The Smithsonian National Zoo in DC is comprised of 6 main exhibits, with many smaller exhibits and animal enclosures also available to guests. These larger exhibits are centered on a main them and conservation message, which tell the story of the featured animals. This approach provides an educational and entertaining experience.
Spread over 15,000 square feet, including a 55,000 gallon aquarium tank, the Amazonian Exhibit brings one of the world’s largest rivers to life, as well as the embankments and area surrounding it. The exhibit features freshwater fish from the Amazon, some up to 10 feet long. More than just fish, this exhibit contains mammals, birds, reptiles and invertebrates. Examples include pirhanas, tiki monkeys, red-tailed catfish, poison arrow frogs and more. The exhibits brings to life not just fauna, but flora as well, with Amazonian trees such as the cocoa, kapok, and avocado. The largest and most complex exhibit in the Zoo, keepers and zoological staff circulate to answer questions and provide additional information. Guests are advised to visit this exhibit at least 30 minutes before closing.
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The American Trail Exhibit highlights the wildlife of North America, many of whom face significant conservation threats. In all, eight animals in the North American Trail exhibit have been rescued from the wild. Conservation efforts from many organizations, including the National Zoo are helping these creatures and habitats to recover. While exploring the exhibit, meandering trails through carefully landscaped paths highlight the flora of various ecosystems, such as the Eastern Woodland and Coastal Upland. These trails take visitors through to the many enclosures of the American Trail. In Beaver Pool, visitors can watch beavers dive and play in pools and ponds, while marveling at beaver lodge, constructed almost entirely by the beavers themselves. The seal and sea lion enclosure feature enormous aquarium tanks, 150,000 gallon for the seals and 300,000 gallon for the sea lions, enabling guests to watch these great sea animals swim and interact with their keepers. The grey wolf exhibit recreates a typical North American Forest for the wolves who live there and the guests who visit. Next are the tide pools, which recreate areas found on North American coast line, and are teeming with sea stars, sea urchins and barnacles. Other North American animals in the Zoo include the bald eagle and the American Bison.
Opened in 2006, the Asian Trail path winds around enclosures and streams, guiding visitors to views of the animals and informational graphics. The exhibit showcases seven species of Asian animals. These include red pandas, clouded leopards, sloth bears, fishing cats, small-clawed otters, Japanese giant salamanders and great pandas. One of the most popular exhibits in the Zoo, the new Giant Panda enclosure spans more than 12,000 square feet, and includes a new research center and panda cam. Visitors are recommended to check the National Zoo website for optimal viewing times prior to entry. Asian elephants can also be found at the Smithsonian National Zoo at the Elephant Trails Exhibit.
Cheetah Conservation Station
Showcasing the fastest animals on the planet, the Cheetah Conservation Station is a fun and engaging exhibit. Daily cheetah exercise programs allow visitors to see how fast these cats can go. As times change periodically, visitors are recommended to check the website or ask a keeper for the day’s schedule. There are more than just cheetahs at this exhibit, however, with many creatures from the East African Savannah to be seen. These include red river hogs, Ruppell’s griffon vultures, Grevy’s zebras, dama gazelles, a scimitar-horned oryx, and a sitatunga (an amphibious antelope). Photo: Jay/Fotolia
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