Feature

All About the Jacksonville Zoo

Ava DePersio

   The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens opened on May 19, 1914 near the Springfield section of Jacksonville, and has 122 acres of land for the animals to roam around. The first animal at the zoo was the red deer fawn. Now there are over 2,000 animals and 1,000 plants for people of all ages to enjoy. 

  The zoo is sectioned with animals from Africa, Australia, Asia, South America, “Wild” Florida, along with the new addition of the African Forest. For gardens, there is the Savanna Blooms garden, as well as the Riverview and Trout River gardens. Once inside, a map is displayed to show how to navigate around to all of the animals. While exploring the zoo, the walk path has different animal “footprints.” The “footprints” correspond with an animal unique to that location. For example, when walking along the “South America Loop” the prints on the ground appear to be that of a jaguar.

Map of the Jax Zoo

   The Jacksonville Zoo has several amenities for people to experience. There is an onsite train that takes guests throughout the entirety of the zoo, and has two train stations, one near the entrance, and another located between the Australia and Asia exhibits. Throughout the train ride, there are several animals to see, as the train goes along the perimeter of the zoo. The 4D theater is a fun immersive experience, especially on a hot Florida day. With the 4D theater, people can take a break from the outdoors, and watch a short show involving animals. The carousel is also a hit especially for the younger crowd. Traditionally there are horses on carousels, however this carousel is filled with all of the wildlife that are at the zoo. There is also a play park for children, that provides a safe space for kids to run around, while also learning about the animals the zoo has to offer. Inside the play park, there is a splash park section, as well as climbing areas and tree houses for kids to have fun. 

   The animals at the zoo are spectacular. In the Africa exhibit, there are elephants that can be seen roaming around, as well as warthog piglets, rhinoceros, cheetahs, zebras, and lions, to name a few. There is also a 1,400- foot long boardwalk that people can walk along to see all of these animals. The animal that notoriously draws in a large crowd is the giraffes. The giraffes are located in the Africa section with their own overlook. Guests have the opportunity to feed the giraffes (must purchase the total experience ticket in order to do so), and look out to see multiple giraffes walking around the land. The graceful and gentle animals are stunning to look at, with their long necks and purple tongues, there is usually a line of people waiting to see them. 

Giraffe. Photo by Ava Depersio

   Along the South America exhibit, there is the “Range of the Jaguar.” The “Range of the Jaguar” shows the jaguars in their natural habitat, and has been awarded national recognition for its outstanding South American exhibit. While viewing the jaguars, there are signs throughout explaining more about the species. Jaguars are an endangered species, and the zoo is doing the best they can to make sure jaguars do not become extinct. The “Wild” Florida exhibit shows several reptiles including the American alligator, snapping turtles, and amphibians such as frogs. Other animals include the Florida bobcat, which is a graceful feline, and whooping cranes with their beautiful white and black wings. 

   At the Australian exhibit, there is an amphibian conservation center, and lorikeets. Lorikeets are small birds that are multicolored. Their feathers are bright green, red, yellow, and blue. The zoo offers guests the opportunity to feed these Australian birds (must purchase the total experience ticket in order to do so). Across from the Australian exhibit is the Asia exhibit. Some of the animals include the Komodo dragons, Asian small clawed otters, and tigers. Inside the Asia exhibit, there is the “Land of the Tiger,” which includes the Malayan and the Sumatran tigers. The two tigers have a large shaded area for them to rest in, as tigers sleep the majority of the day.

   There are several ticket options for the best zoo experience. Ticket options include: member total experience and member guest tickets, as well as nonmember tickets: total experience and general admission tickets. Total experience tickets allow access to everything the zoo has to offer. It includes access to the 4D theater, carousel, train, and includes animal feedings. All tickets must be purchased in advance.

   The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens advocates for protecting animals and plants. According to ‘Jacksonville Zoo.org,’ “A portion of all ticket sales goes directly to protecting animals and plants around the world.” $1.75 million has gone towards protecting animals and plants over the last six years. The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is a great experience for people of all ages to see and learn about several incredible plants and animals from around the globe. 

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