Strange Places: North Carolina Zoo

Located on 500 acres of land in the Uwharrie mountains, the North Carolina Zoo is one of the largest zoos to feature all natural habitats in the United States.  The size of the habitats for the larger animals is incredible, and all of the habitats are filled with natural features such as trees, water, rocks and dirt. The Zoo is divided into two main sections, one featuring animals from Africa, and the other featuring animals from North America. From there, animals are grouped by specific climates. 

When you enter the North American section, you are greeted by the Marsh and Cypress Swamp exibits. The Marsh exhibit is unique at the zoo, since it exclusively features a plant. The Franklin tree has been extinct in the wild since 1803, and only grow when cultivated. The Cypress Swamp is home to alligators and snapping turtles. Further on is the Stream Side habitat  lurking with poisonous snakes and a barred owl with a fierce stare. Beyond that is The Prairie, a large grassy area with roaming Bison and Elk. Other habitats include black bears, red wolves, a honey bee garden, and The Rocky Coast. The section ends with The Desert, a large Glass Dome housing sand and night dwellers like cape porcupines, a gila monster, and vampire bats. 

In between the North America and Africa is a large aviary. There is a gorgeous array of exotic birds, flowers, and poison dart frogs, but you have to look carefully to spot them. 

Finally, the Africa side of the Zoo holds expansive habitats housing chimpanzees, gorillas, lions, elephants, rhinos, and red river hogs. The Forrest Edge habitat holds zebras, giraffes, and ostriches, just as it did in 1974 when it was first built. To catch a glimpse of the rhinos, walk to the end of the African  boardwalk tha runs along their habitat. They tend to hang in the back of their space, but there is a large deck at the end of the boardwalk where the can be easily viewed. The path through the zoo is about 5 miles, so dress comfortably, and drink plenty of water.

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