Siberian Tiger are a thrill to see. The enrichment program for these cubs includes stalking behaviors encourage by hanging a “deer” from the enclosure, hunting for treats, or going for a swim in their own pool. Highly endanger, the WCS is working in conjunction with 9 countries in Asia to stop poaching and habitat encroachment in hopes of preserving the tigers in the wild.
The Big Bears exhibits have another large carnivore in need of help; the massive Polar Bear is the largest land carnivore in the world. While the ones at the zoo get to lounge in their icy pool and eat fishsicles, the sea ice they depend on is disappearing and the WCS is working with the US Geological Society to map the changes in hopes of finding and preserving the areas the bears will have the best chances of survival. Close to the Polar Bear exhibit, a visitor can wave to Betty and Veronica, the grizzlies that may just wave back. There are also four cubs in residence, one grizzly and 3 black bear cubs.
There is so much more to do and see at the Bronx Zoo, from riding the monorail to seeing the antelope, Asian deer and Guar as well as local animals enjoying the Bronx River to riding the “bug” carousel. And there’s always the chance you will see an elephant or rhino take a much needed mud bath!