by Krista Martinelli
Do the Zoo!
The Palm Beach Zoo has come a long way since its inception in 1958 with some of its greatest features added in the last ten years, including the carousel, the fountain at the entrance and the Tropics Café. In addition to making the zoo more enticing and accommodating to families, the staff of the Palm Beach Zoo are constantly adding to their educational programs. There’s always something new at the zoo! Most recently the Palm Beach Zoo has been proud to become the temporary home of a Komodo Dragon, one of the world’s most dangerous animals, on loan for one year. The zoo has been fortunate in having five jaguar cubs born (to the same parents), including most recently Maya, born October 28th of 2008.
You might be surprised to find out that the Palm Beach Zoo is the second-largest educator of children in Palm Beach County, only second to the Palm Beach County School system. This is calculated, according to Palm Beach Zoo Marketing Specialist Claudia Harden, based on the numbers of children who take part in their programs.
In fact, Summer Camp at the Zoo is just getting underway. Several exciting one-week Zoo Camp programs will take place for children (aged 5 to 10) and Junior Zoo Keepers programs for children (aged 11 to 14), beginning June 8th. Each week has a unique wild life theme like “Rumble in the Jungle” or “Art Safari.” Participants enjoy animal encounters, animal exhibit visits, crafts, games, interactive fountain time and more! Visit www.palmbeachzoo.org or call (561) 533-0887, ext. 229 for more summer camp information.
The importance of educating people about the animals, according to Harden, ties into protecting these animals. “You can get up close to animals you would never get to see in the wild. The more you learn, the more you ultimately want to protect these animals.” Most challenging, in the zoo, business is just the day-to-day caring for animals. The Palm Beach Zoo now holds over 1700 animals. With 33 staff members in the animals department, the zoo keepers do an excellent job of juggling their tasks and keeping up with each animal’s needs.
Keeping the climates and homes of their animals in mind, the zoo features only those animals indigenous to North and South America, Asia and Australia. No African animals, for example. The goal is to mimic the climate of the animals’ places of origin as closely as possible. The Palm Beach Zoo spans 23 acres and hosts many interesting animals, including tigers, lemurs, siamings (apes whose call can be heard up to three miles away) and many varieties of birds, including the beautiful peacocks who stroll about freely throughout the zoo. In addition to animal life, there’s quite an impressive botanical collection at the zoo. Some of the banyan and ficus trees have existed since the days of founder Paul Dreher. In addition to being a zoo, the staff aims to achieve the status of “botanical garden” in the future too.
The carousel rides costs two dollars (a donation to the animals), which goes toward animal upkeep. The Palm Beach Zoo’s carousel is a very popular attraction, especially among young children and gives them the opportunity to ride several of their favorite animals (in addition to the traditional horses).
- The Red Ruffed Lemur is often up to mischeif!
Many local families have discovered the secret to year-round fun, the fact that a zoo pass for a family of four pays for itself with just two visits to the zoo. It’s a “best kept secret” among parents with young children! In addition to unlimited time at the Palm Beach Zoo, the membership (for $85) includes a combination of free admission and discounted admission to 130 other zoos, aquariums and museums throughout the country. It also includes 10% off concessions and gift shop purchases.
The zoo puts on birthday parties for groups of 20 to 65 guests. An enjoyable day can be arranged including lunch in the Tropics Café and private animal encounters. For more birthday party information, call the Tropics Café office at (561) 533-0887, ext. 274. The Palm Beach Zoo is unique in having a talented husband and wife team heading up two key components. Keith Lovett is Director of Living Collections (which includes “everything living” at the zoo) and Gwen Lovett is the Curator of Animal Programs. CEO Dr. Terry Maple brings his expertise on the subjects of animals and education into the zoo programs.
A fun tip for parents. If your child enjoys maps as much as our three-year-old does, go to the Palm Beach Zoo’s website ahead of time and you can print the map of the zoo. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can let your children plan out your route of the day, according to which animals they want to be sure to see.
- The Palm Beach Zoo is open 363 days a year (364 on leap years!),
closing only for Christmas & Thanksgiving
- Hours are from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.
The Palm Beach Zoo
1301 Summit Boulevard
West Palm Beach, FL 33405