Brookfield Zoo’s newest exhibit, Hamill Family Wild Encounters, has taken over the space that once housed the Children’s Zoo – a favorite for many families that have come to the zoo over the years. Like in the old exhibit, which the zoo dismantled several years ago, guests can come in and mingle with goats. But Wild Encounters offers some new experiences as well, and may well become a new favorite attraction for people who love animals.
wildencounters2Among the new features are the aviary, a building that houses 700 parakeets (several hundred are out at any given time). Zoo staff will sell seed sticks for the birds, and upon entering, guests will be mobbed by these colorful little creatures wanting food. It isn’t uncommon to see people standing with both arms covered with birds. You’ll have to be careful not to step on one!
Another soon-to-be-popular area is the wallaby walk, a figure-eight that lets you encounter emus and wallabies separated by a single short chain, easily leaped over by these cute and furry marsupials. At the time we visited, the 20-odd wallabies in the exhibit were all lying down in the shade.
The adorable Nigerian goats are fun to feed and pet, and there are machines that will dispense food for families with spare change. Also in Wild Encounters you’ll meet reindeer, alpacas, llamas, and two red pandas with their amazing enrichment tree (ask a docent or staff member about it).
wildencounters1The pavilion in Wild Encounters, which is slated for events and rainy-day Animal Ambassador encounters, features a wall that’s lined with the wood from the old red barn that used to be a popular feature of the Children’s Zoo. There’s also a central plaza with kinesthetic sculptures.
Throughout the season, you’ll be able to encounter the zoo’s Animal Ambassadors here. These animals aren’t viewable in the zoo, though they appear at events and zoo talks. they include a sloth, serval cats, birds of prey, a tamandua (anteater), and other cool creatures.
Wild Encounters requires additional admission; $5 for adults, $ for kids 3-11, but ticket packages are available. For additional information on the zoo (Brookfield just announced the birth of wolf puppies this week), visit www.brookfieldzoo.org.