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Travel WNY: Visit Buffalo Zoo This Spring

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By Alicia Dziak

Even though the Buffalo Zoo is the third oldest zoo in the United States, there’s always something new to see there. Whether you prefer special events, baby animals or cool exhibits, it’s the perfect place to spend a spring day!

According to the Buffalo Zoo’s website, the Zoo was originally conceived as a deer park in the northeast corner of Frederick Law Olmsted’s Delaware Park, established in 1875.

“Spurred on by local donations of animals, the Zoo grew and rapidly developed between 1875 and 1930 and attracted great community interest and involvement. This growth led to the Zoological Society of Buffalo being founded in 1931. The Society worked with the City of Buffalo to effect many improvements to The Zoo over the next four decades. Included in this period was a major renovation (1938-1942) by the Works Progress Administration (WPA), which featured buildings using classic, period architecture.

“In 1973, operational responsibilities for the Zoo were turned over from the City of Buffalo to the Society, which assembled a professional staff to provide care and oversight for the collection. Since the Society assumed leadership for the Zoo, important capital projects have been completed. Improvements are continually made to make the Buffalo Zoo responsive to the animal’s needs and a great venue for family outings, recreation and education.”

Of course, any day is a great day to roam the numerous exhibits and visit with the animals. Chill with the polars in the Arctic Edge exhibit, then warm up in the M&T Bank Rainforest Falls exhibit, modeled after the unique habitat within the Amazon basin in Venezuela’s Canaima National Park. This fully enclosed exhibit, which opened in 2008, features a two-story waterfall, as well as ramps and overlooks to enable visitors to view dozens of colorful free-flighted birds. Visitors will also encounter squirrel monkeys, brown capuchins, black howler monkeys, white-faced sakis, tamandua, vampire bats, giant anteaters, capybara, ocelots, piranhas, giant river turtles, armadillos, dwarf caiman and an anaconda.

Stop by the Delta Sonic Heritage Farm, which recreates a historic farm from the mid-1800s with heritage breeds of domestic animals. Consisting of a wetlands area and a replica of an Erie Canal lock, this exhibit helps teach visitors about the importance of water to wildlife and domestic farm animals, as well as the historic importance of water and the Erie Canal to people as a means of transportation for crops and other goods.

The EcoStation combines three animal habitats with hands-on interactives and propped research equipment to teach visitors how research on endangered species is conducted. The animal habitats include an Australian Scrub Forest, a Southwestern U.S. desert, and a Central American Rainforest. Windows on both ends of the exhibit also give visitors the opportunity to view the Zoo’s lions and tigers.

Ooh and ahh at all the cuteness in the gorilla house, then check out the rest of the big animals, like the giraffes, elephants, bison and bighorn sheep. Laugh with the hyenas, roar with the big cats, and take a break in the Sea Lion Cove. Don’t miss the reptile house, the vanishing animals exhibits, snuggly otters and much more.

April is a great time to visit the Zoo, with several special events going on.

Start a new tradition and have Breakfast with the Easter Bunny, April 15. Two seatings will be held (9 to 10:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.). Ticket prices for non-member are $17 adults and $14 for children. Members prices are $12 for adults and $9 for children. Children 23 months and younger are free. Purchase tickets at www.buffalozoo.org.

Celebrate “Ape-ril” April 22. The month of April is dedicated to gorillas and all of the primates  at the Buffalo Zoo. On April 22, come learn about the other amazing primates including snow monkeys, lemurs, squirrel monkeys and more!

Looking ahead to May, treat mom to a special catered brunch on Mother’s Day, Sunday, May 14! There will be seatings from 9:30 to 11:00 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Due to limited seating, pre-paid, non-refundable tickets are required and are on sale now at www.buffalozoo.org.

Another great way to enjoy the Zoo is through its volunteer program.

ZooCrew is a group of volunteers ages 14 and over, who help with promotions, special events, and fundraisers. Download an application at www.buffalozoo.org/about/#volunteer.

Become a member of the Zoo’s very active corps of volunteer educators known as Docents, for ages 25 and over. Following a 14-week course in animal characteristics and ecology, you will become a vital part of a friendly, animal-loving group that performs vital functions for the Buffalo Zoo, such as providing group tours, interpreting biofacts, and generally assisting in disseminating wildlife conservation messages. With further training, Docents participate in handling small animals, Zoomobile, and Zoo Trunks. Applicants must attend an orientation in either October or November to see what it is all about!  An interview is a must before being accepted into this program. Call (716) 837-3900, ext. 132 for more information.

If you are interested in helping animals and enjoy the challenges and excitement of fundraising, consider joining the Women’s Board of the Buffalo Zoo. Women’s Board activities include an annual photo contest, basket auction for Wines in the Wild, annual holiday luncheon and more! Monthly meetings occur on the first Monday of each month (except holidays) at noon at the Zoo. Check out the Women’s Board Facebook page to obtain an application. For more information, call (716) 995-6131.

In cooperation with area colleges, universities and work-study programs, the Zoo offers students the opportunity to gain valuable experience in the non-traditional setting of a working zoo. Student interns help to formulate objectives for their placement period that provide a personal, professional and academic challenge and supply needed services for the Zoo. For more information, call (716) 837-3900 ext. 132.

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