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 shows off his climbing
skill for us.
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
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."
|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."
|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 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
|Notice the buzzard perched in
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 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
|So rare to see an otter out of
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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