Lions, tigers and bears—oh, my! The Oregon Zoo has always been one of Portland’s most popular family attractions, and it’s only getting better! With five major collections housing 232 species of animals in 23 specially designed habitats, visitors can get up close to birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish and insects from all around the world.
Zoo officials have been busy upgrading their 62-acre layout to create the best experience for guests and animals alike, and this is just a few introductions to the animal kingdom that you’ll find inside the Oregon Zoo.
The most ambitious improvement at the zoo is the new Elephant Lands that was just completed in 2015. This habitat stretches six acres and includes hillsides, mud walls and huge swimming pools as well as enough room and choices to keep the pachyderms happy and engaged with their environment. The paddock wraps around the east side of the zoo towards the amphitheater, where the elephants sometimes get into the act by dancing to the music coming from the stage.
The zoo’s newest resident, a 10-month-old bear cub named Nora, will be introduced to the public later this month in the Pacific Shores habitat. She’ll be joining longtime resident, Tasul, and already they have a great deal in common. Both bears have provided great contributions to the protection of their species through research conducted at our zoo and at the Columbus Zoo where Nora was born. You can learn more about our baby Nora bear on the zoo’s website, including a super cute video. .
One of my favorite spots in the zoo is the Africa habitat. There are great views of some of the continent’s most famous animals, as well as some less notable ones.
The zoo has gone to great lengths to offer their animals safe environments with enough space and plenty of the same features they would find in their natural setting.
The mornings and evenings are great times to see the animals at their most active, like this hippopotamus we caught going for a swim. It was amazing to see him transform from a lumbering land animal into a graceful swimmer!
There’s always something interesting to see inside the Primate Forest. The Red Ape Reserve houses four endangered orangutans, including North America’s oldest Inji and a family of white-cheeked gibbons.
Soon the zoo’s chimpanzee family and the colorful mandrills will be moving to a larger exhibit with a complex of indoor and outdoor habitats with woodland, savanna, and canopy areas to explore.
Native animals living mostly unseen just outside our doors are found in the zoo’s Great Northwest parks. A meandering trail takes you past cougars, beavers, eagles, black bears, California condors and many of our other famous Pacific Northwest residents, all from the safety of platforms and bridges on the Cascade Crest.
There are several educational displays along the way that offer tips on how we can be citizen conservationists and help preserve these animals’ home environments when we’re out on our next adventure in the forests, rivers, and mountains of the Pacific Northwest. The only thing missing is Sasquatch!
There are many great opportunities to get up close and personal with the animals of the Oregon Zoo. Camps, daily live shows, and the petting zoo at the Trillium Family Farm are just a few, and soon there will be even more at their new education center. (To be completed in 2017.)
Throughout the year the zoo hosts special events, including their popular ZooLights during the holidays and musical acts like Joe Walsh, Ziggy Marley and “Weird Al” Yankovic during the summer months. Whatever time of year you choose to visit the Oregon Zoo you’ll find this animal kingdom full of fun and discovery.
Things to know before you go:
Gates are open from 9:30pm to 4pm, and parking is available but very limited so it’s best to arrive early. There are three cafes and several food carts located throughout the zoo, or you can pack your own lunch and enjoy a quiet moment at one of their many beautiful picnic spots.