Zoo Reviews little Rock Zoo little Rock Ar

It’s all happening at the zoo: Paul Simon.

While Simon wrote the lyrics to “At the Zoo” in 1967, about New York’s Central Park Zoo, he could just as easily have been referring to the Little Rock Zoo.

The 33-acre Little Rock Zoo, nestled in the heart of the city, is one of Little Rock’s main tourist attractions. A trip to Arkansas’ capital city just wouldn’t be complete without going to the zoo. It is a nature center, animal sanctuary and education resource all rolled into one. The animals are well cared for by zookeepers who have a passion for their work, as evidenced in A Zookeeper’s blog.

Special Exhibits

One of the “happenings” at the zoo this year is one of my favorite features – the Winged Wonders Bird Show. New to the zoo this summer, it will run through Labor Day. Not only should this show be seen, but it must be experienced.

Trained handlers direct live birds of prey to fly freely, just inches above the audience seated in the zoo’s amphitheater. The flight of the Red-tailed hawk, Kestrel Hawk and Bateleur Eagle seems effortless, though their power is evident by the sound of their wings cutting through the air as they fly. These magnificent birds demonstrate the miracle of flight right before the wide eyes of visitors to the show.

Some of the other special events include:

– A new interactive exhibit – Lorikeet Landing – offers visitors a chance to see and even feed nectar to these colorful parrots.

– The children’s farm offers an opportunity to pet and feed goats and other animals in the yard.

– Breakfasts with the animals, which requires a reservation and fee, includes hearty breakfast at the zoo cafeteria along with a chat about the animals. This month’s breakfast will be with the great apes.

– Special themed programs are presented at Halloween, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve.

– Zoo Snoozes are overnight campouts complete with s’mores by the campfire.

Enjoying the Animals

Is there anything more amusing than a couple of chimpanzees frolicking in a simulation of their natural habitat? Mikey and Louie are two hand-raised chimps who spent their entire lives attached to a leash while outdoors. There were recently donated to the Zoo. Now free, they delight visitors who watch these two, as well as the other animals in the Great Ape exhibit, offer a kind of peek into the wilds of Africa, Australia, or other exotic locations.

That is one of the best things about the zoo. Without actually going to Madagascar, Nairobi, or the Australian Outback, a trip to the zoo is the next best thing. It provides a glimpse into what it might be like to see tigers, lions, and jaguars roam the prairie.

The Carousel

The Little Rock Zoo is home to a very unique feature – the 1942 “over-the-jumps” carousel – the last known in the world.

Only a handful of them were built in the world. “Over the jumps” refers to movement. Sitting astride one of the ponies recreates an experience similar to jumping over a hurdle. Horses are attached to an undulating track that rises and falls. Standard carousels provide up- and-down movement by horses affixed to a moving pole. The floor is stationary.

Little Rock’s carousel is on the National Register of Historic Places. It was painstakingly restored after 16 years and $500,000. Fund raising is ongoing because of regular maintenance needs.

History of the Little Rock Zoo

The Little Rock Zoo is home to 600 animals that represent more than 170 different species. It wasn’t always this way. Humble beginnings marked the Little Rock Zoo’s earliest days in 1926 when it began with just two animals – an abandoned timber wolf and circus-trained brown bear. But gradually, through fund raising efforts and the generosity of individuals and organizations, additional exhibits and attractions were added.

The Little Rock Zoo, a department of the City of Little Rock, is accredited by The American Zoo Aquarium Association, a “nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of zoos and aquariums in the areas of conservation, education, science and recreation.” The Little Rock Zoo shares the organization’s vision to work cooperatively to save and protect the wonders of the living natural world.

The Zoo is committed to preserving the original buildings, made of native Arkansan stone. They were initially built by the Works Progress Administration (WPA), the government-designed jobs-creation program in the 1930s. The buildings housed primates, reptiles, birds, and the big cats.

New exhibits were built in the 1980’s. The cat house was transformed into the Cafe Africa where food is served in an Africa-style lodge. The cat exhibit and exhibits for the apes, crocodiles, alligators, sloth bears, and river otters were built.

A decade later, the African Lion exhibit was added. The Little Rock Civitan Club provided funding for a pavilion and amphitheater. Additional improvements are ongoing with the latest undertaking being an African penguin exhibit and cheetah habitat. Ongoing improvements continue when possible.

Conservation and outreach

A host of conservation projects and educational opportunities are provided at or by the zoo. One such program is held in conjunction with “Eagle Watch, an educational program in north-central Arkansas that focuses on the American Bald Eagle, including field observations. In conjunction with the weekend program at the James A. Gaston Visitor’s Center in Bull Shoals, docents from the Little Rock Zoo provide and showcase several of the zoo’s raptors, including a resident bald eagle. The program is well attended and well received.

The Little Rock Zoo is open year round, daily from 9 am. to 4 p.m., but closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas & New Year’s Day. Admission from April 1 through Labor Day is $10 for adults, $8 for children and seniors. Off season prices are $1 less respectively. Rental of electric scooters, wagons, strollers, and double strollers are available.

For anyone visiting Little Rock in the spring, summer, or fall, there is always something happening at the zoo.