A beautiful January afternoon spent at ZooTampa at Lowry Park was a perfect day out for us! We hadn’t visited in years, since back when it was still called Lowry Park Zoo. It did not disappoint….
The zoo is divided into sections: Manatee Circle by the entrance and then Africa, Asia, Primates, Florida, and Wallaroo (which is great for younger kids). I handed my 9-year-old the map and we set off to explore Asia. As you would expect, while some animals were not on exhibit, there were so many wonderful animals to be found in each of these areas. Here are some of our favorites:
We also really enjoy seeing the birds and this zoo has several aviaries that are not to be missed. From the large Marabou Storks to pelicans, owls, emus, hornbills and macaws, it is fun observing their avian behaviors. If you’re lucky, you may even see the sloths who share space in the main aviary – unfortunately, they were not on exhibit when we were there on our most recent visit. It amused me to learn that the zookeepers have trained the sloths to come down from their sleepy perches so that in the event of an oncoming hurricane, they can be placed safely out of harm’s way. Can you imagine training a sloth? These people must have the patience of a saint!
The zoo has a number of interactive opportunities with zookeepers and their animals and while we had the chance to get up close with a tarantula, my girl wasn’t feeling that so we went with the birds. For $5, you can purchase a small cup of nectar for the lorikeets. They know exactly who has the goods and won’t hesitate to land on your head, shoulders and arms the moment you enter their enclosure, eager to lick the cup clean. This was definitely a highlight of our visit. So much so, we went back for a second cup of expensive, but apparently delectable, nectar. (All for the good cause of supporting the work this zoo does!) Here are some of our favorite birds:
My kiddo loved the little tiger rollercoaster in Wallaroo so she went for a spin 5 times. We later returned for a sixth go at it, and wouldn’t you know it – that’s when it broke down! The lady running the ride was very kind and reassuring to the 4 kids (and one adult) stuck on it for just 5-10 minutes before another worker joined her to push the coaster back to the platform. This all added to the adventure of the day! It was back up and running in no time.
If you are looking to complement your visit with an engaging behind-the-scenes look, check out Secrets of the Zoo: Tampa on Nat Geo Wild! There’s a film notice at the entrance to the zoo and I had not heard of this show before, so we checked it out after our visit. We have loved binge-watching these episodes, and learning about the care the animals we saw receive and the rehabilitation work the vets and keepers do every day.
I will confess that I have mixed feelings about zoos sometimes, particularly some of the enclosures, but some of these episodes brought tears to my eyes – many keepers truly do care about the animals and sometimes have to make some really tough decisions. And we visited the Manatee Hospital, which is one of only four permitted facilities in the entire state of Florida that can take in these manatees. With the recent news of so many manatee deaths in 2020 and more already in January of this year than last January, it broke my heart to see the boat strike injuries on these young manatees but I’m so happy they have this space to rest and heal. Most will be released back to the wild but keep an eye out for Cayo! His boat strike injuries left him with lung injuries so severe that he can’t control his buoyancy anymore so he cannot be released. He has the important job of being a friend to all the manatees who make it to the pre-release pool.
If you’re in Tampa, be sure to check out ZooTampa at Lowry Park!