A Day at the Zoo
Visiting the San Antonio Zoo
By Amanda Conley
I’ve maintained for years that to judge any city, you must visit their zoo and if you have to judge the city of San Antonio based upon its zoo, then it’s pretty top notch. The San Antonio Zoo has been around for over a century and has been delighting and fascinating guests ever since opening in 1914. As an expat from another part of Texas, I was more than happy to visit the zoo and take in the sights.
The San Antonio Zoo is impressive by the numbers: Operational since 1914, one of the first cageless zoos in the nation, spanning 56 open acres of fun and animals, houses over 9,000 animals and 750 species, one of the largest bird collections in the nation and is visited by over a million guests; most of those guests are in fact locals. The zoo is also nationally high-ranking in conversation efforts and public education. The zoo upholds a mission to not just house animals but encourages population growth of endangered species and educates the public on such treasured creatures for both local endangered species and non-native exotic creatures. The San Antonio Zoo is approachable and easy to walk. I spent all day there and didn’t feel lost or exhausted, but in that time I visited so many different types of birds and animals in a well-planned and easy to navigate space.
The San Antonio Zoo is highly interactive with exhibitions like Africa LIVE!, which allow handlers and professionals to educate and entertain guests while displaying some of the African fauna that call the zoo home. These special presentations include feedings and open question periods and times when the animals are moved from one enclosure to a main display area to be better displayed. Some exhibits are highly interactive and one of the highlights of my day was feeding the lorikeets. Lorikeets are small bright-colored birds that are very social nectar eaters. Small cups of nectar can be purchased and you can enter the enclosure and feed the birds. This was an amazing experience to have bright, beautiful birds all around feasting on the sweet nectar offered to them. It’s a great photo opportunity as well; nothing like being surrounded by colorful birds to highlight just how much fun you had at the zoo.
The Reptile House was fantastic, with a wide array of turtles, tortoises, snakes, lizards and iguanas. Each creature had an interesting and dynamic enclosure and plentiful information on the critter, which was great for me, as I wanted to learn more about each and every animal. Of course, there’s more than just slithering specimens at the zoo. There’s a wide variety of aquatic birds including flamingos, cranes and herons. There are also large mammals like tigers, porcupines and other way cool creatures. The zoo also houses an Asian elephant named Lucky that is a big attraction to the zoo and she is worth visiting. Apparently, Lucky is quite the local celebrity. The zoo also houses playful lemurs, cute capybaras and a whole school of fishes worth checking out.
The San Antonio Zoo is still growing earlier this year the zoo made the exciting announcement that the zoo will soon have giraffes again. The zoo has not housed giraffes since 2010 and they recently broke ground on the new giraffe house. The new exhibit will also allow guests to feed the giraffes and better interact with these spectacular creatures. The exhibit it set to open up this fall, much to the delight of zoo guests and locals.
The San Antonio Zoo is a delight. I had such a great time going and it was even better to share that experience with someone else who had never visited the zoo before. The staff was informed, intelligent and passionate. Each animal seemed happy and healthy and there was more than enough information displayed about each unique creature. It was easy to make a day out of our visit to the zoo and leave excited, having learned a few new things. There are special guest encounters every day and plenty of attractions for the entire family. The San Antonio Zoo is a real treasure and worth a visit or two.