You may have heard about mall-walking for exercise, but have you ever considered zoo-walking? With all of the fun and fascinating animals to see at the Rosamond Gifford Zoo in Syracuse, the attractions can help anyone reach their daily step count.
Ted Fox, zoo director, has obviously given this some thought. He said that a person can log more than 2,500 steps in just one stroll around the outdoor loop.
“Walk the entire zoo, and you’ll find it easy to get your 10,000 steps in while admiring amazing animals and learning about wildlife conservation,” he said. “People have even said that our Asian Elephant Preserve is a great place to meditate because it’s so calming to watch the elephants browse, swim or interact as a family group.”
Elephants are taking center stage this month at the zoo, with World Elephant Day on Saturday and the Asian Elephant Extravaganza on Aug. 19, which also coincides with a birthday party for the zoo’s popular pachyderm.
“Siri is our eldest elephant and the oldest animal at the zoo,” Fox said. “She is about to turn 50, and she has been the face of the zoo since she arrived here as a 5-year-old in 1972. So, at least two generations of children have grown up with Siri, and many have brought their own kids back to see her and the other elephants that have followed.”
Fox said that zoo staff began celebrating Siri’s birthday in June with a fundraiser called “Pennies for Pachyderms” to support elephant conservation in the wild.
Although Siri has earned her day in the spotlight, the six other elephants – the youngest being 2 – are also celebrated. World Elephant Day will include elephant games, face-painting and crafts for children, as well as a watermelon smash for the elephants in their preserve. Siri’s face will be painted with an Indian headdress for the Asian Elephant Extravaganza, and the day will feature Asian dance, music and costumes through Syracuse University’s South Asia Center and Cornell University’s Southeast Asia Program.
There are daily animal demonstrations throughout the summer, and Fox said that an entire day can be planned around those activities. Those and other special events can be found at www.rosamondgiffordzoo.org/upcoming-events
Other popular attractions include the Domestic Animal Barn where patrons can pet baby goats, donkeys and a baby calf.
The Diversity of Birds indoor exhibit will have visitors marveling high and low at these feathered friends. The zoo also has a new play area called the Explorer’s Play Space that includes lots of sand, pots and pans and other fun tools to inspire unstructured outdoor play for children to use their imagination and creativity.
Fox said that it is hard to pinpoint what kids love the most at the zoo.
“Some kids love the penguins best, some love the lions, tigers or red pandas,” he said. “Some kids can’t tear themselves away from Giant Pacific octopus or the playful river otters.
Even the naked-mole rats and the Madagascar hissing
cockroach exhibits are hits with many of our youngest visitors – they have a serious ‘ewww’ factor.”
One child’s love for the zoo was overheard by the president of the Friends of the Zoo organization when she was telling her parents that this would be “the best day ever.” That joyous declaration became the park’s new theme and team goal.
“It became crystal clear that we needed to work each and every day to meet that expectation for not only that little guest, but for all our guests,” Fox said. “We may not meet this goal for each and every person, but it is our guidepost – what we aspire to and what drives our actions in everything we do.”
Fox said that the zoo attracts people of all ages, whether with family, a group of friends or alone.
“Exploring the zoo with a bunch of kids is great, but many people tell us they come to the zoo alone or with a friend to take in the beautiful scenery, to get out in nature, and to observe animals that inspire a sense of awe,” he said.
The zoo is celebrating its 30th year of uninterrupted Association of Zoos & Aquariums accreditation this year, which is considered the gold standard among modern facilities.
“As an AZA zoo, we are constantly improving and upgrading our exhibits, our animal care and husbandry and our animal enrichment through active collaboration with other AZA zoos to do the best job we can for our animals and in teaching people about wildlife and conservation,” Fox said.
The zoo is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., except on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. With 60 percent of the exhibits indoors, the zoo is an ideal place to visit yearround in any kind of weather.
Admission is free for veterans and active military personnel with identification or discharge papers. This discount applies to that individual and up to three Family Members.