Austin Zoo & Animal Sanctuary

I’ve never been to the Austin Zoo, but I’ve been meaning to make a trip up ever since I heard that they had foxes. I finally managed to make it up one weekend after powering through a Friday and Saturday filled with nothing but Ceramics homework…literally non-stop for hours upon hours making ceramic cylinders on the potting wheel, a skill that I have no talent in. But after all that struggling, my reward was a Sunday off at the Austin Zoo!

I woke up early the morning of February 24th to meet with my boyfriend, drive to Austin, and get there right around the time they’d open. At the San Antonio Zoo, the animals are more active in the morning, so I figured that it’d be the same with these animals. Plus, I wanted to have all the time I wanted to spend at the zoo. We got a little lost trying to find our way there, but we eventually made it.

After entering through the gift shop and purchasing our tickets, we entered the actual zoo. The first animal I saw…was a prairie dog. I’ve seen many, many prairie dogs throughout my years living in North Dakota, where they are extremely common. I’ve had plenty of experiences with prairie dogs, so I moved on pretty quickly.

The woman at the gift shop had recommended that we visit the big cats first because they tend to come out in the mornings before retreating inside their shelters later in the day as the temperature rises. We began heading that way, walking past the prairie dogs and entering the primate area.

In this area, there was a lemur stretched out and enjoying the sun and some small monkeys with long fur. There were other animals in there, but I don’t remember them very well. There were canines, too, though, wolfdogs and foxes! I loved the foxes so much that I’ll be writing them their own post later.

There was one wolfdog who looked very happy as he lay in his pen. He was panting with a bright grinning expression on his face. I smiled as I looked at him until I realized that he was missing a foreleg. He only had 3 legs…The Austin Zoo is not only a zoo, but also an animal sanctuary, so I don’t know what happened to him, but I’m glad that he looks pretty happy now.

There was another wolfdog in a separate pen that looked much more solemn. This animal was pure white and lied about on the ground looking bored or tired. I’m not sure what gender the wolfdog was, but it gave off a “she” vibe to me. I enjoyed taking pictures of her. With her eyes closed, she looked relaxed and elegant in my photographs. Unfortunately, I could not avoid the bars of her cage when taking my photographs, so I couldn’t achieve that natural look that I strive for.

After staying with the wolves and foxes for a while, we moved on again, passing by several enclosures with turtles in them. Apparently it was lunch time for the turtles as each of them had a dish filled with leafy greens in their reach. The turtles looked humorous as they paraded about the leaves walking all about them and stretching their long necks from out of their shells to munch on the vegetation. Turtles look pretty funny when they eat.

I was surprised at just how many of these turtles the zoo had. There were several enclosures, each with about 2-4 turtles in them. Their turtles also varied in size, some an impressive “dog-like” size while others were more “rabbit-sized”.

After enjoying watching the turtles munch on their leaves, we moved on again. I was completely astounded when I saw the next animal. Resting on the ground in the middle of her enclosure was the largest pig I have ever seen in my life. I don’t know why this pig was so massive, but I was taken aback! The pig looked bigger than me! I can’t imagine how much she must weigh!

We continued walking about looking for new animals to view and were disappointed to find an empty bear cage. The bears must have been hiding in their shelters. There was a pretty cool mural of all the different kind of bear species found all across the world, though. There really aren’t that many kinds of bears, which is surprising. While there are over 300 types of bats, there are only 7 kinds of bears, the polar bear, grizzly bear (sometimes called the kodiak bear or the brown bear,) black bear, sloth bear, spectacled bear, moon bear (known as the Asiatic black bear,) and the sun bear.

Thankfully, we were able to enjoy the tigers. As I walked by an enclosure, I noticed a huge pool of water, complete with a fountain. “This must be a tiger cage,” I told my boyfriend explaining that tigers love water and that zoos always provide them with pools to swim in. We walked up to the exhibit and were disappointed not to see any animals inside. Shortly afterwards, though, a woman told us that they would be feeding the tigers in a few minutes and that it would be an entertaining event. We pressed up close to the safety bars and waited for the show to start. Soon afterwards, other people started crowding around, as well.

Some zookeepers entered the enclosure and began piling meat on some rocks. There were 3 piles spread far apart from each other. The workers also began spreading water about the ground and filled up a nearby trough with water. After a few minutes, the shelter doors opened but nothing happened. Suddenly three tigers burst from the opening and dashed to their own piles of meat. It was amazing how swiftly the tigers escaped and how elegantly they each went to their own pile without any conflict. They must do this every day and have their own designated piles.

It was pretty gruesome watching the tigers scarf down the bloody pieces of flesh. It was difficult for me to watch the tigers move the bones to the back of their mouths to allow their back teeth to polverize them. I don’t handle blood and gore well and bones really freak me out. I have trouble eating chicken off the bone because of it…so I don’t like seeing animals eat off the bone, either. Blech!

After I took quite a few pictures of the tigers eating, I couldn’t take much more and had to move on. We moved next door where a lioness was lying and licking herself clean. She had a very powerful looking jaw.

As we were watching the lioness, we suddenly started hearing a loud roaring noise. We looked about and found that the path curved around to the back of the lioness cage. In the back was another lion cage, this one with a lioness and a lion. The lion was roaring about, but just as we spotted him, he stopped. Other people had also heard the roaring and had come around to find the source of the noise. We all took our pictures and gazed at the lions for a bit before moving on again.

We continued walking through the rest of the park. Most of the animals were hiding in their shelters including the bobcat, the mountain lion, and the leopards. There were more wolfdogs in the back of the zoo, but there enclosure was huge and they were at the very back of it, way out of sight. According to the sign, they all belonged to the same pack and had come from the same owner. That was pretty cool.

We walked around a bird area for a bit and saw some parrots and cockatiels. There were signs warning against owning exotic birds as pets because of how difficult they can be to take care of. Most of the birds there were abandoned or confiscated pets. It’s sad how some people buy pets without doing research beforehand and figuring out if they really can take care of the animal.

We came across a new part of the zoo, a petting zoo. At this moment Nick pulled out a bag of food that he had purchased from the gift shop. “I knew you’d want to feed the goats,” he said.

I did enjoy feeding and petting the goats, though there was one very greedy goat that would stick his muzzle through the bars and stick out his tongue. He was a pretty ugly goat, too. The children enjoyed his enthusiasm and continued giving him pellets. In a split second the goat would gobble everything from the child’s hand, then begin immediately demanding more again. I fed him a little bit, but I saved my pellets for the goats who weren’t so greedy and demanding.

There were also sheep that you could feed and pet, but I tried to avoid them because wool makes my skin itch. I think that sheep are adorable, but I just can’t pet them. My mom is also allergic to wool, but other than us, I haven’t met anyone else who is.

The zoo not only had goats and sheep that you could pet and feed, but also llamas and deer in a separate area. The llama was incredibly ugly with crooked teeth sticking out from the front of his mouth. Just like the greedy goat, he was eager to be fed and was right up against the bars asking for food.

After the crowds around him spread, I walked up to him and spread out my hand with a few pellets on it. “Here you go, llama,” I welcomed. The llama quickly gulped down my pellets and left me his own, disgusting gift. Not only were his teeth and face disgusting, but the inside of his mouth was, as well, as he left a gloppy mess of spit and saliva all over my hand. It was wet, sticky, and slimy and made me want to gag. To get back at him and to clean my hand, I wiped the mess all over the side of his neck. His fur wasn’t much better as it was matted and curled, but at least it got most of the spit off!

Right next door the llama was a completely opposite animal, a beautiful and elegant spotted deer. Her grace greatly contrasted the llama’s goofy and scruffy appearance. I don’t particularly love llamas, but I love deer, so I was pretty excited to get to pet and feed her! I was a little bias and gave the remainder of my food all to the deer in the agreement that she let me stroke her and take her photo. She was impatient, as she really only wanted my food, but I got a pretty good close-up of her and was able to pet her a few times. As soon as my hand was empty, though, she would begin to back away until I replenished the food supply. I guess you could say that the deer was pretty shallow. It took a lot of food to keep her occupied enough to pet her and get her photograph!

It seemed that the deer didn’t like the llama, either. Whenever he would draw near, she would scamper off. It took quite a bit of bribing to get her to return to me after she had run off. Unlike the llama and the greedy goat, she tended to stay further away from the edge of the enclosure. After I fed her and got a few photographs of her, she dashed off into the more wooded area of her pen and wouldn’t come up for anyone else.

There were many other deer in the area, as well, but all of them were in the back of the pen resting in the leaves. None of them were interested in any of our whistles, calls, or offerings of food.

After I had given away all of my food, we continued on and found a train. It was only a couple of dollars to ride and the staff member said that we would see animals that you couldn’t see otherwise, so we waited for the next train to roll up. Once it did, we bought some tickets and sat in the front seat. The train was small and meant for children, but I was comfortable as it had been a long day already and my feet were beginning to hurt. The train started and passed by enclosures of kangaroos, cows, and a few other animals, but then it left the zoo and started circling the nearby surroundings. There were wooden cutouts of mushrooms, spaceships, and pirate ships…nothing having anything to do with animals. This train definitely was meant for children, but it was still a nice break.

After the ride, we began to make our way to the park exit. All throughout the park there were roaming peacocks and as we were walking a peacock dashed past us with a group of kids shortly behind him. I felt bad for the bird as he ran, frightened by the children, but it did allow me to get a really great photo of him.

Overall, it was a pretty good visit at the Austin Zoo & Animal Sanctuary. It got my mind off of schoolwork for a day and allowed me to spend some time with my boyfriend. I also got some good photographs and saw some foxes, which I’ll write about it in a different post. The Austin Zoo isn’t nearly as big or nice as the San Antonio Zoo, but they’re more an animal sanctuary than they are a zoo. They are a non-profit organization and all of their animals are rescues. Most of their animals also have their stories posted on their informational plaques telling you where they came from and how they ended up in the zoo. It was all very interesting, I just wish they had a restaurant so I didn’t have to leave as early as I did! I do plan on returning again some day, though.


The Austin Zoo & Animal Sanctuary


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