One of the top must-see Atlanta attractions on my bucket list was visiting Zoo Atlanta. I know there are a lot of people that believe that zoos are bad and should be shut down but I’m not one of them. I believe that zoos are extremely important to conservation and the protection of many of our world’s most beautiful species. Sit down with any zoo caretaker and you’ll see the amazing heart these people have for the animals that reside in their zoos.
Their main goal is education, conservation, awareness, and population of endangered species although yes, they also allow the animals to be viewed by the public. This helps people see and learn about the animals with the hope that they may also donate to animal conservation programs, volunteer to work with animal programs, or grow up to work in animal or wildlife conservation as well. I support zoos 100%.
That being said…this is one of my favorites and if you ever have the chance to visit Zoo Atlanta you absolutely must do it (oh, and parking is FREE!).
My Favorite Memories of Zoo Atlanta
An Elephant Paints a Canvas
We saw the elephants when we first arrived at Zoo Atlanta but on our second trip around the zoo, we saw that she was out painting a work of art on a piece of canvas. She was absolutely beautiful! My mom loves elephants and has really schooled me on Asian Elephants vs African Elephants (This one is an African Elephant). They are always one of the first creatures we seek out when we visit a zoo.
We learned that an elephant’s trunk has over 40,000 muscles and tendons which allows them to pick up anything from a log to a single blade of grass. That explains how she was able to handle a paint brush with such finesse! Zoo Atlanta offers a “Feed the Elephant” encounter so you can actually feed them by hand and they offer an Elephant encounter as part of their Keeper for a Day program. I’m thinking that when my family comes to visit again I may sign up for that program for my mom. 😉 She’d love it!
Orangutan Keeper Talk and the Western Lowland Gorillas
This is one of my favorite things about visiting a zoo. When we visited the Washington DC Zoo back in 2006 we were able to attend a training demo about the African Lions. When we visited the Cincinnati Zoo in 2009 we watched a training demo about cheetahs. When we visited Zoo Atlanta in 2016 we listened in on a Keeper Talk about orangutans and a cool exhibition involving an Elephant, who was trained to paint on canvas.
The Keeper Talk at the orangutan exhibit shared how critically endangered the orangutan is and that if things don’t improve we could potentially see them become extinct in our lifetime! Zoo Atlanta exhibits the nation’s largest zoological orangutan collection, unfortunately, most of the orangutans weren’t that interested in being around visitors while we were there so I had to zoom in pretty far to snag a picture so it’s not 100% in focus.
I was excited to see the Western Lowland Gorillas because I have enormous respect for those animals. They are highly intelligent and, unfortunately, critically endangered just like the orangutan. There are currently only about 100,000 in the wild and Zoo Atlanta has the largest exhibit of Western Lowland Gorillas in the nation. They weren’t feeling very social when we were there but I did spot a few in the distance. Simply majestic!
Sleeping Lions and a Warthog
I could not wait to see the lions at Zoo Atlanta! When we lived in Florida we used to visit the Big Cat Habitat in Sarasota all of the time to see the lions, tigers, etc. Lions are absolutely gorgeous but it was so hot outside when we visited that the lions were all hiding inside of their cave sleeping on the cool concrete stone. I couldn’t blame them though because I’d want to be where it was coolest too. I was really hoping to see them though because captive African lions are a species managed by the Species Survival Plan (SSP). SSPs strive to maintain genetically and demographically healthy captive populations. Zoo Atlanta actively participates in the Lion SSP and welcomed four lion cubs in 2014 and three cubs in 2008. I wanted to lay my eyes on them but they wouldn’t come out. No worries though, that just means we’ll plan another trip when it cools down a bit!
The warthog cracked me up! The first thing I did was shout, “Omg…we found Pumbaa!” Lol. I guess after the lion exhibit I was just on a Lion King train of thought.
Fun Fact about the Common Warthog: Warthogs use the burrows of other animals for shelter. When threatened, they quickly charge forth, often surprising potential predators. Does that sound like Pumbaa or what? Do you remember, “They called me MR. PIG!!!!” as he charged? #Memories
Flamingos, Ostriches, and Other Birds
There are 15 different types of birds at Zoo Atlanta but, weirdly, I don’t particularly enjoy birds. I enjoy BIG birds like flamingos, ostriches, and peacocks but small birds like parakeets and cockatoos weird me out. I know…strange. If you’re into birds you’ll love their bird exhibits but I focused on the big ones.
Flamingos were so prevalent in Florida, especially as yard ornaments, lol, that, of course, we sought them out first! Flamingos are one of those creatures that makes me fairly certain that God has a sense of humor. I mean, that pink color and the knee that bends backward, just hilarious! Although on this trip to Zoo Atlanta I learned that the “knee” is actually the ankle and the knee itself is much higher on the leg. Who knew? Apparently, Flamingos can also live more than 50 years so there’s one more reason they are not pet material.
Ostriches are another of those, “God sure is funny” creatures. They look like the bird-version of a ballerina with their long slender legs and fluffy “tu-tu” middle. At Zoo Atlanta the Ostriches are in the same African Safari exhibit as the giraffes (which y’all know I LOVED) and the zebras. We spent far more time at this exhibit than anywhere else. They didn’t do much while we were there but one day I want to see them run because they can run up to 40mph! Can you imagine seeing that? How cool!
OMG…the Red Kangaroos!
A few days before we visited the zoo we saw a video of a Kangaroo that jumped in the air and kicked a man so hard that its claws almost ripped his genitals off! It was terrifying so I was pretty happy to see that those ferocious little creatures were behind a fence because that video was scary! Red kangaroos can actually hop 40 miles per hour, jump six feet off the ground, and leap 29 feet so I was on edge the whole time. They looked SO chill but I knew at any moment they could leap and be straight-up fierce!
As we were watching them a lady walked by and told her kid they weren’t stopping because kangaroos are “nothing but jumping rodents.” That made me sad. Red kangaroos are beautiful!!!
Giraffes – The Star of the Day!
Can I be honest here? Y’all, I had tears in my eyes when I saw the giraffes! The overwhelming joy is so real. Giraffes are just so stunning and gorgeous and when we arrived it was actually feeding time so for $3 we stood in line so I could feed the giraffes by hand. I mean…BEST MOMENT EVER! I was so overwhelmed with my excitement that I forgot to take pics of me feeding them but I did take a lot of other pictures of them. We stood by the giraffes for at least a solid hour so I could just stare and be amazed.
It saddened me to hear that giraffe populations are in rapid decline because of major threats like habitat loss, poaching, and population fragmentation. Several populations of giraffe decreased by 40 percent in their historical home ranges from 2007 – 2009, which is a devastating statistic. Most stable giraffe populations are now restricted to African national parks and preserves which serve to protect the animal, but they also cause genetic isolation from other giraffe populations.
Zoo Atlanta participates in the AZA Giraffe Population Management Plan, ensuring a healthy and genetically diverse population at accredited zoos. Several other Zoo Atlanta-supported programs (e.g., Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International, elephant Conservation Endowment Fund awards, and Rhino Conservation Endowment Fund awards) provide umbrella protection for the giraffe in the form of education, anti-poaching patrol and habitat conservation.
I just can’t imagine living in a world without giraffes. Can you imagine? I mean, just NO. That’s a world I don’t want to live in.
The Things We Missed…
We did see the Sumatran Tiger but he was hiding in the corner so while we could see him we couldn’t get any good pictures. The Black Rhinoceros, Sun Bear, and the Pandas weren’t interested in being involved with visitors so while we could see them they were hiding and we weren’t able to snag any great pictures of them either. No worries though, I told my husband that just means we’ll have to make another trip this Fall when it cools down a bit and see if they are feeling more social.
We also skipped the amphibians display because I’m absolutely terrified of frogs (silly, I know) and I had absolutely zero interest in putting myself in a confined space with dozens of them. The same went for the snakes although we did see the Komodo Dragon and he was huge! I had friends in school that had komodo dragons as pets and I have just always pictured them as slightly bigger than lizards. I was wrong, they are enormous. It’s worth going through the reptile exhibit just to see that bad boy!
If you’ve never been to Zoo Atlanta I encourage you to hop over to their site and plan your day now. I promise you’ll have a fabulous time. Oh, and if you want to save BIG on admission to Zoo Atlanta, I highly recommend checking out CityPASS. You’re able to land amazing admission pricing for Zoo Atlanta and other Atlanta attractions as a bundled deal which means more money in your pocket to check out some of Atlanta’s incredible local restaurants as well. 😉 See more about CityPASS here.
Thank you to Zoo Atlanta for providing my husband and me with complimentary guest passes.
What is your favorite animal at the zoo (you know mine is the giraffe)? Don’t forget to pin Zoo Atlanta to your travel boards!