Did you know Austin has a zoo? If you didn’t, you’re not alone! It isn’t your typical zoo, as it started as a rescue sanctuary in 1990 and remains a non-profit habitat for rescued animals today. The nature-loving individuals who work there are dedicated to rehabilitation and education.
If you fancy a day spent with amazing creatures other than humans, it’s worth the 25-30 minute drive southwest from downtown Austin. Here are a few key components that make it such a special place.
From 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. or 2:30 p.m. every day, Austin Zoo offers “Keeper Talks.” During these special events, a knowledgable zookeeper feeds a specific species (including black bear cubs, primates, cougars, alligators and Galagapos tortoises) and answers any questions guests may have.
Shara, a zookeeper at Austin Zoo, got me pumped up over a few prehistoric-looking Galagapos tortoises. These beautiful creatures are only 27 years old, but they can live to be as many as 150 years old (cue “Finding Nemo” reference). These dudes will be fully grown at age 40. How incredible is that? Here’s a photo of one chowing down on a salad, for your viewing pleasure.
Which brings me to my next point…
You Can Feed the Animals
While you can’t feed every animal at the zoo, there are designated areas where you can hand-feed animals. These areas are home to goats, sheep, deer and llamas. They can only be fed over or through the fence, but, oh man, it’s such as sweet experience.
But remember, only feed the animals food that the zoo supplies. They might be native Texans, but it’s probably not a good idea to feed a llama breakfast tacos and kombucha!
Austin Zoo has an incredible community of animals from all over the world. The list is surprisingly extensive and includes spider monkeys, capuchins, African crested porcupines, macaws, red-ruffed lemurs, iguanas, wolf hybrids, Russian red foxes, lories, marmosets, bears, kinkajous, lions, tigers and an aquarium full of aquatic species.
All of these animals have been rescued from unfortunate circumstances (including the circus and laboratory research) or were given to the zoo by owners who aren’t able to take care of them properly. This is a safe Hill Country haven for all residents.
Austin Zoo Events
What’s an Austin institution without picnic tables? Austin Zoo has great areas for birthday parties and field trips. They even have an indoor events pavilion. Pricing vary, so give them a ring to book.
There are all kinds of events going on throughout the year, such as the Summer Photo Contest, Easter Egg Hunt, Gorilla Run, Bear Club, animal meet and greets, Boo at the Zoo (this is a Halloween event, so bring a costume) and Native Sundays (visit and learn about native Texas wildlife). Don’t forget that there’s an option to take a train ride, if available on the day you visit.
From one Austin mammal to another, come out and support these vibrant and fascinating animals. We could all use a day to reconnect with nature.
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@theAustinot wants to know:
What’s your favorite native or exotic animal?