Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, Jacksonville, FL
Thank you to the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens for a GREAT article with spectacular images. All images are courtesy of the Jacksonville Zoo. Thank you to Lucas Meers and the rest of the Zoo team for helping put together a wonderful article!
Q: How many different species do you have at the Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens? Which species is the most rare/unique?
A:The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens currently has over 2,000 animals and over 1,000 species of plants spread out over 110 acres. One of the rarest animals we have here at the Zoo is the Amur Leopard. With an estimated 30-40 left in the wild, this species relies on Zoos for the support and education on this species. One of the most unique animals we have is the okapi. This reclusive animal is native to the rainforests of central Africa and was just discovered by the Western world in 1901. It is the closest living relative to the giraffe, but guests frequently confuse it as a relative of the zebra due to the white stripes on its haunches.
Q: When did the Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens open? Could you tell us some of its’ history?
A: The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens opened its doors in 1914 as the Springfield Park Zoo with the donation of 1 red deer fawn. As the collection slowly grew, the Zoo moved to its current location to the banks of the Trout River in 1925. Since then, the Zoo has continued to grow and expand its collection of animals, educational programs and conservation initiatives. In 2014, the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens celebrated its centennial, hosting several events throughout the year, and breaking all attendance and revenue records.
A: The most challenging exhibit to design and install was the Land of the Tiger. The feature of the exhibit is the 670 foot long tiger trail system – the first of its kind for big cats, that allows access inside our strangler fig tree, which offers opportunities for guests to get face-to-face with the big cats. The exhibit covers 2.5 acres and features wrinkled and wreathed hornbills, Babirusa, Visayan Warty Pigs, Asian Small-clawed Otters and Malayan and Sumatran Tigers. The trail system wraps around the exhibit, goes over guests heads and through the rafters in one of our buildings. The trail can be partitioned off in some areas to allow access by one of our pig species. Even the smallest details were accounted for with this exhibit – down to the fine texture of the shelf fungus attached to the strangler fig tree.
A: The most popular exhibits are our Giraffe Overlook, where excited guests can feed and interact with our curious giraffes, and our new Land of the Tiger exhibit which opened in March 2014. The Land of the Tiger exhibit emulates a dry riverbed, winding past different exhibits, and ending our climate-controlled tiger building, open to host night events of varying capacities. Inside the building, guests can view the water-loving cats face-to-face at our water-viewing area. Guests can also see a tiger behavior training as our keepers demonstrate the daily training program to ensure our cats are healthy.
A: 1400 pounds of produce, 1100 pounds meat, 1 ton of grain, 2400 pounds of hay/alfalfa.
A: 268 staff including full and part time, and over 3,000 volunteers assist in varying capacities throughout the year.
A: A beautiful, bouncing, male baby lowland gorilla born February 6. Name TBD.
A: The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens supports over 45 different conservation initiatives around the world helping preserve species in the wild. Locally, we have a strong Striped Newt repatriation program, partnering with the Memphis Zoo, where we breed the newts in our facilities for release in Apalachicola National Forest. This year was the first year we’ve seen newts returning to the vernal pools on their own! It was an exciting moment for everyone involved. We also coordinate a population count of threatened Wood Storks. The breeding population in the area just happened to naturally nest on our Zoo grounds in the middle of our African veldt exhibit. It makes for an easy-access population count.
A: We want our visitors to walk away knowing more about the world around them, and become more informed and inspired on how to make a difference in the world through conservation and sustainability efforts.
A: My favorite aspect is the Zoo’s focus on our gardens to enhance the guest experience. The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is the largest botanical garden in the region, boasting more than 1,000 plants. Our gardens are strategically planned to greet visitors and to ‘set the scene’ before they encounter the many species in each area. We always hear from guests that they love our Zoo and have an enjoyable experience, but they can’t really pinpoint why they enjoy their time here. It’s the gardens that create the incredible atmosphere, and make you believe you are in a completely different part of the world.