The Santa Fe College Zoo in Gainesville, Florida, is an interesting mix between public zoo and educational experience. Currently one of the only two zoos used as teaching zoos in the United States, be prepared to see a lot of unique animals as well as learning a lot.
The zoo sits on ten forested acres in beautiful Florida and is also a college focused on teaching students how to become zookeepers. It was established as both a zoo and teaching facility in 1970. It has been an accredited AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums) facility since 2000. It is currently coordinated by eight staff members employed at the zoo full time and the 200 students enrolled there (who will spend five semesters on the premises). The students are affectionately known as “Zooies.”
The animals at the college zoo are obviously the largest draw for guests visiting. They are divided into categories of both exotic and native species and there are more than 75 different species on display, with over 200 animals total. Whenever possible, the zoo participates in SSP (Species Survival Program).
- Mammals: Perhaps the favorite, as these are the cuddliest of the animals located at the zoo.
- Asian small clawed otter (on the SSP)
- Matschie’s tree kangaroo (on the SSP)
- Ocelot (on the SSP)
- Perdido Key beach mouse
- Red ruffed lemur (on the SSP)
- White handed gibbon (on the SSP)
- And more!
- Amphibians: The frogs are always guest favorites.
- Poison dart frog
- And more coming soon!
- Birds: There are many different colorful bird species on display.
- Bald eagle
- Cuban amazon
- Turkey vulture
- And more!
- Reptiles: Some of the more unique animals at the zoo are located in the reptile area!
- American alligator
- Corn snake
- Leopard tortoise
- Southern copperhead
- And many more!
- Invertebrates: For the brave guests, there are many creepy crawlies to check out!
- Pink toed tarantula
- Rose tarantula
- And more coming soon!
For visitors who schedule ahead of time, students are available to lead guided tours through the college teaching zoo.
The college zoo is open daily from 9am to 2pm, with the exception of major holidays. There is an admission fee to visit, but it is available at a discount for children, seniors, local students, and groups (with prior notification).
The grounds are considered both wheelchair and stroller accessible. Stroller rental is not available, however, but there is a wheelchair on the premises that can be borrowed for guests who have trouble getting around without help. The trail is a quarter of a mile long and sawdust lined.
For guests who would like to see some of the animals located on the premises either before or after a visit, there is always the Wild Discoveries HD webcam. Check out the warty pigs and the otters while also seeing what the students see, as this webcam is part of a zoo course. Each webcam is also totally controllable by the user, and can be panned, zoomed, or tilted to get a better view of the animals.
There are a few regular events held on the zoo premises. Guests should check the website prior to a visit to see if anything will be going on during the time the visit is planned.
Tree Kangaroo Awareness Day: Come celebrate the endangered Matschie’s tree kangaroo during this celebration held in May. Free with admission, guests can play some kangaroo themed games and do crafts. Zookeepers will also be giving demonstrations.
Zookeeper Day: Held on July 22nd, Zookeeper Day is a great way for people who may be interested in becoming a zookeeper to come and learn about the program, including how to apply. There are also activities, crafts, and face painting.
Boo at the Zoo: Held for the entirety of October, admission is free with the donation of a canned good. Come in costume!
Party for the Planet: Aprils at the zoo, this Earth Day celebration focuses on different ecosystems and the ways that conservation affects everyone on the planet.
Dining and Shopping
There is a vending machine with Pepsi products, as well as free water fountains located just inside the entrance to the zoo. There are also picnic tables for guests who would like to bring in their own lunches. Glass is prohibited. There are no other hot or cold concessions. There is a small gift shop located on the zoo grounds, which sells a variety of specialty gifts for both adults and children. Proceeds go back into supporting the operation of the zoo.
Santa Fe College Zoo, 3000 NW 83rd Street, Gainesville, FL, 32606, Phone: 352-395-5000