Out and About: spend a day at the Miller Park Zoo

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Emily Considine

 

No need to spend a large amount of money on travel expenses to go see zoo animals—Bloomington, Ill. has them right in town! Miller Park Zoo offers many exhibits and Zookeeper interaction opportunities that people of all ages can enjoy.

Some of the animals include: sun bears, reindeer, the Sumatran tiger, harbor seals, river otters, red pandas, lemurs, the Galapagos tortoise, bald eagles, the Pallas’ cat, snow leopards, gibbons and red wolves.

“I went to the zoo thinking that there wouldn’t be much, seeing as Bloomington isn’t as big of a place as Chicago, but I was pleasantly surprised with the amount of animals they had to offer,” said Bloomington resident Stephanie Buhrow.

The Zoo features many large indoor and outdoor exhibits such as a the Tropical America Rainforest, ZooLab, Katthoefer Animal Building, Wallaby WalkAbout, Children’s Zoo and Animals of Asia. The Wallaby WalkAbout allows visitors to walk on a path through the Wallaby Exhibit, with the potential of a wallaby coming right up to the path.

“The wallabies are pretty shy and usually stay at a safe distance, but knowing that they could easily hop right up to you is pretty cool. It makes the exhibit more exciting and interesting!” said Normal resident Kelsey Turcyzn.

Some of the larger animals, such as the snow leopards and Sumatran tiger, live in exhibits that allows them to go both outside and inside. If it is a rainy day, don’t worry— visitors can still see nearly everything the zoo has to offer.

If you really want to see the animals in action, feeding schedules are available so you can plan your visit accordingly. The harbor seals and river otters are fed at 10:30 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. The tiger, leopard, gibbons and bears are fed at 4:00 p.m. If you want to spend an extra $2.75, you can watch the budgie bird feeding at 11:00 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.

“I was able to watch the river otters being fed on my visit to Miller Park Zoo. It really allows you to see how these otters may catch and eat their prey in the wild, not to mention it was adorable,” said Normal resident Megan Klinefelter.

Want to personally help one of the zoo animals? Miller Park Zoo offers an animal adoption program, called Zoodoption. The Zoodoption program helps to support the animal collection at the Zoo. Donations made through the Zoodoption program are used to help provide food and care for our animals. Each animal at the Zoo can be Zoodopted by more than one person or family. Zoodoptions can also be made as a gift for another person with his or her name on the certificate. The certificate is good for one year from the date of the Zoodoption.

There are three levels of Zoodoption: 1) Zookeeper: This level entitles you to Zoodopt any animal of your choice. You will receive a certificate of Zoodoption, a fact sheet about the animal and a Zoo magnet. This level costs $25.00. 2) Curator: This level also entitles you to Zoodopt any animal of your choice. You will receive a certificate of Zoodoption, a fact sheet about the animal, a Zoo magnet and recognition on the zoo’s website for six months. This level costs $50.00 3) Director: This level entitles you to zoodopt again any animal of your choice.  You will receive a certificate of Zoodoption, a fact sheet about the animal, a Zoo magnet, recognition on the zoo’s website for twelve months and a small, handcrafted porcelain figurine of the animal you Zoodopted. (If your animal is not available, a Snow Leopard will be substituted). This level costs $100.00.

“I participated in the zookeeper level of Zoodoption last year for one of the monkeys. It made me feel like I was really doing something special for the monkey and the zoo in general. Those animals are important and it was certainly money well spent,” said Bloomington resident Megan Winkler.

The animal collection at the Zoo is constantly changing. If a situation occurs in which the animal you have Zoodopted leaves the Zoo before your Zoodoption year is over, Miller Park Zoo will, at your request, substitute a different animal for the balance of the year.

Some of the zoo’s new attractions include the birth of three North American River baby otters, which were born at the facility to the proud parents of Tallulah and Ozzie on Feb. 26, 2014.

A rare breed of goat at Miller Park Zoo is the latest animal to give birth at the facility. Valencia, one of the zoo’s San Clemente Island goats, gave birth to twin female kids named Cutie and Sunkist on Mar. 23, 2014.

Miller Park Zoo admission prices are $4.25 for youth (12 and under), $6.25 for adults and $4.25 for seniors. Parking is free! Getting to Miller Park Zoo is an easy drive. Going south on Veteran’s Parkway, take the Main Street exit and turn right onto Main Street.  Turn left onto Wood Street.  Remain on Wood Street for several blocks.  Miller Park will be on the left. Miller Park Zoo is located in Miller Park.

Interested in volunteering at the zoo? Adult volunteers assist in many areas of the zoo, including guest services, animal care and special events. Applicants must be 18 years of age and fill out the online or paper application available at the zoo’s gift shop.