Denver, Colorado, United States of America
The Denver Zoo was begun in 1896 when an orphaned American black bear cub was given to the town’s Mayor. However, the zoo became a truly inspiring facility when in 1906 another Mayor, Robert Speer, insisted that all barred cages be changed to enclosures that mimicked more natural surroundings, with created rock faces, waterfalls, natural plants and the like. In 1918, Bear Mountain was created, the first natural open enclosure of its kind in North America that mimicked rock outcroppings from areas of Colorado. The exhibit currently houses mighty grizzly bears, Asiatic black bears, and coati.
The Denver Zoo is home to more than 3500 animals of more than 650 species. The park is about 80 acres, with many large indoor as well as outdoor enclosures, designed for the comfort of animals in all types of extreme weather. For some animals, they spend the summer in one location, and the harsher winters in another. This is true of many of the more tropical primates, like Ring-tailed Lemurs, which spend the summers out on Monkey Island surrounded by a moat filled with water birds. In the colder months, these warm climate creatures are moved into the Monkey House. Both offer great views of these long tailed acrobats!
Another rotation utilized to enrich the lives of the animals at the zoo happens at Predator Ridge, but for a totally different reason. The areas is home to several types of predators, including lions, hyenas, wild dogs, and tigers, as well as other African animals like the porcupine, gorgeous aptly named crowned cranes with their striking yellow feather headdresses, and the banded mongoose. Some of the larger predators, including the wild dogs, the hyena, and lions are rotated in three different enclosures, offering the sensory stimulation of other neighboring animals they would be exposed to in the wild. The enclosures are complete with a 10 foot mound for surveying the area, electric hot rocks for colder days, and a separate maternity den for females and cubs. The zoo is home to 2 prides of African Lions.
The Tropical Discovery portion of the zoo is a 7 acre area where the larger primates reside, and visitors should not miss the huge enclosures housing western lowland gorillas and orangutans. The exhibits are nearly four stories tall, with plenty of vines for the apes to swing and play on and hammocks in which to take a midafternoon nap. The gorilla exhibit is one of the largest of its kind, with a ground area of an acre, in addition to the four story ceilings under which the apes interact and entertain the public.
On the Northern Shores, guests will find the biggest of all bear species, the polar bear, an exhibit complete with underwater viewing. The zoo was home to two famous polar bear cubs, Klondike and Snow, who were born at the zoo but rejected by their mother. Successfully raised by zoo keepers, the cubs now reside in Orlando at Sea World. Other animals that are native to the North American coastlines can be found nearby, including otter, California Sea Lions, and Harbor Seals, also with underwater viewing areas. Not far away, guests can visit another North American native, the gray wolf, roaming in a large enclosure with their “pack”.
There are other animals on exhibit who are awaiting the opening of a new 10 acre enclosure called “Asian Tropics”, including black leopards, Asian Elephants, and Indian Rhinoceros. Once the exhibit is opened, the zoo will participate in the captive breeding programs of the elephants and the highly endangered rhino species. The project started in 2009, and was expected to take around 2 years.
There are many other unique things to experience at the zoo, including many interactions and informative encounters. Some of the encounters include Animal Giants, featuring the world’s largest land animals like the elephants and hippos, Africa’s Greatest Predators featuring the big cats, Red River hog feeding, Sea Lion demonstrations, and “Wild Encounters”. Some of the experiences are limited to seasonal hours, from May to September. There are additional encounters, and guests should check the daily schedule for feeding times and keepers talks. There are also seasonal opportunities to visit and feed tropical birds in the Lorikeet Adventure, an open air enclosure filled with small colorful parrots like Lorikeets and Lories that will land on a guests arm to receive a treat.
The Denver Zoo is focused on many conservation efforts, and engage in captive breeding programs for the Maned Wolf, odd moustached Emperor Tamarins, Red Pandas, and Snow Leopards. Globally, the zoo is also assisting in the conservation response to the global extinction crisis facing frogs and other amphibians.