Tigers, Bears and Zoo’s: Oh My!

 As I think on the topic of tigers I also think of visits to the zoo. 

What about zoos?  Which are the most popular; which have the most exotic animals; which is the most famous in the United States and in other countries?   A good place to start for answers to these questions is http://www.tripspirit.com/35:The-Best-Zoos-in-the-World-According-to-Forbes.

How many of you have visited the eco-friendly Disney’s Animal Kingdom near Orlando, Florida?   While the star attractions at the park are some of its 1,500 exotic animals; it also features many species of fish and a variety of birds, as well as Kilimanjaro Safaris, a 110-acre re-creation of the African savannah.  It certainly is an animal attraction worth visiting.

Did you know that the Philadelphia Zoo is the oldest zoo in America, which opened in 1875?  The top 10 zoos in America (according to the USA Travel Guide) include: the Columbus Zoo in Columbus, Ohio, whose positive worldwide reputation has made them #1.  Then there is the San Diego Zoo, known as one of America’s most modern zoological parks, coming in at #2. Lion Country Safari in West Palm Beach, Florida is the nation’s original open-road animal attraction, and rated at #3, it is still considered the best.

The largest non-profit zoo is in Phoenix, Arizona, is rated #4.  One of the unusual aspects of this zoo is that it allows folks to tour on bicycles and roller blades, thereby providing another reason to visit this zoo.

The Fort Worth Zoo (#5) has been touted as the top zoo in the nation, by Family Life, USA Today and the Los Angeles Times.  Could it be due to the zoo’s historic exhibits and tribute to the Lone Star State’s during the early 1900’s?  Not to be rivaled is the #6th rated zoo, in Houston, Texas; about half a day’s drive from Fort Worth.  Here you can (with advance reservation and an additional fee) experience behind-the-scenes activities, like animal feeding, training observation and visiting the animal hospital, which is no doubt  a real treat for many zoo enthusiasts.

Then there is the renowned Cincinnati Zoo, with its vast collection of endangered animal species and plants, coming in at #7.  We’ve already covered #8, Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Orlando, Florida, and briefly mentioned #9, the Philadelphia Zoo, as the oldest zoo in America (being chartered in 1859, but not officially opening until 1875, after the Civil War).  This brings us to the last in our list, #10, the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans, Louisiana, dating back to the early 20th century.  A principal attraction is the two white tigers (brothers); although, they also have an aquarium, an insectarium, and an IMAX theatre.  For more details on the top 10 zoos in America, visit http://www.wrsol.com/usatravelguide/2009/02/top10zoosinamerica/

A little more Zoo trivia:  About 100 miles north of Buffalo, New York, and across the bridge into Canada, is Canada’s Toronto Zoo featuring more than 460 species (over 5,000 animals) roaming throughout its 710 acres accessed by six miles of walking trails. The Bronx Zoo (in New York City) is the biggest zoo in the U.S.A., while the Berlin Zoo in Berlin, Germany, which opened in 1844, may boast of the biggest collection of animals (13,900 animals of 1400 different species).  However, the oldest zoo in the world is the Schonbrunn Zoo, designed in 1745, as a royal menagerie for the Holy Roman Emperor Francis I.  This Vienna, Austria zoo was opened to the public in 1779, and “is still in existence today, having survived two World Wars, and is now home to some of the rarest and most interesting animals in the world.”    

Last, but certainly not least, and although not necessarily considered a zoo, is Noah’s Ark Animal Rehabilitation Center and Children’s Care Homes, an unusual animal sanctuary where lions, tigers and bears live together in harmony.  Tucked away in a little known area near the small town of Locust Grove (south of Atlanta), Georgia, this non-profit facility is home to more than 1,000 animals.  They are also licensed to provide residential care for up to two dozen children.  Their concept of pet therapy serves two purposes; the nurturing of baby animals with the goal of returning them to the wilds, and providing much needed attention and affection for children who have either been abused or abandoned.  To learn more about this unique and free to visit animal habitat, log onto http://www.noahs-ark.org/about-the-ark/

Throughout history people of all ages have been fascinated with animals.  Thanks to the foresight and funding of many who are dedicated to the preservation of animals; zoo’s, man-made animal habits, aquariums, bird aviary’s, insectariums, wild-life and reptile sanctuary’s, and the like will continue to provide enjoyment for future generations as key tourism attractions.

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