Southwick's Zoo facts for kids
Sign within Southwick's Zoo
|Location||Mendon, Massachusetts, United States|
|Land area||300 acres (120 ha)|
|No. of animals||~500|
|No. of species||100+|
The Southwick homestead (which the zoo now occupies) dates back to 1803 when it was a working dairy farm. In the 1930s, Justin F. Southwick started collecting exotic poultry. His son, Justin A. Southwick, shared his father's love of birds, and became a leading authority on migratory waterfowl. In 1953, he sold the dairy herd to concentrate on birds. In 1956, he placed a donation box at the barn where he kept his birds, which let him purchase more for his collection.
The family opened the zoo in 1963. In 1965, they formed two companies: Southwick's Wild Animal Farm Inc. and Southwick's Birds and Animals Inc., with Justin A. Southwick as president of both, his son Dan as vice-president of "Birds and Animals" (which traded, sold, and leased animals), and his son in law Robert Brewer as vice-president of the "Wild Animal Farm". The Brewer family moved away for a while to other opportunities, and Dan Southwick took over the businesses in 1971. With his death in 1977, the zoo suffered for a while until the Brewer family moved back and took over the operations.
Many changes have been made to the zoo within the last 20 years including updating many exhibits to larger naturalistic habitats including chimpanzees, lions, tigers, giraffes to bring Southwick's Zoo to a new level of tourist attraction. The zoo currently sits on over 250 acres with over 750 animals and includes the largest zoological experience in New England. In 2008 a Skyfari Skyride was introduced to the facility and is the only triangular chair lift ride in North America. The Woodland Train ride takes guests through the native wetlands habitat and Elk Forest. In the past few years, new shows have been introduced for family entertainment and education, including Bird Shows and Training and Earth Educational presentations.
An interactive attraction called The Elkhorn mining company was established in 2012 and features a walk in mine which allows visitors to pan for gold, gems and fossils. The Elkhorn Livery Stables and pony rides are located next to the mine.
The Parakeet Aviary is a walk through experience where guests can feed the free flying parakeets. The zoo also features specific attractions for children including six mechanical rides, a park and the petting zoo where guests can interact with African pygmy goats and sheep. Southwick's Zoo also offers giraffe and rhinoceros encounters. Proceeds from rhinoceros encounters are donated to the International Rhino Foundation to support rhinoceros conservation. To this day, the zoo does not have an elephant exhibit or owns elephants for public display: they have been relocated.
The zoo currently operates mid-April through October. The Purple Peacock Gift Shop, which can be visited without purchasing admission to the zoo is open daily from mid April to December.
North American Exhibit
This exhibit is home to North American elk and a small population of wild turkey. The Woodland Express Train (12 min ride), a rubber tire train ride, passes through this exhibit and allows visitors to get a very close look at the elk in addition to the surrounding wetlands.
- Deer Forest
This 35-acre (14 ha) walk-through attraction allows visitors get close to and feed fallow deer. Native wildlife such as turtles, hawks, and wild turkey can also be spotted in the Deer Forest.
The zoo started with an interest in migratory waterfowl, and birds have always had a special place. Birds can be found in exhibits throughout the zoo including the Earth Discovery Center and Parakeet Landing, a walk-through aviary that lets visitors come in contact with parakeets and cockatiels, as well as feed them. Birds at the zoo include macaws, cockatoos, conures, eclectus, cockatiels, ostriches, African crowned cranes, flamingos, mandarin ducks, Polish chickens, fancy pigeons, and kookaburra.
Southwick's also offers a live educational presentations about birds which discuss topics including training, enrichment, and conservation.
- EARTH Discovery Center
This is the home base of the environmental education non profit EARTH Ltd located within the zoo. The EARTH Discovery Center is home to EARTH's animal ambassadors which include macaws, a bush baby, porcupine, turtles, snakes, bearded dragons, and other reptiles. These animals are used in EARTH's education programs including live presentations at the zoo, ZooMobiles, and Wild Adventure Programs for younger students.
- Big cats
- Giraffe exhibit
Southwick's Zoo opened their larger, updated giraffe exhibit in 2011. In 2010, the zoo also began offering giraffe encounters on weekends.
The zoo has the largest primate collection in New England. Species of primates found at Southwick's Zoo include chimpanzees, white-handed gibbons, siamangs, mandrills, Schmidt's guenons, Wolf's guenons, DeBrazza's monkeys, squirrel monkeys, cotton-top tamarins, ring-tailed lemurs, red ruffed lemurs, and more. They are the only zoo in New England with a chimpanzee exhibit. 
A petting zoo, pony rides, and camel rides are available at the zoo. A play area for children is also available, with play structures made from recycled materials.
The Skyfari Sky Ride, which takes visitors over a large portion of the zoo in a triangular pattern, was opened in 2008. Visitors can see their alligator, watusi cattle, camels, chimpanzees, mandrills, and fallow deer, in a two-seat chair lift. This is a 15 minute long ride.
Another ride offered at the zoo is the Woodland Express Train. This rubber tired train passes through the North American Exhibit giving visitors a closer look at the zoo's elk. It also passes through native wetlands and riders frequently see local species including herons, snakes, turtles, and water fowl. This is a 12-minute ride.
Southwick's Zoo is also home to the Earth Discovery Center and E.A.R.T.H Limited (Environmental Awareness of Resources and Threatened Habitats), a grass roots non profit organization focusing on education and conservation education.
New exhibits and additions
In 2013, a new, much larger prairie dog exhibit opened and can be seen by the Woodland Express Train Station. Scimitar-horned oryxes were added to the Savannah Exhibit. There is a two-toed sloth exhibit by the chimpanzee exhibit. New additions for 2014 included cotton-top tamarins and Wolf's guenons. Plus a new cheetah exhibit behind the yak exhibit opened on June 2013. A new addition for 2015 included vicunas.
In 2014, EARTH Ltd. and Southwick's Zoo began offering Rhinoceros Encounters to help promote rhino conservation. These encounters help educate the participants on the current rhino poaching crisis, and they give participants the opportunity to get close to and touch the zoo's two white rhinos named Thelma and Louise.
In 2016, Southwick's Zoo opened a new reptile and insect walk through building where over 20 species now call home. Visit www.southwickszoo.com for more details. Red River Hogs and all new Bird Shows debuted in 2016. In July of each year, the zoo celebrates Zoobabies Day to highlight the many births at the zoo throughout the year.
In 2017, a new restaurant and event building will be opening to the public and zoo guests.
EARTH Discovery Center
African Pygmy Hedgehog
Blue and Gold Macaw
Chaco Golden Knee Tarantula
Kaiser's Spotted Newt
Madagascar Hissing Cockroach
Reptiles & Insects
African Fat-tailed Gecko
Argentine Black and White Tegu
Asian Water Monitor
Chinese Water Dragon
Five-keeled Spiny-tailed Iguana
Madagascar Hissing Cockroach
Salmon Pink Birdeater
African Crested Porcupine
Black Crested Mangabey
Blue and Gold Macaw
De Brazza's Monkey
Great Green Macaw
Lady Amherst's Pheasant
Red River Hog
South American Coati
Vietnamese Pot-bellied Pig
Western Crowned Pigeon
Red Ruffed Lemur
EARTH Ltd provides Southwick's Zoo with assorted education programs. EARTH performs live animal presentations at the EARTH Discovery Center which cover topics including ecology and adaptations. EARTH also offers ZooMobiles. This outreach program involves an educator and about 8 animals traveling to a school, library, or other facility to perform an educational presentation. EARTH also operates the Wild Adventure spring and summer programs for children grades k-8. The interns and docents working at the zoo are trained by this non-profit as well.
Southwick's Zoo Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.