My last full day in Arizona was spent by going to the Phoenix Zoo. Founded by Robert Maytag (of the Maytag family) in 1962, the Phoenix Zoo is the largest privately owned, non-profit zoo in the United States. We were there for the afternoon and there was no way we were going to be able to see the over 1400 hundred animals on display so we decided to start off our trip by taking the Safari Train on a nonstop guided tour to get an overall sense of the layout and allow us to plan what we wanted to see most (if you are going to be spending a whole day at the zoo, I would avoid the Safari Train. In my opinion, the guide wasn’t very informative and the tour was basically a waste of money).
The Phoenix zoo has four major themed areas: the Arizona Trail, the Africa Trail, the Tropics Trail, and the Discovery/Children’s Trail. We started off on the Africa Trail where one of the bigger displays contained Reticulated Giraffes (Giraffa camelopardis reticulata), East African Crowned Cranes (Balearica regulorum gibbericeps), Common Elands (Taurotragus Oryx), and Watusi Cattle (Bos taurus) – I’m sure there were more, but those were the main ones we saw while we were there.
Home to more than 1,400 animals, including 30 species that are endangered or threatened, and has been conservation minded since it started. Operation Oryx, a captive breeding program started in the early years of the zoo with the specific goal of reintroducing the nearly extinct Arabian oryx to the wild, was one of only two programs that had gone through the wilderness to zoo to wilderness sequence by the early 1990s.
One of the coolest exhibits at the Phoenix zoo is Monkey Village. Home to a troupe of common Squirrel Monkeys, the Phoenix Zoo is the only zoo in the United States where you can walk through a squirrel monkey exhibit. In the Amazon, squirrel monkeys live in social groups of around 30 individuals; while there aren’t that many in Monkey Village, it is still a site to see – just make sure that there aren’t any directly above you or you may be the recipient of an unwelcome “gift”.
The best advice I can give you for enjoying a day at the zoo is to slow down and take the time to see the animals – don’t rush from exhibit to exhibit. Also, if you have little ones, bring along a change of clothes as they will probably want to play in the water play areas of Leapin’ Lagoon and Yakulla Caverns; there is also an Enchanted Forest play area.
Until the next adventure….