St. Louis Zoo


Despite what PETA says, I still enjoy zoos (and oceanariums, like the Manila Ocean Park). They are the perfect place to see wild and exotic animals that we don't usually encounter, short of going to the jungle or an African savanna and seeking them out ourselves.


The St. Louis Zoological Park is one of the zoos that I visited recently. The zoo is located in Forest Park, which was the venue of the 1904 World's Fair and the 1904 Summer Olympics. The flight cage built during the fair - which showcases different birds and the largest at that time - was purchased by the city, and eventually expanded into a zoo.

The giant squid in the visitor center
The zoo is huge, with 18,000 animals dwelling in its ninety hectares of area. It is divided into five zones, namely: Discovery Corner,  Lakeside Crossing, River's Edge, The Wild, Historic Hill, and Red Rocks.

Discovery Corner is for children. It has a children's zoo, with some animals that can be petted by kids, such as bunnies and goats. It also has an insectarium and a butterfly garden, ironically sponsored by the Monsanto Corporation. 

Penguins

Lakeside Crossing main attraction is the Caribbean cove, which features a touch-pool with rays, sharks and horseshoe crabs. The welcome desk and the souvenir shops are also in this area.

Grizzly bears

River's Edge's exhibits are grouped into four groups: animals from the African savannas, which include rhinos and ibises. The most interesting animal I saw was the hyena, in the African Nile exhibit. While looking at them lounging in a hole, I kept on picturing them mauling Simba and Rafiki to pieces. Weird.

Asian elephants make up the Asia exhibit, while an aquarium featuring river fishes round up the North American exhibit.

Western Lowland Gorilla


Things get more interesting in The Wild exhibits, and I particularly enjoyed this area. I saw a couple of grizzly bear in the Bear Bluffs, which are modeled to look like a limestone bluff. The Fragile Forest exhibit on the other hand, has chimpanzee, gorillas and orangutans. During the winter the apes are moved into the Jungle of the Apes exhibit, which is indoors.

The next one is what I liked best - the Penguin and Puffin Coast - which has a pool and a 22-foot waterfall, and rocky outcroppings that have nests in them. 



Enclosed by a glass wall, the pool in the exhibit is constantly refrigerated. Even it was spring when I visited I could still feel the chill inside. The pools are separated by  walk-through tunnel, but the birds can swim from one side to the other. Two species of puffins are in the exhibit, tufted and horned puffins, as well as four species of penguins: Humboldt, gentoo, rockhopper and King penguins. Braces of eider ducks floating in the tidal pools complete the exhibit. 

A sleeping hyena


Next to the penguins and puffins my next favorite exhibit is the Red Rocks exhibit, which is composed of Big Cat Country and Antelope House. Representing the first group are snow leopards (first picture on top), tigers, jaguars and lions. Hoofed animals are in the second group, including camels, wild asses, gazelles, and okapis. 

Aside from the bird house, which houses a multitude of macaws, owls and eagles, the Historic Hill exhibits also has a herpetarium, with countless snakes and turtles.



How to Get There:
The zoo is in Forest Park, St. Louis, which is also the location for the St. Louis Art Museum, the Missouri History Museum, and the Science Center. It is accessible using the Metrolink by getting off the Forest Park station. 

Useful Info:
Admission to the zoo is free except for certain attractions, such as the Children's Zoo and the Caribbean Cove. There are several kiosks around the park selling food. I tried my first funnel cake from one of the kiosks there. 

There's also the Zooline Railroad, with rideable 1/3-scale C.P. Huntington trains running on tracks around the zoo.

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