Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Get outside and Enjoy Spring Air at the Zoo

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Get outside and Enjoy Spring Air at the Zoo

Article excerpt

Byline: Laura Capitano

We've all sprung ahead now, and the time has come for outdoorsy spring activities. I heard there was some good new action going on at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, what with the stingray exhibit kicking off this month and the baby giraffe, that went on display last month. What's more springy than animals, flowers and fresh air?

The zoo is organized in a series of loops, and one of the first exhibits you come to is Stingray Bay. The 20-plus rays spend their time swimming the perimeter of their shaded tank, while spectators gather 'round to feed them food pellets and touch their slimy-smooth skin.

Though I was rather scared of them, I touched one in the name of journalism. That frisky dude gave me a mighty splash with the wing I touched, and that's when I really felt their muscularity. Stingrays are hard yet flexible, like a barely frozen boneless chicken breast.

I was surprised to see an additional charge for the ray encounter ($2.50 for members, $3 for non-members). Sure, the sea creatures are on lease and all, but it seems as weird as if a local museum charged extra for a temporary exhibit.

Next up came the big cats, and the obligatory zoo guest who keeps shouting "heeeere kitty, kitty!" in an effort to get the lion's attention. Man, big cats make headlines often enough for attacks that I can't fathom taunting one.

The giraffe loop is what I enjoyed most about my visit. The longnecks walk right up to the fence, and you can feed them foliage, up close and personal to their black tongues and enviable eyelashes. The mama and baby team were still being kept apart from the group as of my visit, but you can see them, and they are heartwrenchingly cute together, one a perfect Mini Me of its parent.

In the South America loop, I was lucky to get a good show from both the black and a spotted jaguar, who paced like mad cats in front of me. …

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