Years ago, the Jacksonville Zoo was rather lackluster. Most animals were confined to cages and little of their natural habitat was evident. Sunday afternoon after a 15 year gap, we decided to go to the zoo. We heard that it had been revamped, but we weren't expecting much.
We were very happily surprised. The zoo is now divided into animal habitats: Australia, South America, Africa, Wild Florida, Great Apes, Stingray Bay, and my personal favorite, Butterfly Hollow. The name is currently Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, and there are several garden areas with paths and lovely landscaping, usually with a water feature: Asian Bamboo Gardens, Savanna Blooms Garden, Pollinator Garden are the main ones.
Each habitat has been created to look like the natural environment of the animals housed there. For example, in the Wild Florida habitat (the one whose authenticity I can judge best) water, little bridges, fern, native Florida plants all blend into a real Florida look. This area also has the Reptile House and alligators, Florida panthers, red wolves, bald eagles, and an enormous black bear.
The usual zoo animals were in their habitats. Elephants, zebras, giraffes were in Africa and Australia had wallabies and kangaroos, enormously huge and very strong looking. This area also has an aviary with amazing colored birds flying freely in a huge fenced area.
Exotic animals are present in their habitats as well, komodo dragons, warthogs, and bongos.
Butterfly Hollow is an area bigger than a circus tent enclosed with see-through mesh netting. It is landscaped with a rock filled stream and all the flowers and plants preferred by butterflies. I've read about a new trend which is utilized in the area, landscaping with "fairy houses" surrounded by tiny trees and plants The tiny houses and their environments sit under random palmettos and other plants. Classical music plays very softly from hidden speakers. The total impression is delightful. For me, the area was extremely relaxing.
I highly recommend a trip to the zoo closest to you. We were probably the oldest people there. Mostly young families and lots of children were visiting. Still, we did it all, rode the little train that travels the perimeter of the zoo; watched the stingrays circle their pool; laughed at the monkeys. It was a delightful afternoon.
I took many photos at the zoo, of course, and a few follow:
The Bongo with his curved horns and unusual markings is in
the Africa habitat.
The tallest giraffe in the African habitat nibbles on
the bottom fronds of a palm tree while his friend
This is one large kangaroo rolling in the sand. Note his huge feet.
A shy kangaroo stayed far away from the viewing fence.
Here's a tiny fairy house under a palmetto in Butterfly Hollow.
The doors to these little houses are always open.
Big cat resting in the weeds. The zoo has many big cats:
jaguars, leopards, panthers, cheetas
Huge black bear in the Wild Florida area. The fence ruined my
photo, but I'm glad it was there.