Pride Lands Online
The Saint Louis Zoo
By Meerkat Markowitz

Located: Forest part in St. Louis, Missouri
Address: #1 Government Drive, St. Louis, MO 63110
Phone: 314.768.0900
Hours: 9:00 to 8:30 daily.
Entrance Fee: **FREE**
Parking: If you can find a place in Forest Park, free. If not, $4.00/day.

Even though it started raining at about 2:00 CST on the Sunday afternoon on October that I went, I had a blast. It's a great place to go on a date or just to DO something all afternoon. Food is relatively expensive, but all zoos are like that except for one catch: there is **no** entrance fee. Rated in the top 10 zoos in the nation along with the San Diego Zoo, the Cincinnati Zoo, and the Bronx Zoo, it is deserving of this honor.

First of all, the diversity of the wildlife is wonderful. It has everything from mongooses and meerkats to lions and cheetahs to okapis. It DOES take more than one trip to get through it, though, because of it's layout and the amount of animals it has. Many of the species there include: Cheetah, lion, leopard, jaguar and panther, puma, tiger, snow leopards seal, California sea lion, harbor seal, penguin (emperor and humboldt,) Asian elephant, snakes of all sort, alligator and crocodile, mongoose, tapir, prairie dog, hedgehog, spiders monkey, chimp, tamarin, gorilla, orangutan, lemur, oryx, babirusa, camel, giraffe, zebra, kudu, a red kangaroo, gazelle, takin, black rhino, African hippo, American river otter, red panda, black bear, grizzly, polar bear, sloth, spectacled bear, condor, eagle, bluebird, macaw, kookaburra, trumpeter swan, komodo dragon, meerkats, fennec fox, guinea pig, rabbit, marmoset, pig, and a wallaby. They are all a sight to see together, though.

The Layout of the Zoo

The layout isn't the best of any zoo, but it's too large to make it around in less then 6 hours unless you don't watch any of the animals for more than 10 seconds. There's 3 exits and 2 parking lots on the outside, but besides that, 3 lakes reside smack in the north part of the zoo. It really is hard to say in words, but the map speaks for itself, if you ever saw it. They're free all around the park. BUT, one thing that I will tell you about is how the groupings work. There are 17 places where the animals are kept:

1) The Antelope House: Light-on-their-HOOFS animals from giraffes to zebras.
2) Aquatic House: Fish and a couple of sharks along with the penguins.
3) Bear Pits: All of the bears listed.
4) Big Cat Country: Spacious yards with beautiful landscaping of trees, cliffs, and watering holes filled with the stealthiest predators on Earth!
5) Bird House: A walk-through dome with the sun shining down, only a thin wire separates you from the birds and their imitated habitats.
6) Cheetah Survival Center: 6 giant yards with trees, heated "dens," and rock mounds. Located right next to the Elephant House, this solitary mammals' habitat emphasis is breeding. More than 30 cubs have been born at the Zoo since 1974.
7) Children's Zoo: A small, beautiful room with 2 meerkats, lots of goats, a boa constrictor, a macaw, and other great animals -- Worth the 50 to get it. Being renovated starting November 3rd, 1996 and will be re-opened in the summer of 1997.
8) Elephant House: Elephants, a black rhino, and others, this is the typical house. Just like the one in Cincinnati.
9) 1904 Flight Cage: 10) Herpetarium: Lizards, snakes, frogs, salamanders, and a rare Komodo dragon!! Also the site of one of 7
white gators in the world!
11) Hoofed Mammals: 12) Jungle of the Apes: Only some fiberglass separates you from the endangered apes of the world! The monkeys are at the Primate House.
13) The Living World: The technological center of the zoo. Everything from aardvark- zebra on computer.
14) Primate House: Monkeys and ropes. A good combo!
15) Sea Lion Basic: Where you can see the Sea Lions fed at 10:30 AM, 12:30 AM, and 3:15 AM. A MUST see!
16) Small Mammal Pits: Red pandas, river otters, and prairie dogs. A sight to see!

Secrets of the Bayou

If you were going to the Herpitarium until 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM on any given day, you would find one of the greatest phenomenon's in the world: The White Alligator. It's true. Louis LeBlanc was found in a Louisiana Bayou and is on loan to the St. Louis Zoo until November 30, when he gets shipped back to the Audobon Zoo in Louisiana. The story behind finding Louis and his brothers is weird: (Re-printed from the hand-out in the middle of the map)

One August day in 1987 in a bayou near Houma, Louisiana, southwest of New Orleans, 3 Cajun fishermen discovered a nest of 18 white alligators and 7 normal-colored sibs. All were males about one of two weeks old. In September of that year, 6 individuals were taken to the Audobom Zoo in New Orleans. The rest are being raised by the Louisiana Land and Exploration Company which owns the property where the nest was found. These may be the only white alligators ever discovered. (Copyright © St. Louis Zoo.)

Louis isn't albino, though. He's what's called leucistic (LOO-sis-tic) which means no pigment in the skin, but there is pigment in their eyes, as they are a dark blue or black. Albinos lack the eye coloring. That's the only difference.

If Louis were out in the Bayou with his brothers, he wouldn't live long at all. They aren't protected by the normal black and yellow striping that helps a baby blend into the background. Another thing is that alligators hunt by floating near the top of the water and look like logs until some unsuspecting prey comes along and it'll chomp down. The white guy would have trouble looking inconspicuous. One other thing is that all gators bathe in the sun to heat themselves up, since they ARE cold-blooded. White alligators would sunburn easily. Actually, there is a picture of a sun-burnt leucistic by the exhibit. All of these things contribute to natural selection, which means "only the fit survive," so the white alligators would NOT be able to pass their genes on very easily in the wild, which is why he and his brothers have been taken out.

The exhibit itself is a great one. It is a LONG line usually, and to get in, you go through the herpitarium to a line that has formed. A big pit is in the middle full of crocs. Then, as you move throughout the line, to the left AND right of you are some really cool turtles, tortoises, snakes (like the 2 HUUUUUUUUUUUUUGE pythons), neat lizards (like the gecko), more snakes, and some other cool stuff. When you finally get to the end of the line, there's actually steps downstairs. A staff member there gives you an info guide and you head down the steps. At the end of the steps and a turn, there is a mock-up of an alligator nest. Next to that is a tank with an alligator snapping turtle in it. Now THAT is neat! Moving right along, you find an alligator and a crocodile. Then, there is a tank that holds nothing but mist and a Louisiana Bayou feel, so that you get the feeling of being there. Then, finally after about half an hour or so, you FINALLY get to meet Louis LeBlanc himself in all his glory. It's a REAL breath-taking experience.

The End of the Trip

After that, it started to rain so we headed for the food. The fries and the onion rings are excellent. After we finished dining, we went back home after a PERFECT day!

Copyright © Meerkat Markowitz ([email protected]).

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