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Metro Richmond Zoo facts for kids

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Metro Richmond Zoo
Date opened April 22, 1995
Location Chesterfield County, Virginia
Land area 70 acres (28 ha)
Coordinates 37°22′54″N 77°46′03″W / 37.3818°N 77.7674°W / 37.3818; -77.7674
No. of animals 2000
No. of species 180+
Memberships ZAA

Metro Richmond Zoo is a privately owned, for-profit zoo in Chesterfield County, Virginia. It is located in the central Virginia area, on the western side of I-95. Metro Richmond Zoo encompasses about 70 acres (28 ha) and houses around 2,000 animals representing over 180 species, including reticulated giraffe, white rhinoceros, snow leopard, cheetah and Grant's zebra.

The zoo is accredited by the Zoological Association of America (ZAA), and has one of the largest primate collections in the United States.


The zoo opened to the public on April 22, 1995, and was home to 167 animals of 15 species at the time.


  • Safari Sky Ride
  • Jungle Carousel
  • Safari Train Ride
  • Kids' Playground Area
  • Treetop Zoofari Zipline and Adventure Park

Animals and exhibits

Giraffes in Richmond Metro Zoo
Giraffes in Metro Richmond Zoo

The Metro Richmond Zoo is noted for giraffe-feeding opportunities. Visitors can purchase zoo treats for giraffe feeding. The zoo houses a herd of nine reticulated giraffe and a single Masai giraffe, kept in a yard across from the main giraffe exhibit along with another reticulated giraffe. Animals residing with the giraffes include eastern bongo, klipspringer, ostrich, black-necked swan, Stanley crane, and crowned crane. Visitors can also purchase zoo treats for deer, goats, sheep, donkeys, and young antelope in the children's farm. Some of the larger animals can be fed zoo treats via tubes that reach to their feeding troughs. Those animals are dromedaries, Bactrian camels, elk, American bison, and warthog.

The zoo has one of the largest collections of primates in the United States, with more than 200 individuals representing 30 species, such as Sulawesi macaque, Diana monkey, orangutan, cottontop tamarin, red-handed tamarin, black-handed spider monkey, lesser spot-nosed monkey, coppery titi, eastern black-and-white colobus, ring-tailed lemur, red ruffed lemur, and black-and-white ruffed lemur . The zoo has a Diana monkey breeding program.

2003 was the opening year of the zoo's safari sky ride, a fifteen-minute ride that gives visitors a high view of much of the zoo. 2003 was also the year the North American area of the zoo opened. This exhibit is home to elk, bison, white-tailed deer, pronghorn, alligator and bighorn sheep. 2006 was the opening year for the Jungle Carousel, Coconut Climb, and Kiddie Rides.

2007 saw the opening of an aviary near the zoo entrance containing roseate spoonbill, sacred ibis, and multiple species of waterfowl such as yellow-billed duck, Mandarin duck, paradise shelduck, ringed teal, common shelduck, rosybill and red-crested pochard. The aviary also houses golden pheasants, Lady Amherst's pheasants and Swinhoe's pheasants. Adjacent to the aviary is a flock of Chilean flamingos.

A $250,000 expansion in 2008 introduced a safari-like ride through a new 8-acre (32,000 m2) animal enclosure, with visitors in a two-car "train". The enclosure includes gemsbok, waterbuck, greater kudu, eland, lowland nyala, Thomson's gazelle, yellow-backed duiker, marabou stork, Stanley crane, Rüppell's griffon vulture, Baird's tapir, and ostrich.

Adjacent to the safari enclosure is a large wooded valley viewable only from the safari train and a small viewing deck. Four species of ungulates native to India and China reside in this exhibit. They are blackbuck, mouflon, Himalayan tahr and takin. The Metro Richmond Zoo is one of the few zoos in the United States to have takin on display, as it is considered a national treasure in China and receives the same protection as the giant panda. The exhibit opened in 2003. On June 6, 2017, five markhors were added to the exhibit.

Near the station where the visitors get on the zoo train is an African penguin exhibit where visitors can view an educational penguin feeding program twice daily. Around the penguin exhibit are enclosures containing red river hog, African clawless otter, camels, and nearby is a South American exhibit containing specimens such as Brazilian tapir, greater rhea, llama, alpaca, king vulture, toucans, and new world primates, along with crested fireback and southern white-faced scops owl. A bat house is adjacent to the king vulture enclosure, and contains Indian flying fox, straw-colored fruit bat, two-toed sloth and prehensile-tailed porcupine. Nearby is an aviary containing blue-and-yellow macaws, salmon-crested cockatoos, red-crowned amazons, crested screamers, Reeve's pheasants and a grey parrot.

2008 saw the debut of a coconut-climb and a walk-through aviary for about 400 budgerigars. The aviary offers seed-coated Popsicle sticks that visitors can purchase to attract the birds to perch and feed.

New arrivals in 2010 and 2011 were golden pheasant, white-faced saki, Kirk's dik-dik, steenbok, great white pelican, marabou stork, Himalayan tahr, yellow-backed duiker, toco toucan, red-billed toucan, black howler monkey, crested screamer, Reeve's pheasant and Allen's swamp monkey. More exhibits are currently being built, including a large reptile and small mammal building near the zoo entrance, and many small enclosures around the safari paddock.

In late July 2012, the zoo opened an enclosure that houses Farley and Zoe, two juvenile orangutans. Guests can interact and come face-to-face with Farley and Zoe through glass windows. Adjacent to the orangutans are a pair of white handed gibbons.

Early 2013 saw the opening of a new meerkat enclosure alongside the currently under construction reptile and small mammal building. In late March 2013, a new jungle gym for children to play in was built next door the safari skyride, replacing an exhibit that once held Indian muntjacs, Stanley cranes, and African spurred tortoises. The Indian muntjacs have been moved to a non-public area, the Stanley cranes had moved to the Safari Ride and the African spurred tortoises had moved near the orangutan island. In mid-April 2013, a Baird's tapir and a Ruppell's griffon vulture were added to the zoo, and can be seen in a safari-ride preserve area. A capybara was added to the South America yard in late April 2013. In 2015 phase 1 of the Reptile Building opened to the public to view various reptiles and amphibians, including the Komodo dragon. In August 2016, a new serval exhibit opened adjacent to the bat exhibit. The zoo will have new animals include pygmy hippos and giant anteaters on Summer 2017. On June 26, the reptile house was expanded with a new hallway containing 13 additional exhibits for 15 new species including rhino iguanas, rhino rat snakes, Madagascar tree boas, prehensile-tailed skinks, Dominican mountain boas, veiled chameleons, and emerald tree boas. Later this year, the African clawless otters will move to a new home near the playground, and two new primate islands similar to the existing ones holding chimpanzees and orangutans will be made to be viewed from the Safari Train Ride.

In October 2013, five cheetah cubs were born to parents Lana and Kitu. The cubs quickly gained global attention because they were only the third litter born in the U.S. in 2013. The cubs are in the zoo's off-exhibit Cheetah Breeding Center. The zoo set up cheetah cams to give 24/7 footage to the public. The cubs were named after Virginia counties and cities: Richie (Richmond), Rico (Henrico), Chester (Chesterfield), Amelia (Amelia), and Hanna (Hanover). The zoo hopes to have them on public display in spring 2014.

In fall 2013, the zoo installed treetop Zoofari, a new zipline and adventure park. The park is scheduled to open January 29, 2014, for Fridays and Saturdays only. It will open Monday-Saturday in spring 2014.

In Summer 2018, the zoo debuted a pair of Pygmy hippopotamuses to their collection.

In January 2019 the zoo debuted a pair of young Steller's sea eagles to their collection. They temporary reside in what used to be where the Black-and-white ruffed lemurs were, while their bigger exhibit is being constructed.

On June 2020, the new exhibit for Cape clawless otters called "Otter Cove" opened next to the pygmy hippo exhibit.

The zoo allows Indian peafowl, bar-headed geese, barnacle geese, Egyptian geese, and West Indian whistling ducks to roam freely among the visitors. The zoo is also a rest stop for wild Virginia-native waterfowl such as wood duck, mallards and Canada geese.

There are also many animals, such as Malayan tapirs and demoiselle cranes, in areas that are inaccessible to the public, but are still somewhat viewable from parts of the zoo.

Miracle of Christmas Live at the Zoo

Every year, the Metro Richmond Zoo hosts a Christmas pageant on December 21, 22, and 23. The zoo is decorated with thousands of Christmas lights, wreaths, and trees. The fifteen-minute outdoor pageant celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. The Miracle of Christmas features live animals from the zoo.

Research projects and conservation efforts

Metro Richmond Zoo participates in several scientific research and wild life conservation projects. The zoo also plays a key part in addax and eastern bongo conservation. The bongo herd has had several calves born in the past several years and many of the addax born at the zoo have been released to the wild. Other threatened and endangered animals living here include Asian black bear, Galapagos giant tortoise, and black-and-white ruffed lemur.

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