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Memphis Zoo, Memphis, Tennessee
Fascinating Exhibits Await at the Memphis Zoo
by Tommy Ford
The Memphis Zoo, located in Memphis, Tennessee's Overton Park is quickly becoming one of the nations premier zoological gardens. Over 3500 animals make their homes in naturalistic enclosures which sprawl across the zoo's 40+ developed acres. There have been many changes since the zoo opened in 1906, but none more drastic than those which have occurred since the early 1990's when an ambitious and ongoing series of additions and upgrades began.
Our most recent visit to the Memphis Zoo was on a hot June morning. Always take the heat and humidity of mid-south summers into consideration when visiting. There are however plenty of shady retreats as well as air conditioned buildings one can enter to cool off. Stay hydrated and take your time.
Main Entrance to the Memphis Zoo
The entrance pays homage to Memphis's namesake in Egypt. Inside you will find the gift shop as well as cool fountains. We took a turn to the left and found ourselves in Cat Country. A clear favorite here are the tigers. Different species of the stripped cats are displayed at different times. A white tiger was on display during our visit. Close your eyes for a moment and you might imagine you are exploring the lost city with ruins the great cats lounge among. Other animals on display are lions, cougars, cheetahs, red pandas, and meerkats. Cat Country is a great place to visit during the warmer parts of the day as there are plenty of well shaded areas.
Next, be sure not to miss the tropical bird house. There are numerous displays of small birds in realistic enclosures but the best part is the open flight room. No bars, wire, or glass separate the visitor from the display residents. You'll find yourself in their home. For the most part the colorful birds are content to fly overhead but a few are tame and curious. One tried to open the zipper on another visitors camera bag!
You'll find yourself slipping back in time at "Once Upon a Farm." There are displays of friendly farm animals from sheep and goats to chickens. Be sure to take a ride on the train that circles the farm area. There is a small fee for train rides.
The zoo has a small aquarium with interesting displays of fresh and salt water fish. The aquarium is housed in one of the older zoo buildings and gives you and idea of what things were like "back in the day."
Nearby is the Herpetarium, which is where most of the zoos reptiles and amphibians are housed. Be sure to see the giant anaconda. The colorful yet deadly arrow poison frogs are always a favorite of the kids.
Big lizards await at the Dragon's Lair
Some of the newer residents of the zoo live nearby. Dragon's Lair houses several Komodo dragons. These are some BIG lizards! When they stare, you have to wonder what they are thinking. I have a strong suspicion they are considering inviting me for lunch. I'm glad there's a strong sheet of glass between them and me!
Monkeys and apes are always fun but if you think those are chimps playing chase you're wrong. Those are bonobos, a slightly smaller relative of the chimp. They're fascinating to watch as they interact and generally harass each other. Even the smallest children will enjoy this exhibit.
Creatures of the Night offers a different view of the animal world. You'll see creatures who normally only come out at night. Of course here, with days and nights reversed, the animals think it is night. Bats fly within a long enclosure and you can watch them up close as they nibble fruit, or in the case of the notorious vampire bat, enjoy other food.
Northwest Passage - Memphis Zoo's Newest Exhibit
The zoo's newest exhibit, which opened in 2006, is Northwest Passage. Inside the cool enclosure you can watch polar bears and sea lions swimming in their separate enclosures. You can see them up close in the viewing area and they can see you too! The sea lions especially like to interact with their visitors.
There are many other exhibits scattered across the zoo grounds including penguins, hippos, waterfowl, and African hoof stock.
The Memphis Zoo continues to expand. Teton Trek is scheduled to open in 2009 to display animals of the Yellowstone environment. In 2010 a new hippo exhibit will open.
Snacks and drinks are available throughout the zoo. Delicious hot burgers can be found at Backyard Burger which is housed in the zoo's historic Carnivora Building which once housed the large cats.
The Memphis Zoo is open during March-October from 9:00-6:00. During November-February zoo hours are from 9:00-5:00. Up to date schedules and updates may be found at www.memphiszoo.org.
While in town, also be sure to visit the Pink Palace Family of Museums.
Memphis Zoo Google Map
2000 Prentiss Pl
Memphis, TN , United States 38112
In 2003 the Memphis Zoo became one of only four zoos in the US to exhibit giant pandas.
During our visit the pandas were inside lazily munching bamboo or just hanging out. Everyone loves the pandas, especially the kids. A short film is offered to show us more about the beautiful creatures lives and the hazards they face in their rapidly changing native habitat.
The Chinese pavilion is one of the most beautiful in any zoo I have visited. Chimes ring softly in the air. Bamboo and flowers remind one of the Orient. A number of mammals and birds are on display, including otters and gibbons, but the highlight is of course the giant pandas. There is an outside enclosure as well as an indoor viewing area.