The Knoxville Zoo is one of the city’s most famous destinations—a zoo whose regular exhibits contain over 900 animals from dozens of species. In addition to such familiar zoo staples as monkeys, otters, penguins and the obligatory large mammals from the savanna, the Knoxville Zoo contains a number of unexpected species, many of them endangered animals whose names happen to begin with the word “red”—red wolves, red pandas and red river hogs all feature within the zoo. The animals are contained within a wide range of naturalistic habitats, ranging from Black Bear Falls, an exhibit modeled after the Great Smokey Mountains, to Meerkat Lookout, home to not one but two separate meerkat colonies, known as “mobs.”
The zoo features many naturalistic outdoor habitats for its animal residents, including:
Animal Encounter Village
Black Bear Falls
Stokely African Elephant Preserve
The Boyd Family Red Panda Village
The Clayton Family Kids Cove
Indoor exhibits at the zoo include the Night Club, the Barn Loft, and a large reptile collection.
One of the Knoxville Zoo’s many distinctions is its remarkable success at breeding a variety of species in captivity. The first African elephant born in the Western Hemisphere entered the world at the Knoxville Zoo in 1978. The zoo is a leader in red panda conservation, breeding over 100 cubs in the past 35 years—second worldwide only to the Rotterdam Zoo in the Netherlands. Their white rhinoceros breeding program is third in the nation, with more than 30 baby rhinos born since the ’70s. The zoo cares for 27 species currently in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Program, preserving these severely endangered animals from extinction.
Other attractions include the Clayton Safari Splash (a splash pad with life-size water-spouting giraffes), rides on both carousels and camels, and daily presentations by zookeepers on various species—often involving training demonstrations with lions and hamadryas baboons. The Wee Play Zoo lets toddlers pretend to be zookeepers with stuffed animals and toy food. For older children the Clayton Family Kids Cove features a recreated 1900-era Appalachian farm, allowing kids to get up close to a variety of farm animals and species native to Tennessee. Summer camps for children of all ages and special accommodations for zoo-themed birthday parties are also available.
At $19.95 for adult tickets and $16.95 for children and seniors, a day at the zoo can become fairly expensive, particularly if you have a large family. A season’s membership can considerably defray the cost, however, and is almost always worthwhile if you plan on visiting more than once. Due to the Knoxville Zoo’s various partnerships, other discounts are also available—Kroger grocery store customers receive $2.00 off tickets, while year-long members receive free or half-price tickets at over a hundred zoos across the country.
Knoxville Zoological Gardens
3500 Knoxville Zoo Dr
Knoxville, TN 37914
Tel: (865) 637-5331
Here’s a photo album with photos from the Knoxville Zoo.