When people ask me what my absolute favorite thing about my hometown is, I always answer, “The zoo!!! In the early and mid-eighties when I was a little kid, while it was cool to see the animals, it was also depressing. The big cats were housed in a building that is now a cafe, behind iron bars with pen areas roughly the size of a king-sized bed. The elephants were also indoors and chained to the floor. The seal lions got a pool of water, but it was more like sticking a duck in the kitchen sink and expecting it to be happy.
The Memphis Zoo began in 1906 with a mascot black bear named Natch. The buildings I recall date back to a few years after the initial opening of the zoo. In 1986 they created the plans for the modern, more natural habitats that they continue to create today. They kept the old historic buildings, but re-purposed them. The tigers have their own small “lake” to swim in, as do the elephants. The polar bear and sea lion exhibits are amazing! The transformation from the zoo of my childhood to the one I have bought a yearly membership to for the last 11 years is astounding. I don’t mind the overpriced ice cream and snacks. That money goes to feed all of the amazing critters that call the zoo home. It takes hours to trek through that zoo and I can count on one hand the number of times we had the energy to see every single exhibit.
In the last decade or so, the zoo has finished some amazing habitats and buildings, as well as bringing in some neat seasonal exhibits. While I only dared to visit the spiders a couple of times, here’s one, “The Birds & Bees” that has been a hit:
For a dollar you can feed the budgies! I admit, I steered clear of the escapee bees from the hive they have on display.
Some new zoo members whose habitat is still under construction:
Today we snagged our last chance to visit a temporary exhibit that took us back in time:
It’s all fun and games until this happens:
Like this little guy:
If you ever visit Memphis, definitely include a trip to the zoo.