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Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!

Tiffany Florian • Jun 24, 2016 at 9:52 PM

 If you are looking to engage in an unforgettable wild life experience, take a trip to Bright’s Zoo and Zoo Knoxville.

Both zoos serve to entertain and educate the public, while they preserve wildlife and prevent extinction. 

In the late 70’s the Bright family started a race farm, little did they know their horse farm would evolve into something much bigger. 

“It started in the 90’s, Dad bought mom a zebra for their anniversary,” said Bright’s Zoo Director David Bright. ”And our zoo just kicked off from there. They bought more and more zoo animals and less horses. Pretty soon we had all these zoo animals and no more horses.”  

With a growing menagerie, the family decided to open up their zoo to the public. 

Brights zoo has been open to the public for nine seasons and it is is located just seven miles past Jonesborough in Limestone.

At the zoo, visitors will see a diverse assortment of birds, mammals and reptiles. Guests can view animals as small as a lorikeet and as large as a giraffe, as was as such exotic animals as zebras, porcupines, tortoises and monkeys. 

The zoo is home to many endangered species as well, including the bactrian camel, eastern bongo, grevy's zebra and white-bellied spider monkey. 

“About 75 percent of the animals here are on the endangered species list, “ said Bright. “With successful breeding programs, many can be rereleased to the wild.” 

Bright’s Zoo is helping several animals get off the endangered species list, including the scimitar-horned oryx. The scimitar-horned oryx was  labeled as extinct in the wild, but Bright’s zoo was able to help breed the animal and partner with other zoos to release 1,000 of them back to their home in Egypt. 

“We want to get as many animals as possible off of the endangered species list,” said Bright. 

 But, not all the animals can be returned to their home land safely.

Bright mentioned the danger a cape vulture faces if it returns to it’s native land in Southern Africa. Some, in Africa believe the cape vulture can foresee the future and predict death. Because of that belief, many in southern Africa want to kill the vulture, leaving the cape vulture with a vulnerable conservation status.The cape vulture at Bright’s zoo was rescued from Africa, and Bright says the vulture can not be released to its home, because of that danger. 

Bright said it is vital people get involved to prevent extinction, but he also says educating others is the first step. 

“If we stay on the trend we are on now, in 20 or 30 years we won’t have any wildlife to save,” said Bright. “It’s important to educate future generations, so they can take care of them.”

Brights Zoo often hosts educational field trips for students interested in learning about different animals species. 

But you don’t have to be a student to learn. Keeper Talks is an educational conversation at Brights Zoo where zoo keepers teach others about a specific animal and answer questions. 

Visitors can do more than just look at animals, they can interact with them. 

Lorikeet Landing, a large closure space filled with three kinds of lorikeets allows visitors to get a close up look at bird life. Visitors can enter the closure while rainbow like birds fly freely around the space and eat bird food from their hands. 

At Brights Zoo, visitors have the opportunity to feed the tallest animal in the world; the reticulated giraffe. They can stand on a platform, as giraffes gently eat fresh carrots from the palm of their hand.

The general admissions fee for Adults (18-54) is $19.95, but the zoo offers discounted ticket prices for children, students, seniors, veterans and active military. An additional $2 fee is charged for guest who would like to feed the animals. 

As a privately owned zoo, Bright’s Zoo does not receive any state or federal funding. Therefore all admission proceeds go to the care and upkeep of the zoo.

“Visiting the zoo is a great opportunity to spend time with your family,” said Bright. “You can get up to close to real animals and feed them. Plus every dime that we make stays inside the zoo and serves to take care of the animals and their exhibits. ” 

But Brights Zoo is not the only zoo playing a role in attraction, education and preventing extinction. 

Zoo Knoxville is a wildly fun experience committed to being “part of the solution to save species from extinction.” Guests can view 800 animals and a variety of habitats including: Central American Birds, Gorilla Valley and Graslands Africa.

The zoo features animals from around the world, such as the African elephant, the North American Black Bear and the Malayan Tiger. 

“We want to keep a healthy genetic population,” said Zoo Knoxville Director of Communications Tina Rolen.

A critically endangered red wolf was born at Zoo Knoxville on April 30. Zoo staff and community member celebrated this pup as it was the first red wolf pup to be born at the zoo in 23 years. Red wolves are labeled as one of the world's most endangered animals in the world with less than 300 alive today. 

“ When you think of conservation, people often think of  just releasing them back into the wild, but we are that hedge against extinction,” said Rolen.

As a hedge of protection, the zoo has also been breeding red pandas.  

 Red Pandas are in grave danger of becoming extinct, but since the 70’s Knoxville Zoo has fostered the birth of 110 red panda cubs. Today, Knoxville Zoo is the top zoo in the world for breeding red pandas and is known as the Red Panda Capital of the World.

Visitors travel from all around the Globe to visit these endangered species, while zookeepers travel around the world to study the native habitat of these animals

Zoo Keeper, Sydney Kessler recently returned from Malaysia to study the Malayan Tiger. Kessler learned about tiger conservation research as she studied the native habitat of the tiger. Malayan Tigers are an endangered species and it is estimated 300 of them are alive in the wild today. 

Zookeepers like Kessler study the natural habitat of the animals at the zoo, to ensure the exhibits feel like home. 

“We don’t want bored animals here. So we have 24 hour stimulation,” Rolen said. 

If an animal has to reach up for their food in the wild, zookeepers will attach the animal’s food to an object high up, so the animal has to reach for it. 

Zoo Knoxville animals can swing, jump or play in a safe habitat that feels like home. 

Visitors can interact with the animals in a variety of different ways. Zoo attendees can stand on a platform and feed the giraffes, or they can sit on the back of a camel for a one of a kind camel ride. 

Last Wednesday, Zoo Knoxville celebrated National Camel Day by walking their camels around the zoo. Visitors later fed the camels animal crackers and the camels gave out camel kisses. 

There is something for everyone at Zoo Knoxville. 

Kids can cool down at Clayton Safari Splash, a safari themed play area for all ages or they can visit and indoor playing area  to engage in creative play and see the largest lizard on Earth: the Komodo dragon. 

Tickets are $19.95 for adults and  $16.95 for seniors and children (2-12). For an additional $5 visitors can ride on a camel or feed a giraffe. 

Twenty- five cents from each ticket sold will go to conservation programs around the world

Zoo Knoxville is an attraction for the whole family that entertains visitors and serves to prevent the extinction of endangered species.  





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