I grew up in a suburb of Chicago for the several years, going to the Brookfield Zoo many times a year. It was a short drive and the best time to go was the winter. The indoor exhibits were closed but the outdoor animals were having the time of their lives.
Lions and tiger and bears having fun. During the hot months of the summer would see them lazing in the shade, but during the winter they would be romping around and playing with each other. We would go, admission during the winter was free, and watch the animals outside and even got to watch then get fed by the keepers.
One visit we talked for awhile with one of the keepers for the bears and they told us we could bring things to feed them as long as they saw what we had brought and they approved. They told us what things to get and we went home with a shopping list for the bears. The next couple of years we would bring bags of apples and carrots and such and help feed the bears.
We moved when I started junior high school and that ended the great visits to the small and personable zoo. Years later I have been back to the zoo, it is huge. They have at least four times the exhibits and use six or seven times the area that they had almost thirty years ago.
That is what the Red River Zoo reminds me so much of. That small zoo that today is struggling to find funding and stay open, but in a few years with some luck will be a large metropolitan zoo that others in the country envy and try to get help from.
They are a small zoo but have some unique and different exhibits that are certain to earn a good reputation in the zoological community. They have many animals that are used to and like the North Dakota climate and have strived to get ones that are unique and different.
No lions and tigers and bears here. Oh, they have one bear but many would not recognize it. They have a red panda bear that is their trademark and mascot. The red panda is a member of the other better known panda or giant panda. You’ve all heard the problems with mating and the endangered status of the giant panda, well the red panda suffers the same fate.
From the same areas of the world and exclusively eating bamboo, the red panda, or also known as the lesser panda, is a major attraction to the Red River Zoo. Looking more like a raccoon with red colored fur, he has a medium sized enclosure where he hides in a log and contentedly munches on bamboo. During the year the care takers come in and feed the animals on certain days and times so you can watch. They love to be able to talk and show off the animals and share the joy of the natural world with visitors.
A favorite of this feeding time is the small indoor house that has many species of reptiles and amphibians. Watching the large Boa’s and other snakes gulp down mice and rats is fun, but the one favored by most is the alligator. He is in a large tank and the keeper takes a long forceps holding a rat to temp it with. The alligator does not need much enticing though, he usually jumps quickly to grab the rat for his meal and quickly gobbles it down.
Others there are fed and people gather in awe as they see the varied animals eat and act up as you cannot usually see in a lot of zoos. This is one of the things that makes this zoo unusual to me. They are not only taking care of the animals but educating the public about them at the same time.
That seems to be a stable at the Red River Zoo, education and entertainment. They have various functions throughout the year, during the summer they have Zooniversity summer day camps, a Furball fundraiser, and holiday events that all include educational displays and activities.
The zoo has, like so many other parks and zoos, special days where you can get discounts and free entries such as Military appreciation, mothers and fathers day. They also have a carousel pavilion where you can rent the pavilion for an extra special party or event.
The birthday party rental includes unlimited rides on the carousel, Zoo birthday cake and punch, personal visits from zoo animals and admission to the zoo. You have to book ahead but the rental of the pavilion for your party, corporate event or reunion includes unlimited rides on the carousel for the event or party goers.
And the carousel, a real carousel that was donated by the Diederich family, restored and is now in the pavilion for regular rides. It is a favorite of kids at the zoo.
The Furball is an annual event that is sponsored by many local business’. They have a ball, catered by excellent local restaurants, a silent and regular auction, and you get to visit with the animals and tour the park during the evening. This is their major fundraising event and is a local hit for the year.
The zoo has a couple of programs for sponsorship of it’s more than 300 animals of 75 species. There are both corporate and individual sponsorships available. You get to sponsor an animal and help feed, care for the health and well being and get a sponsorship package for that particular animal. You also get an invitation to members only events for the sponsors of the zoo animals.
You can also become a member of the R4ed River Zoological Society. Membership includes free admission to the zoo for the year, reciprocity to over 80 zoos in the country and discounts and invitations to special events. Along with the usual newsletters and discounts at the zoo shop. I had to ask what reciprocity at other zoos meant, there are discounts and such available at other zoos for people that belong to the zoological society.
The Red River zoo is a world renown zoo, they belong to a great group of zoos not only in this country but across the world and together are responsible for the future of the many endangered and unique animals. They have to have a good reputation and have more than adequate facilities, care and management in order to receive the animals from other countries such as China and Africa.
There is also an internship program to help young people find out about the great careers available in zoological parks. Animal keepers have the opportunity to learn about the animals and the care and maintenance required and get to work with the animals and learn about this type of career.
Educators also learn about the animals but are more concerned with passing that knowledge along to the public at events as well as the regular days at the zoo, informing the public about the animals and answering questions.
The zoo is open from May to Labor every day during the day from 10 AM to 8 PM. After Labor Day the zoo is open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 10 AM to 5 PM. For winter hours you need to find out what days they are open by calling. They also have a web site that you can find out more information and special events throughout the year.
The Red River Zoo is located at
4220 21st Ave SW
Fargo, North Dakota
Web site: http://www.redriverzoo.org/
The Red River Zoo is a great place to learn about animals and especially about species that are more at home in the climate of the Red River Valley. They have animals from around the world that are more at home and more comfortable in our northern climate and conditions here.
Kids will especially love to be able to feed the meerkats meal worms, watch all the animals in the reptiles entrance house being fed and receive all kinds of fascinating information about the animals at the zoo. The Red River Zoo is a must see attraction in North Dakota whether your visiting or a resident of the area.