Visitors can come face to face with giants, and find out what it takes to care for some of the largest animals on earth at the Oregon Zoo’s new rhino and hippo encounter tours.
The tours — available Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 1:30 p.m. — begin in the zoo’s animal commissary, where participants see the variety of animal diets and treats. Visitors then go behind the scenes at the hippo/rhino barn and learn from an experienced keeper about how the zoo cares for these animals.
“You don’t fully grasp how large a rhinoceros is until you’re standing next to one,” said tour leader Dave Thomas. “And I don’t think you walk away from an experience like that without caring a little more deeply about these animals and their place in the world.”
The rhino/hippo encounters are the latest offerings in the zoo’s growing behind-the-scenes program, which launched last year with giraffe and penguin tours. All of these encounters are led by Thomas, a former animal keeper, who peppers his tours with anecdotes from his nearly 40 years at the zoo.
In the 1970s, Thomas’ pioneering work with the zoo’s chimpanzees helped forge a strong connection with renowned chimp expert and conservationist Jane Goodall, who visited the zoo in 1979. Other prominent guests have included soon-to-be President Jimmy Carter, who met Thomas and the zoo chimps during a 1976 campaign stop.
To register, or for more information, visit www.oregonzoo.org/discover/behind-scenes-tours.
The zoo is a service of Metro and is dedicated to its mission of inspiring the community to create a better future for wildlife. Committed to conservation, the zoo is currently working to save endangered California condors, Oregon silverspot and Taylor’s checkerspot butterflies, western pond turtles and Oregon spotted frogs. Other projects include studies on Asian elephants, polar bears, orangutans and giant pandas. The zoo relies in part on donations through the Oregon Zoo Foundation to undertake these and many other animal welfare, education and sustainability programs.
The zoo opens at 10 a.m. daily and is located five minutes from downtown Portland, just off Highway 26. The zoo is also accessible by MAX light rail line. Visitors who travel to the zoo via MAX receive $1.50 off zoo admission. Call TriMet Customer Service, 503-238-RIDE (7433), or visit www.trimet.orgfor fare and route information.
General zoo admission is $11.50 (ages 12-64), $10 for seniors (65 and up), $8.50 for children (ages 3-11) and free for those 2 and younger. Additional information is available at www.oregonzoo.org or by calling 503-226-1561.