Best Zoo Animals

James Smith
• Tuesday, 19 January, 2021
• 19 min read

In addition to being the only zoo in the country where travelers can see animals from all four great ape species, Fort Worth's wildlife habitat offers the reptile- and amphibian-filled Museum of Living Art. The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo has evolved from philanthropist Spencer Penrose's private exotic animal collection into a noted educational facility.

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While exploring the exhibits that house the zoo's 170 species, be sure to pet the wallabies, greet the orangutans and feed lettuce to the friendly giraffes. Weekends are especially crowded, so the best way to see this can't-miss attraction is to splurge on a premium zoo experience, such as an early morning breakfast with pandas followed by a property tour.

Save money by going on a Wednesday (when the entrance fee is any amount you wish to donate), bringing food and buying a Metro-North Railroad Getaway Package. Families can take advantage of free facilities like a lagoon and an aquarium or pay for special experiences like train rides, zip lining and giraffe feedings.

For a unique zoo adventure, join a guided kayak tour to see Expedition Africa's rhinos and lemurs from the water. The year-round facility features exhibits with red pandas, primates, hippos, penguins and more, plus a 4D movie theater, a carousel and a railroad, among other amenities.

The zoo's naturalistic habitats range from an African savanna to rainforests for South American creatures to a sand-floored barn where zookeepers bury food and toys for elephants. Board the monorail for a guided Wilds of Africa Adventure Safari past a waterfall and five exhibits that are not otherwise accessible.

Or, participate in an evening Family Safari Night Hike, which is available on select days and costs $20 per person for visitors ages 5 and older. For 60 years, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay has grown from a brewery and bird park to a major fixture encompassing thrill rides, live shows, animal exhibits and expert veterinary care.

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At this Tampa attraction, travelers have access to an array of animal encounters, including the 30-minute Serengeti Safari, which allows visitors 5 and older to hand-feed giraffes from open-air vehicles. Fans of “The Wildlife Docs” series on The CW won't want to miss the 45-minute Animal Care Center walking tour.

This $29 per person experience includes watching park animals receive wellness exams and interacting with the zoo's veterinarians. The Wilds were founded in 1984 when the Central Ohio Coal Company gifted nearly 10,000 acres of surface-mined land to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.

Zookeeper and TV host Jack Hanna helped develop the plot of land roughly 75 miles southeast of downtown Columbus into a large educational preserve that complements the main zoo. Adults can prolong their stays by reserving private yurts at the Nomad Ridge camp, where binoculars are available to watch passing animals like rhinos and red-tailed hawks.

In the Louisiana Swamp exhibit, visitors will learn how Cajuns used Native American conservation techniques to create a unique culture and cuisine in a swampy environment. The petting zoo gives little ones the chance to interact with zebus (miniature cows) and giant Algebra tortoises in an African farm setting, while the five-story treehouse at Monkey Hill (New Orleans tallest point) is a great place to burn off some energy.

While exploring this Rapid City attraction from late April through November, you may encounter black bears crossing the road and mountain lions, buffaloes, elk and reindeer roaming in fields. Before leaving, stretch your legs in the Wildlife Walk area, which features a gift shop and is lined with educational exhibits about foxes, skunks and other small mammals.

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Native California desert plants line well-marked hiking trails that overlook Eisenhower Peak and the Coachella Valley, while African baobabs, triangle palms and elephant trees grow in the Madagascar Garden. The zoo also offers educational camel rides, reptile encounters and an endangered species-themed carousel, though some amenities and activities are only available during select months.

Big Cat Crossing, one of five Zoo360 trails, features an overhead mesh bridge for lions, pumas, jaguars and more. Standard admission costs $28 to $37 per person and includes entry to the walk-through Safari World amusement park, with animal presentations, bird and giraffe feedings, a petting zoo, a water playground and more.

And if you don't feel like trekking 21 miles east to a hotel in central West Palm Beach, you can pitch a tent at the on-site GOA campground. Designated areas include an Alaska-inspired region with everything from brown bears to porcupines, a water-filled habitat for Peruvian penguins and a tropical rainforest where jaguars live alongside frogs and birds.

At the city's Safari West nature preserve, which sits less than 28 miles northwest of Sonoma, visitors can get an up-close look at nearly 1,000 animals from 90-plus species. The nearly 100-acre Tucson facility uses invisible fencing in animal habitats, including those for endangered species like Mexican gray wolves and thick-billed parrots.

At this wildlife park in downtown Indianapolis, visitors can interact with approximately 1,400 animals while exploring the gardenlike setting and attending a number of special events. Can't-miss exhibits include Oceans (an aquatic area with an underwater dolphin-viewing dome) and the Simon Skoda International Orangutan Center.

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Travelers can watch native Alaskan creatures like rare snow leopards, moose and other Arctic species roam the wooded, hilly landscape of Anchorage. On a chilly Midwestern day, visitors can stay warm while observing otters, monkeys and more in the zoo's Tropical World area.

Travelers can also head to the Living Coast exhibit to check out aquatic animals like sharks and Humboldt penguins. As part of the nonprofit Chicago Zoological Society, the zoo uses a portion of entrance fees to support various global conservation projects, including youth leadership training in Botswana and dolphin tagging in Brazil.

The zoo's busy social calendar includes various conservation fundraisers, such as Pints for Pangolins, Wine for Rhinos and Beers for Bears. Another must-visit exhibit is The Edge, where you can see Amur tigers walking across overhead bridges and from a viewing area with a perforated wall.

Visitors can use an animal map to navigate the park's dirt roads on foot or ride the complimentary shuttle, which stops in four areas. Watch zookeepers prepare special diets, get an up-close look at various critters (during select months) or explore the Enrichment Playground, which is filled with toys similar to those used by the property's animals.

You'll find the action-packed Hermann Memorial Park, where the zoo resides, easy to reach by Eurorail's Red Line from downtown Houston. Native to Africa, the Secretary Bird, a cousin of raptors such as kites, hawks, vultures, and harriers, lives in the open grasslands and Savannah of the sub-Saharan region.

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Adult males strike with a force equal to 5 times its own body weight, with a contact period of only 10–15 milliseconds. Native to Mexico, Blind Cave Fish find their way around by means of lateral lines running along the lengths their bodies.

About 30 populations of Blind Cave Fish are known, dispersed over three geographically distinct areas of Mexico. Dallas Cats lead solitary lifestyles in harsh environments, contributing to their scarcity in the wild.

They live in caves, rock crevices, and marmot burrows, emerging in the late afternoon to hunt. Fluffy your house pet is probably a faster runner than a Dallas Cat, which hunts primarily by ambush or stalking, using low vegetation and rocky terrain for cover.

They feed primarily on gerbils, pikes, voles, birds, and sometimes they catch young marmots. The extreme environment of the Dallas Cat also contributes to a short breeding season, but they can have litters of up to 6 kittens.

But the fact they live in such harsh environments makes them worthy of mention as badass survivors. While small, the Domino Roach, found in southern India, packs an effective defense system.

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The black and white spotted pattern is thought to have evolved to mimic other more aggressive beetles. The species has simple eyes that only sense light, living mostly in burrows under leaf litter and in soil.

Most animals flee at the sight of a forest fire, but not the Carmine Bee Eater: Its first thought is “lunch.” Insects group together as they try to escape the inferno, making easy pickings for the birds as they circle high in the air over the blaze. Found in northern South America, the 8-legged behemoth is the largest spider in the world by mass and size.

The Goliath Bird eater Tarantula is nocturnal, living in deep burrows in swampy or marshy areas. Unlike some other spiders, females don’t kill and eat the males after mating.

Cuisine isn’t what we usually think about when we think of spiders, but people in some parts of South America do eat the Goliath Bird eater. And to answer your question, it’s pretty rare for a Goliath Bird eater to actually eat a bird.

It lives in the southwest Amazon Basin, east Peru, north Bolivia, and west Brazil. With predominantly gray fur and yellowish chest speckles, what’s most distinctive about the creature’s appearance is that long, white mustache, often extending beyond its shoulders.

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Emperor Tamarins have a varied daily diet, including fruits, flowers, gums, and saps. Once thought to be monogamous, the Emperor Tamarin flips the script on much of the natural world by having a dominant female mate with several males.

It’s just a big word meaning that when it comes to the natural world, bright colors often signal danger. Native to tropical Central and South America, these species are diurnal with brightly colored bodies.

These mostly small amphibians are often called “dart frogs,” due to indigenous peoples’ use of their toxic secretions to poison the tips of blow darts (though this practice is much rarer than popularly believed). Poison Dart Frogs are dedicated parents, raising their young in secluded, watery nurseries.

Native to Southern Africa, Springs are mostly nocturnal, spending their day in tunnels. The Springs jumps on its hind legs like a kangaroo, retreating to its burrow when frightened.

Given the small size of the Springs, let’s hope its house guest isn’t hungry. Feeding mostly at night, Common Vampire Bats eat primarily mammalian blood.

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Their most common food sources are cattle and horses, but they’re also known to go after wild prey like the tapir. The Queensland Red claw Abby is the largest of the freshwater crayfish, and native to New South Wales, Australia and southeastern Papua New Guinea.

They have also been introduced as an invasive species in South Africa, Mexico, Jamaica, and Puerto Rico. What makes them so pervasive is their ability to tolerate a variety of freshwater habitats such as creeks and other bodies of warm water.

Mainly active at night, they dig under rocks, enlarge existing holes, and use caves or plants as shelter. Native to Mexico, Axolotls are unusual among amphibians because instead of developing lungs and taking to the land, adults remain aquatic and killed.

Axolotls were sold as food in Mexican markets and were a staple in the Aztec diet. Found in forested and wooded areas in Central and South America, About habitat includes rainforests and savannas as well as farmland.

Masters of concealment, at night Ragouts hide in hollow tree trunks or in burrows among roots. When feeding, Ragouts sit on their hind legs and hold fallen fruit, leaves, and roots between their forepaws.

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They’re also unusually strong, regarded as one of the few species able to open Brazil nuts without tools, mainly thanks to their exceptionally sharp teeth. Their exceptional strength is undeniably cool, but doesn’t score high in weirdness.

Metadata inhabit slow-moving Blackwater streams, stagnant pools, marshes, and swamps in northern Bolivia, eastern Peru, Ecuador, eastern Colombia, Venezuela, the Guiana's, and northern and central Brazil. Strictly aquatic, Metadata Turtles are large with an oversized triangular head.

The unusual head also has distinctive flaps of skin and a horn on its long snout. A Metadata’s shell resembles a piece of bark, and its head mimics fallen leaves.

As it lays motionless in the water, skin flaps enable the turtle to blend into the surrounding vegetation until a fish comes close. After snapping shut its mouth, water is slowly expelled, and the fish is swallowed whole.

Komodo are the largest living species of lizard, growing to a maximum length of up to 10 feet. The unusually large size of the Komodo Dragon has been attributed to island gigantism, with little competition from any other carnivores.

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They have glands in their lower jaw which secrete several toxic proteins, shown to contain anticoagulant properties. Komodo Dragons also hunt in groups, a rare behavior in the reptile world.

One of the smallest and most slender of its genus, the Screaming Hairy Armadillo is found in parts of the Gran Chico and Pampas areas of Argentina, Bolivia, and Paraguay. Isolated populations have also been found in the eastern Buenos Aires Province of Argentina.

When the Screaming Hairy Armadillo is not in its burrow, the animal spends most of its time foraging. The animal’s omnivorous diet consists of insects, vertebrates, and plant material.

The powdery blue coloring of these beetles comes from a wax secreted throughout their bodies that keeps them from losing moisture. Heavily armored, Shingle backs can be found in various colors, ranging from dark brown to cream.

Its tail is short and stumpy, resembling its head in order to confuse predators. It eats snails and plants, spending much of its time browsing through vegetation for food.

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Living in groups of up to 6, the Warty Pig diet consists mainly of roots, tubers, and fruits that can be found in the forest as well as cultivated crops. Also known as the Ant Bear, Giant Anteaters are large insectivorous mammals native to Central and South America.

Giant Anteaters live in a variety of regions, including grassland and rainforest. These animals, which can reach lengths of up to 7 feet and weight as much as 90 lbs, forage in open areas and rest in more forested habitats.

The anteater feeds primarily on ants and termites, using its foreclaws to dig them up and its long, sticky tongue to collect them. Consider it from the point of view of an ant: the snout of a Giant Anteater invading your home, hungrily devouring your friends and family with a long, sticky tongue.

But as of 2010, thanks to breeding and extensive recovery efforts, Kunekunes no longer faces extinction. The diet of the Babies includes leaves, roots, fruits, and animal material.

The strong jaws of a Babies are capable of easily cracking hard nuts. Male Babirusas tend to live solidarity while adult females and their young are found in groups, which can number up to about 80 individuals.

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If the tusks aren’t ground down regularly, they can eventually grow so long that they penetrate the animal’s own skull. Found in waters around Australia, the Tasseled Wobegon is known to reach up to 12 feet long.

A distinctive fringe runs almost continuously from the snout tip to the origins of the pectoral fins. A slower swimmer than related species, it is solitary and spends most of the day lying motionless inside caves or under ledges with its tail curled up.

Individual sharks have a small home range, which will include several preferred resting spots that are used on a consistent basis. And the nocturnal African Dung Beetle is the only known non-human animal to navigate and orient itself using the Milky Way.

Found in the waters of the Indo-Pacific oceans off the coasts of East Africa, Blaming’s Unicorn fish can reach lengths of up to a foot long. Fishing Cats hunt along the edges of lakes, wetlands, and mangroves, where they grab prey from the water and sometimes even dive in.

A majestic beast, the Swimming Cat is the Michael Phelps of the feline world. Native to Brazil, the White-blotched River Stingray has a distinctive pattern consisting of white dots on a black background.

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It is believed that these blotches are meant to resemble the sun hitting the bottom of the rivers in which these rays live, providing the animals with excellent camouflage. They eat small invertebrates and fish, as well as freshwater snails and crabs, and can reach lengths of up to 2 feet.

They appear to dwell most commonly in rocky river bottoms, where they find most of their food. A small, tailless ape with soft, thick fur, the White-handed Gibbon is a highly threatened species.

These acrobatics help the gibbons cross rivers and large openings in the forest canopy. The nocturnal Aye-Aye has an unusual method of finding food, called percussive foraging.

Tapping on trees to find grubs, the Aye-Aye then gnaws a hole in the wood using its forward slanting incisors. The Aye-Aye creates a small hole in which it inserts its narrow middle finger to pull the grubs out.

Aye-Ayes sleep, eat, travel, and mate in the trees and are most commonly found close to the canopy. They have a distinctive and melodious howl, which is characterized by a sharp increase in pitch at the start and very high frequencies at the end.

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The kangaroos tend to live either alone or with very small groups of just a female, a joey, and a male. Instead of sweating, Match’s Tree-Kangaroos lick their forearms, allowing the evaporation to help cool them off.

When kept in zoos, they feed on a variety of fruits and vegetables as well as tofu and hard boiled eggs. Match’s are timid creatures, scared of humans and very difficult to find in the forests.

Found in parts of Africa, these are small, insectivorous mammals resembling a mouse or opossum, with a distinctive elongated snout and long legs for their size, which they used to hop like rabbits. Diurnal and very active, Giant Elephant Shrews are difficult to capture and very seldom seen.

Elephant Shrews are not social animals, but they do live in monogamous pairs which share and defend their home territory. Found in northern Peru, Black Beauty Walking Sticks are only known to exist in nature in a region of less than 5 hectares, or less than 1 square mile.

When disturbed, adult Black Beauty Walking Sticks spray a defensive liquid from glands at the rear of the head which can be irritating to the skin and eyes. The three bands covering the armadillo’s back allow the animal enough flexibility to fit its tail and head together, protecting its underbelly, limbs, eyes, nose, and ears.

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The shell covering its body is armored and the outer layer is made out of keratin, the same protein that makes up human fingernails. The Three-banded Armadillo also has a long, sticky, straw-like pink tongue that allows it to gather and eat many species of insects, typically ants and termites.

The animal has shown up in Japanese folklore since ancient times, characterized as a jolly master of disguise with the ability to shape shift, but also very gullible and absentminded. The Tank’s, um, nether regions are the subject of a common schoolyard song in Japan which makes explicit reference to the animal’s testicles.

Also known as the Sand Puppy, the Naked Mole Rat is a burrowing rodent native to parts of East Africa. They have a highly unusual set of physical traits allowing them to thrive in harsh underground environments.

It also lacks pain sensitivity in its skin, and has very low metabolic and respiratory rates. The Naked Mole Rat is also remarkable for its longevity and its resistance to cancer and oxygen deprivation.

The Naked Mole Rat proves you can’t judge an animal’s superpowers on appearance alone. The Caracas is a medium-sized wild cat native to Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, and India.

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Although called “Bear cat,” this omnivorous mammal is related to neither bears nor cats but to the Palm Civets of Asia. Their tails are bushy and prehensile, thick at the root and thinner at the extremity, where it curls inwards.

Their muzzles are short and pointed, turned up at the nose and covered with bristly hairs which lengthen as they diverge, forming a strange radiating pattern around the face. They are tan colored, paler on the ventral surface and the head, with a segmented appearance that makes it look like a giant earthworm.

Though the legs are barely discernible, the Legless Lizard can be quickly distinguished from a snake by its ears and eyelids. Alligators have long, broad snouts with upward facing nostrils on the end.

They have cylindrical bodies with stout limbs, large feet, a conical head, and no external ears. Flaps of skin behind their teeth prevent soil from falling into the throat while the animal digs the tunnels in which they live.

Their fur is short and thick, varying from fawn to almost black, with shades of brown being most common. Rhinoceros Horn bills choose a nesting site high in a tree cavity.

The breeding pair works together to cover the opening with mud and scat, leaving only a small slit to pass food through. The female stays inside the nest for 3 months incubating and caring for the eggs.

That extra horn gives this bird one the Animal Kingdom’s unique profiles. Found primarily in the Amazon Basin, the Common Squirrel Monkey is both frivolous and insectivorous.

When in captivity, Squirrel Monkeys are fed apples, oranges, grapes, and bananas. Like your aunt from Jersey, Common Squirrel Monkeys are now considered invasive in parts of Florida.

A rainforest mammal, the Kickapoo is sometimes mistaken for a ferret or a monkey, but it isn’t closely related to either. The Kickapoo’s ability to manipulate objects with its hands is rivaled only by that of primates and raccoons.

Sometimes acting as a pollinator, the Kickapoo’s slender 5-inch extendable tongue helps the animal to obtain fruit and to lick nectar from flowers. The carnivorous mammal is the largest member of the weasel family and can reach lengths of up to 6 feet.

Giant River Otters are a social species, with family groups typically supporting 3 to 8 members. The groups, centered on a dominant breeding pair, are extremely cohesive and cooperative.

It is known to come in two coloration, striped or blotched, with both variations ranging from dark gray or brown to a light tan. The fangs are small, only partially grooved, and positioned deep in the rear of the mouth.

The Tasmanian Devil was once native to mainland Australia and is now found in the wild only on the island state of Tasmania. A pungent odor, extremely loud and disturbing screech, keen sense of smell, and ferocity when feeding are also traits of the Tasmanian Devil.

The Tasmanian Devil generates among the strongest bites per unit of body mass of any living mammal land predator. It hunts prey and scavenges carrion as well as eating household products if humans are living nearby.

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1 nationalzoo.com.au - https://nationalzoo.com.au/
2 www.tripadvisor.com - https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g255057-d618962-Reviews-National_Zoo_and_Aquarium-Canberra_Australian_Capital_Territory.html
3 en.wikipedia.org - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Zoo_%26_Aquarium
4 www.tripadvisor.com.au - https://www.tripadvisor.com.au/Attraction_Review-g255057-d618962-Reviews-National_Zoo_and_Aquarium-Canberra_Australian_Capital_Territory.html
5 visitcanberra.com.au - https://visitcanberra.com.au/attractions/56b23afad270154b4553bd83/national-zoo-and-aquarium
6 nationalzoo.rezdy.com - https://nationalzoo.rezdy.com/74403/general-admission
7 nationalzoo.rezdy.com - https://nationalzoo.rezdy.com/274612/junior-zoo-keeper-primary
8 jamalawildlifelodge.com.au - https://jamalawildlifelodge.com.au/accommodation/
9 cairnszoom.com.au - https://cairnszoom.com.au/book-now/
10 www.canberrafishos.com - https://www.canberrafishos.com/
11 www.sydney.com.au - https://www.sydney.com.au/zoo.htm