Wild Road
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Cameron Park Zoo bills itself as "The Happiest Surprise in Texas." That is so true, Not only for you the visitor but for the animals living there. Cameron Park Zoo is the direct opposite of that old time zoo with cramped cages and restless bored animals who paced back and forth in their tiny spaces. No indeed! At this zoo, the animals are the first consideration and that makes it a much more interesting place to visit. There is an enrichment program for all the animals.


Duane McGregor took us through the zoo on a recent press trip. Duane is the Marketing and Public Relations Manager at Cameron Park Zoo and it is obvious, she knows and loves the animals there like family. She introduced us to  Mukah, a 213-pound orangutan, who acts more like a person than a zoo animal. He came right over to join us at  the glass of his enclosure and watched as we talked. He seemed to be following the conversation. Actually he is known to "read" magazines and watch television. He shares his space with another orangutan pair, Mei and her mate, Kerajaan.

Mukah an orangutan climbs at Cameron Park Zoo in Waco, Texas
Mukah shows off his climbing skill for us.

 Johnny Binder, the curator, joined us and explained why Mukah is so acclimated to human behavior. "Mukah is what is known as a "hybrid"(a cross between two subspecies of orangutans, those originating in Borneo and those from the island of Sumatra). He was rescued from the pet industry by the Henry Vilis Zoo and had been brought up as a pet. Most great apes, if you look they in the eye they feel threatened but Muckah seems to dig it."

The zoo is accredited by AZA. They have included so many factors to make life better for these animals. The animals have an air conditioned enclosures and spend some time out for the public to see and sometime in the air conditioned area. All animals are brought in at night. They even have a ultrasound program to predict things like heart disease.  Mukah and some of the others are taught to cooperate while awake to get more accurate readings.

We visited the elephants, Tanya and  Tembo, and watched them obey commands. These elephants were taught to do things like sit kneel and other things by rewards not punishments. When the trainers came and rattled the treat cans, both elephants headed over like they knew they were going to get a treat. They have been allowed to paint by holding the brush in their trunks as part of their enrichment program. Johnny explained "We had an art show a few years ago where they animals painted some of the canvas then we had a local artist take over and make something out of it."

Trainer gives elephant a treat at Cameron Park Zoo in Waco, Texas
You can teel this elephant is not afraid of her trainer

Next we visited the big cats area and met Kucing, a large  male Sumatran tiger, and his mate, Maharani. Maharani was born at the National park Zoo in D. C. and transported her to Cameron Park Zoo to be Kucing's mate. Sumatran tigers number less than 300 in the wild.  Cameron Park Zoo takes part in the   Species Survival Plan, a breeding program to help perpetuate rare animals like these tigers. So far there have had five cubs from the pair. The first birth was of two cubs but Maharani rejected them and they had to be raised by the zoo keepers. They were later sent to the Fort Wayne Zoo in Indiana. She  was a better mother with the second liter of three. Johnny explained, "We only trade animals with other AZZ accredited zoos."

bhinds the scenes with Johnny Binder at tiger enclosure at Cameron Park Zoo in Waco, Texas at
Behind the scenes with Johnny Binder at tiger enclosure

Kaikane their male African lion, came from the Honolulu Zoo a few month ago. They also have two female lions, 16-year-old Shamfa and Sheeba, a bit older. They are planning a breeding program with the lions as, another animal close to extinction in the wild, are here at Cameron Park Zoo. Their newest lion is close to two years old now.  

Giraffes are another popular exhibit here. There is something fascinating about those long graceful necks. Johnny told us the giraffes also paint. They do so with their mouths using a non-toxic paint.

Giraffes at Cameron Park Zoo in Waco, Texas at
Giraffes graze peacfully

The bears are often now accompanied  by buzzards. Duane told us since the county did some work in the area recently, the buzzards have relocated to the zoo and they won't leave. Probably like all the attention and good treatment.

bear at Cameron Park Zoo
Notice the buzzard perched in front.

The Komodo Dragon is named Neoma. She was hatched in 2007 and will eventually reach a length of about 8 feet. She would do well visiting a spa since she likes to lie on her hearted rocks and then plunge into her pool.

Komodo dragon at Cameron Park Zoo in Waco, Texas at
Komodo dragons love sunbathing

The otters have a big area and there is a glass slide in it where children can slid dwon and experience the otters in their natural habitat, under water. The zoo has so much more such as an aquarium and reptile house but we only had limited time. I do want to return and explore more at my leisure.

Otter our of the water at Cameron Park Zoo in Waco, Texas at
So rare to see an otter out of the water

The zoo had been at this location since 1993.  Johnny said "When  we got the site, we only impacted areas that were impacted before. All of our walkways were public sidewalks. I hate to cut any trees down."

Conservation is more than a buzzword here. It is a way of life. Cameron Park Zoo  the kind of place you need to visit to understand how a zoo should be run. It may be small in size but it has a huge heart.


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