by Lin Stone
|The Oklahoma City Zoo is the #1 tourist
attraction in Oklahoma -- and it ranked THIRD in the nation in attractions
for children. Just looking at the number of animals would make anyone
wonder how this is accomplished.
Well, it takes work to be #1, and more work to keep it. This zoo is eager to keep the endorsements they have earned.
The first thing to explain this superiority is personnel. After passing through the front gate I talked to everyone I saw and everyone I could find. The enthusiasms for their work were all exuberant. Even the people knee deep in mud were smiling when anyone noticed them, and buddy, it was COLD out there the day I went.
The second thing that I noticed was cleanliness. Not only was everything in the zoo spotlessly clean, there were none of the odors lingering in the area usually associated with captivity. Smoking is NOT allowed inside the zoo because we need to keep these animals safe from contamination, which makes it even easier to keep clean.
The third thing thrust upon my view was SPACE. The animals were not crowded in their exhibits. The exhibits were not crowded together either. Walking through the Oklahoma City Zoo is like strolling in the country -- except the squirrels will surround you and hold you hostage for peanuts. In many of the zoos I have reviewed the animals are subtly pressured to show themselves. Here the animals have places to hide, to rest and relax, out of your sight. Many animals prefer their solitude; when they do, they ignore your presence if they don't have a place to hide.
Asian elephant has been born at the
Oklahoma City Zoo as of 15 April 2011. I have suggested they name
You can read more at:
The Canopy Food Court has a unique indoor dining experience with a rainforest atmosphere. There is enough room for three hundred people to sit down in the climate-controlled rain forest atmosphere. On the menu you'll find hamburgers, hot dogs, corn dogs, soups and kids meals. Other specialized palates are accommodated on a daily basis. Other concessions on the grounds include the Safari Cafe and Savanna Terrace.
The zoo staff offers this suggestion for visiting: "Fall, winter and cloudy days are good times to visit the Zoo because it is less crowded and many of the animals are more active. If you do choose to visit on a hot summer day, try to come in the early morning or a few hours before closing." During December, January and February you can visit the zoo for free if you come on a Monday.
There are more than two thousand exotic animals exhibited on 110 landscaped acres to enjoy. The Great EscApe features gorillas, orangutans and the ever popular chimpanzees in a natural setting. Four acres of preserve feature the Cat Forest/Lion Overlook that gives you an intimate look into the lives of lions, tigers, snow leopards and a variety of wild cats -- displayed in habitats as similar to their native homes as professional naturalists can make it.Some of the animals don't mind attention at all. The white tailed buck in the Oklahoma Trails department, reared right up and stared me in the face, then tracked me along the way as I went, determined to get his picture taken. The Wild Turkeys (in the same exhibit) came rushing up to demand attention also. 1 bird (in another exhibit) screamed at me until I came back and took his picture. Another bird preened her feathers until I took her picture, then walked off to brag to her friends.
NOTE: many exhibits are surrounded by wire and it is difficult to get good pictures through it. BUT, virtually all such exhibits offer a plate glass area looking into the exhibit. Some of my best shots were through the glass. Unfortunately, this won't work when you need flash to get the picture, and that is especially true in the magnificent Oklahoma Trails Aquarium. The fish in there are so beautiful to the naked eye, and I could not get a decent shot of any of them. This is a wrap-around, walk-around aquarium rising from the floor to the ceiling. These are all Oklahoma fish and I did not recognize half of them. One catfish looked to be at least four feet long.
There are many restrooms at the zoo and they are conveniently placed. They are delightfully warm (in the winter) and exceptionally clean. The one in the Pachyderm (Palace) does need to change the way toilet paper is dispensed. I sincerely doubt any youngster under nine could get it for himself. One handed lumberjacks would definitely be left in the lurch there too. Incidentally, the Pachyderm does smell a little bit, no where near bad, but because it is in this zoo it is noticeable.
Someone there has my sense of humor because so many exhibits have cute names, like Explorakeet, Kangaroo Court and Jungle Gym. In the Adventure Zone kids can climb the wall, ride the children's train and the Endangered Species Carousel. One of the things kids liked most were the lifelike sculptures. They climbed all over them.
More than 800,000 people visited the zoo in the last fiscal year, the highest number ever. Zoo membership has gone up along with attendance. There are 110 lushly planted acres to the zoo. 8 acres have recently been set aside for Oklahoma Trails, revealing primitive Oklahoma at its best. Staff provides an ever changing educational and recreational experience throughout the year. Just reading the placards will probably increase your knowledge about some animals. Kids over twelve are called Adults and charged $7 admission. Grandfolks over 64 can get in for only $4. Kids 2 and under can squeeze in for free. Every Monday in December, January, and February is a freebee. You can come to the Zoo on any Monday in December, January and February and enjoy FREE admission -- for everybody! Grandpass are $60 per year, and allow two adults and five children (from 3-18) in as many times as they want to come.
Just as you come through the front gate, on your right you will see the Guest Relations Office. Go inside the first door and on the right hand wall you will find a large tapestry, Perhaps it is a quilt. It is definitely thicker than the precious Italian Tapestries originally being sold before cheapskates ruined the market. This homespun tapestry is decidedly beautiful even if the lighting is a little bad for taking pictures.
After you get your tickets and just before you go through the turnstile, over on your right is an office where you can get strollers, wheelchairs, and a motorized scooter. That scooter is not the wimpy shopping cart you get on at supermarkets; it can get away from you in a hurry. Scooters are $20 for all day, wheelchairs are only $5. Unfortunately, just about every thing at the zoo is either UP, or DOWN from where you are and if you are negotiating your own wheelchair you are in for a BIG workout. You'll need someone bigger than you are to help you up, and down.
Almost all the walkways are wide, flat (across, not flat up and down) and safe for normal foot traffic. Even for healthy walkers, the inclines are safely less than steep but will give you a good workout. If your knees are weak your best bet is to wait for the tram and ride around the zoo in comfort
Is Your Insurance
If you keep a close look, throughout the zoo you'll find carved wood
sculptures, kind of tucked away in the underbrush.
The rocks in all the exhibits look very much like real ones. The trees in many exhibits match what would be found in the native environment of some of the animals being shown there. You will also see numerous trees not inside an exhibit which are delightfully beautiful. Bamboo shoots sky high almost everywhere.
Below are some of the best pictures I took during the one day visit. Click on each one for a larger view. The two wildcats on the top row are in the Oklahoma Trails exhibits; they are much larger than any I've seen in the wild. The bald eagle has a strut missing on the other side and can't fly away even though there is no roof over him. The cat just to the right of the eagle is NOT a Canadian Lynx; it is a catacan, from africa. The two fowl in the first picture are swans. The swan in the foreground is posing for me. The last picture is a blue-crowned mot-mot; he is the one that kept calling me back until I came to take his picture.
Lin Stone is the author of thirty three books and has published numerous articles in magazines and on the web. His home base is established in Noble, Oklahoma but he travels extensively to fulfill his writing obligations. StoneSoup provides a long list of those articles and books of his that you can pick up for free.
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