“The back story of the park is conservation and connecting people with nature,” animal operations director John Lehnhart says of Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The unique lay-out allows visitors to see animals up close and personal in spacious, realistic habitats, without bars separating them. The 1,500 exotic animals of the Kilimanjaro Safari have free reign around the 110-acre African savannah. In total, the park spans more than 500 acres. There are a number of innovative animal parks around the world that showcase a modern take on the traditional animal enclosures of yesteryear.
It should come as no surprise that America houses many of the world’s best animal habitats. In New York City, the 265-acre Bronx Zoo is home to over 6,000 animals, many of which are on the endangered species list. The Bronx has been operating its animal center since 1889 as the largest of the metropolitan animal parks and was the first place to house (and breed) rare snow leopards. Additionally, it’s the first park to house a predator-prey animal exhibit, where lions and gazelles are separated merely by dry moats, and it was also the first zoological center to host an educational program. Visitors love the Wild Asia tramway monorail, the indoor JungleWorld display and the 6.5-acre Congo Monkey Forest, which is the largest man-made rainforest in the world. Guests will also see a number of babies at this bustling breeding facility, including dwarf mongoose, lemur, okapi, sea lion, rhino, lion and pit viper species.
Another one of the best animal parks in the world is right in our nation’s capital. Each year, 2 million visitors come to the Smithsonian National Zoological Park in Washington DC, home to 2,000 animals and 400 diverse species. The first Komodo dragon hatched outside of Indonesia at the National Zoo and many people come to the 163-acre park to see endangered animals like giant pandas, oryx, Mexican wolves and Grevy’s zebras. Animal exhibit areas include the 15,000 square foot Amazonia rain forest, Beaver Valley, Cheetah Conservation Station, Fuji Film Giant Panda Habitat, Great Ape House, Invertebrate Exhibit, Lemur Island, Small Mammal House, Asia Trail, Bird House, Elephant House, Gibbon Ridge, Great Cats, Kids’ Farm, Reptile Discovery Center and the monkey Think Tank.
There are many other famous animal parks around the world. In Europe, one can see over 2,000 rare birds and white lions at Switzerland’s Basel Zoo, black rhinos at the Chester Zoo in England, a number of baby animals at the Czech Republic’s Prague Zoological Gardens, the oldest zoological center in the world at the Schönbrunner Zoo, Austria and the world’s largest collection of animals at the Berlin Zoological Gardens in Germany. Other continents have impressive zoological parks as well, like the National Zoological Gardens of South Africa, the Singapore Zoo, Ueno Zoological Gardens in Tokyo, Taronga and Western Plains Zoo in Sydney and the Toronto Zoo in Canada. One thing is true of all these places; it’s a wonderful way to promote conservation causes.
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