The Smithsonian National Zoological Park, commonly known as the National Zoo, is one of the oldest zoos in the United States, and as part of the Smithsonian Institution, does not charge admission. Founded in 1889, its mission is to provide leadership in animal care, science, education, sustainability, and visitor experience. The National Zoo has two campuses. The first is a 163-acre urban park located in northwest Washington, D.C. that is 20 minutes from the National Mall by Metro. The other campus is the 3,200-acre Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Virginia. SCBI is a non-public facility devoted to training wildlife professionals in conservation biology and to propagating rare species through natural means and assisted reproduction. The National Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). Altogether, the two facilities contain 2,000 animals of 400 different species. About one-fifth of them are endangered or threatened. Most species are on exhibit at the Zoo's Rock Creek Park campus. Its best known residents are its giant pandas, but the Zoo is also home to birds, great apes, big cats, Asian elephants, insects, amphibians, reptiles, aquatic animals, small mammals and many more. The SCBI facility houses between 30 and 40 endangered species at any given time depending on research needs and recommendations from the Zoo and the conservation community. The National Zoo, as part of the Smithsonian Institution, receives federal appropriations for operating expenses. A new master plan introduced for the park in 2008 designs to upgrade the park's exhibits and layout. EXHIBITS
Amazonia: Amazonia, the largest and most complex exhibit ever built at the National Zoo, opened to the public in 1992. The 15,000-square-foot rainforest habitat of the exhibit includes a cascading tropical river and a 55,000-gallon aquarium for the display of Amazon River fish. Within Amazonia’s dome, visitors find a living tropical forest with more than 350 species of plants, including 50-foot-tall trees, tropical vines, and epiphytes. This habitat is also home to dozens of species of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and insects typical of the Amazon Basin, all moving throughout the exhibit. Smooth-sided toads and silver-beaked tanagers breed freely, Titi monkeys jump from branch to branch, a Linnaeus's two-toed sloth hides behind large leaves, White-bellied hummingbirds zip, also look for Giant anteaters and Andean bears.
Beaver Cove: The National Zoo is building a wonderful new exhibit for its seals and sea lions. Not only are we creating a better home for our marine mammals but we're also creating a multi-sensory experience with great animal viewing opportunities for visitors. The new exhibit will open by 2012. See species like the American beaver, Bald eagles, Brown pelicans, California Sea lions, Gray seals, Mexican wolves, and North American River otters.
Cheetah Conservation Center: The National Zoo participates in the Species Survival Plan for cheetahs. In November 2004, Tumai gave birth to four cubs, the first litter of cheetahs ever born at the Zoo. In April 2005, Zazi gave birth to a litter of five cubs. All cubs have left for other zoos. In April 2007, three young males came to the Zoo to breed. There is also Grevy's Zebras, Dama gazelles, Scimitar-horned oryx, Maned wolves, and Tammar wallabies in this area.
Giant Panda Habitat: Giant pandas Mei Xiang and Tian Tian are at the National Zoo under a Giant Panda Cooperative Research and Breeding Agreement, signed in January 2011, between the Zoo and the China Wildlife Conservation Association. This extends the Zoo’s Giant panda program through 2015. Mei and Tian are the focus of an ambitious research, conservation, and breeding program designed to preserve this endangered species.
Great Ape House: The Great Ape House is home to western lowland gorillas and Sumatran orangutans. At just over two years of age, Kibibi weighs about 25 pounds. The Zoo's youngest western lowland gorilla continues to become more adventurous and grow more independent of her mother, Mandara. Only when she is nervous does she stay close to mom, or ride on Mandara’s back. Kibibi enjoys spending time with and rides on the back of her older sister Kigali or her older brother Kojo.
Invertebrate Exhibit: The Zoo recently welcomed several new additions to the Invertebrate Exhibit. Giant clams recently made their debut in the coral tank. They can grow up to nine inches. They are hunted for their meat and shells, collected for the pet trade, and threatened by the increasing destruction of their coral-reef habitats. See the Giant Pacific octopus, Blue Crabs, Giant clams, and so much more. Lemur Island: Look for Ring-tailed and Red-fronted lemurs in pagodas and in the grass.
Small Mammal House: Golden lion tamarins, Prairie dogs, Naked mole-rats, Prehensile-tailed Porcupines, Three-banded Armadillos, Linnaeus's two-toed sloths, Meerkats and many other small mammals can be seen here. Golden Lion Tamarins, Geoffroy's marmosets, and Black howler monkeys can be found.
Asia Trail: Asia Trail, a series of exhibits that opened in 2006, is home to seven Asian species: sloth bears, Fishing cats, Red pandas, Clouded leopards, Przewalski's horses, Asian small-clawed otters, a Japanese giant salamander, and Giant pandas.
Birds: The widest variety of birds at the zoo live indoors at the Bird House where a series of smaller exhibits encircle a large indoor jungle complete with free-flying tropical birds. See Brown Kiwi, Cattle Egret, White-faced Whistling-Duck, Ringed Teal, Pygmy Falcon, Guam Rail, Burrowing Owl, Micronesian Kingfisher, Keel-billed Toucan, Asian Fairy-bluebird, Golden-breasted Starling, Green Magpie, Blue-naped Mousebird and many more.
Crane Line: Located outside of the Bird House, the Crane Line features long-legged wading birds like the Stanley, Wattled and the Red-crowned Crane
Indoor Flight Room: Inside the Bird House, the Indoor Flight Room allows birds to fly freely in a jungle habitat. Crested Partridge, Sunbittern, Nicobar Pigeon, Guira Cuckoo, Eclectus Parrot, Blue-gray Tanager, Bali Myna, Magnificent Bird-of-paradise, Violet Turaco and many more beautiful birds are featured in here.
Outdoor Flight Cage: The large flight cage allows birds to freely fly. A trail beginning by the Bird House overlooks a pond surrounded by rocks and then winds uphill through shrubs and small trees. Birds in this exhibit are the Double-crested Cormorant, Little blue Heron, Hamerkop, White Stork, White-faced Ibis, Mandarin Duck, Wood Duck, Smew, Hooded Merganser, Golden Pheasant, Indian Peafowl and more.
South American Run: Located outside of the Bird House, the South American Run features large birds.Birds in this exhibit are the, Scarlet Ibis, Roseate Spoonbill, Crested Screamer, White-cheeked Pintail, King Vulture and the Red-legged Seriema
Wetlands: The wetlands contains a boardwalk traversing a series of ponds and wildlife-friendly plantings. Although no captive birds inhabit this area, it is a nice place to birdwatch.See Black-crowned Night-Herons, Wood and Mallard ducks in this exhibit
Elephant Trails: The Zoo is building Elephant Trails, an innovative new home for our Indian elephants. Phase One is now open. The 2001 birth of Kandula, the result of artificial insemination, was such a triumph. This young male represents a major effort by the National Zoo to develop a herd of breeding Asian elephants, build a new Zoo habitat called Elephant Trails for these majestic animals. The Zoo’s goal is to ensure a future for this endangered species, which could soon be extinct in the wild and in zoos.
Gibbon Ridge: See Siamangs and White-cheeked gibbons swing quickly around their exhibit.
Great Cats: The Great Cats exhibit on Lion/Tiger Hill features Sumatran tigers and African lions—living, breathing, roaring great cats. They are ambassadors for their wild relatives, and for the Zoo’s conservation and science initiatives for tigers, lions, and many other cats, which, even if not great in size, are still great! Damai, the Zoo's female Sumatran tiger who debuted at the Zoo in May, got to do a little moose hunting recently. There are a number of FONZ Summer Safari campers here at the Zoo and a group of them made Damai a wonderful moose from paper towel rolls and other materials. The campers were all in front of the exhibit to see her tear her prey apart.
Kids' Farm: Kids' Farm is home to cows, donkeys, alpacas, hogs, rabbits, fish, and goats. Kids can groom some animals and have fun on the Pizza Playground. The Kids’ Farm provides young children with an interactive learning experience. Designed for children ages three to eight, the exhibit provides many urban and suburban children their first experience with animals while learning about where food comes from. Children have the opportunity to groom the animals under the supervision of keepers in the Caring Corral and are able to touch animals in various locations throughout the exhibit.
Reptile Discovery Center: In June 2006, the exhibit got a facelift—new multimedia features, colorful graphics, and hands-on objects spotlight the fascinating lives of reptiles and amphibians. The refurbishment sets the mood for discovery and wonder, while educating visitors about conservation issues. Unlike most of the Zoo's other animals, the inhabitants of the Reptile Discovery Center won't be found outside during the wintertime. This is because cold-blooded creatures rely on the temperature of their surrounding environment to maintain their body temperature. They cannot withstand the cold, wintry weather that warm-blooded animals can.
Think Tank: The Zoo is home to six Sumatran orangutans, including two young Bornean orangutans. We have permission to breed them from the Species Survival Plan for orangutans. Asia's largest primates, orangutans live only in rainforests on the Southeast Asian islands of Sumatra and Borneo. Sulawesi macaques, one of the world's 21 macaque species, can be seen at Think Tank. These black-haired monkeys are native to a few Indonesian islands and are endangered Think Tank is connected to the Great Ape House by the Orangutan Transportation System, or O Line, which the Zoo's orangutans can use to travel between the buildings, as the weather allows. The Zoo's orangutans can choose to travel on the O Line and spend the night at either the Great Ape House or at Think Tank. Some days, several of them spend the night at Think Tank, while other days, Think Tank is empty because all of them have spent the night at the great Ape House.