The North Carolina Zoo is a zoological park in Asheboro that is home to more than 1,600 animals from more than 250 species primarily from the North American and African continents. Located in the Uwharrie Mountains in Randolph County, the Zoo spans more than 2,000 acres and is one of the largest walk-through zoos in the world. The North Carolina Zoo is open 364 days a year and is one North Carolina’s most popular tourist attractions.
The North Carolina Zoological Society was established in 1967 to study the feasibility of opening a zoo in the region, and after selecting a site for the park in 1972, the North Carolina Zoo was inaugurated in 1976. The first two animals to call the zoo home were two giant Galapagos tortoises, followed by a chimpanzee called Ham, who was famous for being the first hominid to visit space. The first permanent exhibit at the zoo opened in 1979, followed by displays of the Africa region established during the 1980s, and an exhibit on the animals from North America in 1996.
The North Carolina Zoo is home to over 1,600 animals of more than 250 species from regions around the world, including the largest collection of Alaskan seabirds and chimpanzees in the country. The Zoo is divided into two main areas – Africa and North America, with five miles of pathways linking the two, as well as trams and air-conditioned buses for visitors. The Zoo’s exhibits are designed to reflect the natural habitats as they are found in the wild, with vast expanses of terrain and natural vegetation.
The North American section of the zoo features a variety of habitats ranging from the ‘Rocky Coast,,' ‘Cypress Swamp,’ and ‘Streamside’ to ‘Prairies’ to the ‘Sonoran Desert.’ The Rocky Coast reflects the rugged coastlines of the Pacific Northwest and the animals that reside there such as polar bears, harbor seals, Arctic foxes, Californian sea lions and Alaskan seabirds. The Cypress Swamp area of the zoo is home to a range of reptiles and amphibians, as well as alligators, ducks and cougars, and the Streamside section has animals who live in or near rivers and streams such as otters, fish, snakes and bobcats. The Sonoran Desert houses ocelots, coatis, and a variety of free-flight birds like the Gambel’s quail, horned larks, and white-winged doves, while the Prairie enclosure is home to the animals of the great plains such as giant elk and bison. Other exhibits in this section include habitats for red wolves, grizzly and black bears.
The immense Africa section of the zoo spans 37 acres and houses some of the world’s largest creatures in a range of habitats found on the continent such as ‘Watani Grasslands’, and the ‘Forest Edge.’ Animals that reside here include rhinos, African elephants, zebras, Western lowland gorilla, and a variety of game such as gemsbok, kudu, waterbuck and gazelle. There are also lemurs from Madagascar in this section, which joined the zoo in 2010.
The R. J. Reynolds Forest Aviary
Reflecting the conditions of a lush tropical forest, the R. J. Reynolds Forest Aviary is home to more than three thousand tropical plants, and a variety of amphibians reptiles and birds, including yellow-footed tortoises, poison dart frogs, and Chilean flamingoes.
The North Carolina Zoo spearheaded efforts to rebuild and maintain the Kabul Zoo after the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, raising funds, organizing exhibit reconstruction and renovation, animal care and purchasing, staff training and business strategy. The Zoo did the same for the Baghdad Zoo following the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and now coordinates a veterinary medicine program with the zoo instead of maintaining animal exhibits.
The North Carolina Zoo takes part in several conservation projects and breeding programs. The Zoo’s Saving Species Programs include working towards saving endangered species such as the mountain gorilla, polar bears, vultures, salamanders, and chimpanzees, to name but a few. Other conservation projects include Tracking Elephants from Space, SMART Conservation and Ranger Training, U.N.I.T.E Conservation Education, the Bonobo and Congo Biodiversity Initiative, and Crane Conservation.
Programs run from the zoo include Bowling for Rhinos, Bringing Wildlife Research into the Classroom, Keeper-Led Programs, Monitoring Predators on the NC Zoo Grounds, Pocket Change for Rainforest Conservation, and Rare Plants at the Zoo.
The North Carolina Zoo offers a variety of educational programs, camps, workshops and projects for visitors of all ages that focus on conservation and preservation of the natural environment. Programs and projects include zoo camps, scout badge programs, backyard play activities, family nature club, playful pedagogy, playing out workshops, and a Kid Zone.
The North Carolina Zoo is located at 4401 Zoo Parkway in Asheboro, North Carolina and is open to the public all year round from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm every day. The Zoo has three restaurants on site that serve a variety of snacks and drinks, as well as have cash machines. The NC Zoo has over five miles of hiking trails to enjoy which are open from 6:30 am to 7:00 pm.
4401 Zoo Pkwy, Asheboro, NC 27205, website, Phone: 800-488-0444
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