I was lucky enough to have a guided tour of the Dickerson Park Zoo this week and would like to tell you about it. I went with WordsPerSWade who works with the Springfield Mo Convention & Visitors Bureau and we had a guided tour through the zoo with Melinda Arnold the Public Relations Manager for the zoo and her PR intern, Sheila Fish. It was a little overcast and kind of muggy day but I think it made it even better because I didn't have to worry about getting heat stroke... and it also facilitated the pictures taking. It was really nice having the opportunity to ride through also since as you probably know I am challenged when it comes to walking for very long distances.
The zoo is laid out in different geographic areas and we started in the South America part first. We were greeted by a very friendly male peacock that led us through to the first exhibit where we saw lots of birds and primates. We also got to see the Maned Wolf which was very cool. You are warned before you get there that they are quite smelly but I didn't really notice it too much. Although we didn't get to hear it they have quite a plaintive howl.
We then moved on through the Outdoor Amphitheater where there are some beautiful flowers for the butterfly garden. Next we went to the Outback Corral, the petting zoo where there were a bunch of very friendly hoofed creatures like donkey's, goats, and even a Scottish Highland Cow. They had some morsels for us to feed them which they crowded around to get.
From there we moved on to the Missouri Habitats area where they have Missouri native creatures on display. Some of them include Black Bear, Red Fox, Coyote, Bobcat, Gray Wolf, and Mountain Lion.The Mountain Lion has all but disappeared from Missouri however there has lately been a few reported sightings. The Bobcat was all but extinct by the 1930's due to hunting practices. However they have bounced back and now number in the 10's of thousands. The Black bear used to be abundant back in the early 1820's but are pretty scarce by the late 1800's. The Gray wolves originally ranged throughout Missouri, but had disappeared by 1900. I found a video of the Gray wolf howling. They really sound very haunting, and I don't think I would be too comfortable hearing that in the wild. I might worry that they were coming for me! Hear a howling wolf video link here
From there we moved on to the Tropical Asia area of the zoo. Where there are animals such as the Malayan Tiger, White-cheeked Gibbon and the Asian Elephants. An interesting fact about the Gibbons is that the male is always coarse black fur and black skin with white fur on their cheeks and pronounced crests of hair on the crowns of their heads and the female is a golden or reddish buff-colored with black faces and dark brown or black fur on top of their heads. These creatures are very vocal but usually only in the early morning, it was said that is a very raucous noise.
The elephant exhibit is particularly interesting to me, they at present have 3 adults ranging in age from around 35 years to 60 years old. Dickerson Park Zoo is recognized as a leader in the captive management and protection of Asian elephants. Over the years, the zoo has celebrated the births of six elephants here in Springfield. and three calves sired here and born at their home zoos. There are several good videos posted on the zoo's YouTube page of the elephants celebrating birthdays, having a bath and just having fun. Check them out over here
We then headed over to the Africa - Land of Thousands section of the zoo. There they have animals such as the Ostrich, Damara Zebra, Baringo Giraffe, Cheetah, Black and White Colobus, and the Lions. But on the way we got to see Henry the Hippopotamus. Henry is very cool indeed, he was lounging around in his pool just doing whatever hippos do. But he did wander over to the corner where he regularly gets fed looking for a treat. He also showed us where his latrine was and even demonstrated to us how it works, if you know what I mean... I was amazed how they spray their poo everywhere! There is a very cool viewing platform over his area that makes it really easy to watch his every move. They have posted a video of Henry eating a water melon here. He has a very big mouth for sure!
On the way to the Africa area we passed the Train station, they have an island that houses Brown Lemurs and tons of water birds and a train track that circles the lake. You can ride the Titus Express miniature train all around the lake for a small fee. We also passed the Bush Country Cafe' where you can rest your feet, watch the kids explore a play area and have drinks or a quick bite to eat.
The next place on our tour was the Giraffe viewing platform that has a booth you can buy crackers to feed them. We had one hungry giraffe looking for a treat so of course we had to feed him! They have the longest tongues I think I have ever seen. We fed him countless crackers while I took more pictures of the other giraffe in the paddock, they even have a new baby giraffe as of February 15th this year! I also found a really cool video of one being born 2 years ago at the zoo here They have a very long fall to the ground before they have even taken their first breath.
We left there and went to check out the Lion exhibit, there we got to see "Ade, the male lion sitting very majestically on his platform and another one at the end was kind of hiding from our view. It was brought to my attention that I had had very good luck up to this point with most of the animals posing so nicely for me while I captured their pictures. At least until this point. But we can't have everything we want can we. We did get to see one Cheetah because he was laying out in full view.
Not hiding from the camera was the strange looking Warthog, that is a very strange and mean looking animal for sure. I would hate to run into one of those in the wild. We also got to see the Black and White Colobus but they were still sleeping in there indoor quarters. I did get a shot of one of them through the glass though while he had his head tucked under his arm. They have a really striking coat of fur.
At this point in our tour I elected not to tour the Diversity of Life building because I was getting worn out, but I also had been through it before. . But they have some very interesting reptiles and amphibians from all around the world and if you haven't seen it, it's someplace you need to check out. I did however want to see the "dinosaur" of the zoo, the Aldabra tortoise. They can live up to 100 years old and the males may weigh 500 pounds or more. The zoo has 4 of them and they are quite striking with the dome-shaped shell and thick, scaly legs.. The my guide, Melinda even crossed the fence to take some up close pictures for me of one of them. I found a neat video of their parade out of their winter indoor quarters to the outside pen, I can't believe how slow they are. Check out the video here
The zoo also features a Bald Eagle named Phoenix, she is 20 years old this spring. She was found in the wild injured and nursed back to health but was unable to return. She goes to many educational venues to meet the public and hopefully be an ambassador to her kind. The zoo has a raptor rehabilitating program for injured birds with the ultimate goal of returning them to the wild.
Well that pretty much wraps up my trip to the zoo, other than the fact that I had to make some souvenir purchases in the gift shop where they had tons of interesting and affordable items to buy. If you ever get a chance to visit the Dickerson Park Zoo in Springfield, Missouri I suggest you do. For information about the zoo or education programs visit the Dickerson Park Zoo For more information about Springfield, Missouri, visit the Convention & Visitors Bureau