Egyptian Decor and Animals Galore
The dramatic entrance to Memphis Zoo makes one feel like a pharaoh coming home.*
A Magical and Natural World Awaits
By Holli W. Haynie
Arriving at the Memphis Zoo, you'll almost believe you're entering an ancient Egyptian city. Stroll along the impressive avenue of stone columns coated in hieroglyphics. Walk through the massive city gates.
Presto, you've entered a seemingly mystical court filled with Egyptian architecture and decor. After all, the city of Memphis, TN, was named after the ancient Egyptian capital of Memphis (circa 3000 BC).
From the exotic sounds around you, you'll also know it's a wild world. In fact, in ancient times, pharaohs ruled with cheetahs by their sides. This place is home to more than 3,500 animals from 500 species.
As you consult your Memphis Zoo map, take charge and set out to explore 70 acres of exhibits and habitats, just remember one fact. You may feel like a king but here the animals rule.
Lions, Tigers and Pandas, Oh My..
The first exhibit you'll encounter, Cat Country, features a signature open grotto and water moat. It eerily separates the African lions from visitors. This illusion of no separation will take your breath away, especially at feeding time in the late afternoon. That's when Fred — the Zoo’s lion king — bellows his authoritative roar.
Cat Country's Egyptian entryway leads visitors to the big cats exhibit.*
Just beyond the Cat Country entrance, another exotic influence emerges. Egypt gives way to Asia, as visitors cross a pagoda bridge to reach habitats for leopards, jaguars and lynxes. A puma wails as she navigates across boulders. A waterfall splashes over temple ruins in the Sumatran tiger display.
Around the last bend of this lushly planted, four-acre exhibit are the pharoah's favorite pets -- the agile cheetahs. They're separated from zoo patrons by a moat. Across the way, tiny Meerkats stand on their hind legs and peer back at their admirers.
This spring is a great time to see three tiger cubs acquired last spring. One is a rare white tiger named Orissa. The others are brother and sister cubs: Kumari, a rare butterscotch-colored female, and Naryan, an orange male. The cubs are on display Thursday through Sunday only.
Orissa is a white tiger cub viewable at the Memphis Zoo.*
Bears and Pandas
The Memphis Zoo was born 100 years ago and was home to only a single black bear. Things have come a long way. The next big "bear" attraction will be in 2009 with the opening of Grand Teton, and a return of grizzly bears to the park.
But today, giant pandas Ya Ya and Le Le are the jewels in the zoo's crown. Acquired by the zoo in 2003 for the CHINA exhibit, these pandas give the Zoo an air of distinction — only four zoos in America have giant pandas.
The star attraction at Memphis Zoo are two giant pandas; this is one of the cuties.*
The three-acre CHINA exhibit features the culture, flora, fauna and architecture of this Asian nation. A 50-foot pagoda serves as a ticket and information booth; it costs $3 extra to visit the panda enclosure. Visitors take a peaceful walking tour to view white-cheeked gibbons, Asian small-clawed otters, white-naped cranes, pheasants and other birds.
Opened in March 2006, the newest indoor-outdoor exhibition area is the six-acre Northwest Passage. It's home to polar bears, brown bears, sea lions and bald eagles. Decorated with totem poles and stone carvings, it's also a tribute to the First Nations people and culture of the Pacific Northwest.
Within Northwest Passage, visitors enjoy an underwater viewing building to come face to face with polar bears, as well as an observation bubble and a 500-seat amphitheater for daily sea lion shows.
A transparent viewing tank allows kids to feel up close to polar bears.*
Other Memphis Zoo exhibits include Primate Canyon, Animals of the Night, Herpetarium, and African Veldt, to name a few.
Don't leave without visiting the zoo's gift shop. It features a mix of King Tut and Egyptian "treasures" and an amazing array of animal souvenirs and gifts.
The zoo is open March through October from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and November through February from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The last admission is one hour before closing. Admission costs $13 for those 12-59, $12 for adults 60 and older, and $8 for kids ages 2-11. Children under two are admitted free.
Memphis Zoo delivers a taste of Egypt -- and other cultures around the world as well -- and an impressive array of animals who roam natural habitats. It's great fun for kids and adults alike.
For More Information
Call 901-276-WILD or visit www.memphiszoo.org. The zoo is located at 2000 Prentiss Place, Memphis.
Holli W. Haynie, a freelance writer based in Memphis, TN, contributes to many local and regional publications. She specializes in lifestyle, health, culture, family and travel. She is currently expanding her reach into national publications and completing a teen novel
*Photos on this page are owned, copyrighted and shown here with permission of the Memphis Zoo. Please do not link to or copy these photos.