Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The 10 Best Zoos in the World

As a child, I loved visiting the zoo. The world’s most incredible species all gathered into one location for our viewing pleasure. As I grew up, the novelty wore off as I began viewing animals as innocent victims that had been plucked from their natural habitats, but that opinion soon changed as well.

Today’s zoos have evolved and are much more sophisticated than the ones I visited more than 20 years ago. They’re developed to resemble the natural habitats of each animal, allowing them to roam, mate, and feed as they would have anywhere else in the world. The world is full of zoos, and we’ve searched each continent for the best (for both you and the animals)!

10. Animal Kingdom, Orlando

Kilimanjaro Safari at Animal Kingdom

Animal Kingdom is part of the Disney Theme Park collection in Orlando, Florida. While it’s obviously a commercial zoo, the zookeepers do their best to make sure each animal feels as though he is in a realistic habitat, with plenty of space and as little human distraction as possible. The goal is to make sure that the park promotes conservation as much as possible. Animal Kingdom is home to over 1,500 exotic animals, plus hundreds of fish and bird species!

9. Basel Zoo, Switzerland

Cheetahs at the Basel Zoo

Basel Zoo in Switzerland was opened in 1874, allowing it to rank as one of the oldest zoos in operation today. The zoo is, in fact, the second most visited attraction in all of Switzerland. There are more than 6,000 animals in this popular Swiss destination, including Somolian wild donkeys and dwarf hippopotami!

8. Beauval Zoo, France

White Tigers at Beauval Zoo

The Beauval Zoo in France originally opened in 1980 as an aviary, housing over 2,000 species of birds alone. It wasn’t until over 10 years later when other animals were introduced to the habitat and the zoo has since grown to over 4,000 animals. Favorites include the zoo’s two white tigers, known as Gorby and Raisa; and the pair of twin manatees, known as Quito and Luna. Make sure you stop by and say hello when you visit!

7. Bronx Zoo, New York

Baboons at the Bronx Zoo

The Bronx Zoo in New York is the largest zoo you’ll find in a metropolitan location in the United States. The park itself takes up over 250 acres of land and includes a number of endangered and rare species in its collection of over 4,000 animals. Stop by Tiger Mountain to meet the Siberian tigers, visit the stunning 6.5 acre Congo Gorilla Forest for an African safari adventure, or visit Madagascar to meet the lemurs and hissing cockroaches!

6. National Zoological Gardens of South Africa

Pretoria Zoo

Located in Pretoria, the National Zoological Gardens of South Africa leaves nothing to the imagination. As the largest zoo in South Africa, it houses over 2,500 species of animals. Incredibly, most of the animals at the zoo today were bred and born there. The zoo also features a reptile park, the largest aquarium in the entire country, and an extensive collection of exotic trees!

5. Berlin Zoological Garden, Germany

Elephant Gate at the Berlin Zoo

The Berlin Zoological Garden in Germany originally opened in 1844. It is considered a historical landmark because it survived World War II and was then rebuilt to a better state of existence. Even architects will enjoy the incredible structures contained within the zoos walls! The Berlin Zoo is acknowledged around the world because of the rare species it contains and because it successfully breeds animals on a regular basis.

4. Schonbrunner Zoo, Austria

The Polar Bear Cubs at the Vienna Zoo

The Schonbrunner Zoo in Vienna, Austria was founded in 1792, making it the oldest zoo in the world. Be sure to visit the Rainforest house and Artic Polarium while you’re there. The most entertaining exhibit at the zoo right now is the home of the polar bears. The mother bear had two beautiful cubs in late November of 2007. She brought them outdoors for the first time in March of 2008. If you’re lucky, she’ll bring them outside while you’re there!

3. Smithsonian National Zoological Park, Washington, DC

Bald Eagle at Smithsonian Zoo

The Smithsonian National Zoological Park in Washington DC has rightfully earned the title of the country’s National Zoo. The zoo can be found in Rock Creek Park and houses over 400 species totaling at least 2,000 animals. The coolest thing about the zoo is that regular admission is free. One of the most exciting features is the Snore and Roar tour – it involves a night-time tour of the zoo and a camp-out – if you dare!

2. Toronto Zoo

Toad at the Toronto Zoo

The Toronto Zoo also ranks amongst the largest in the world, spanning over 700 acres and housing over 5,000 animals! Did you know that 2008 is the year of the frog? Zoos around the world are participating in an effort to increase awareness about the dangers threatening amphibians. The Toronto Zoo has dozens of activities planned throughout the entire year in honor of the frog and his friends!

1. Singapore Zoo

Singapore Zoo

The Singapore Zoo is famous for their incredible landscape design, with habitats simulating life in the wild for each of their animal species. The zoo features dozens of fun and unique attractions, including the famous Jungle Breakfast! Enjoy your breakfast with the animals in the distance. You may get to feed the elephants, but more often than not you’ll find yourself entertained by the orangutans as they mingle throughout the crowd!

Any of these zoos is sure to promise you an educational and exciting experience. Pack your bags and hit the road – you’ll want to explore as many of these zoos as you can!

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