Alexandria Zoo is lighting up the holidays

Alexandria Zoo is lighting up the holidays

Alexandria Zoo is lighting up the season with Holiday Light Safari. Create wonderful holiday memories with a casual stroll through the Zoo’s colorful and enchanting environment. See the Zoo sparkle with awe-inspiring lighted animal figures and whimsical animated displays adorned in lights over 11 nights this December.

Hop aboard the Holiday Express train ride, get into the holiday spirit with festive entertainment on select evenings, and share your wish list with Santa. Stop by Atwood’s Merry Creations in the Activities Building where kids can decorate an Atwood’s Bakery cookie and make a craft.

Warm up with tasty winter treats from the Palm Café. Hot chocolate, meals and snacks will be available for purchase. Wrap up the evening with a stop at the Zootique Gift Shop where a variety of wild gift items, perfect for the animal in everyone, await.

Catch the magic this December 8-9 and 15-23 from 5:30 pm – 8 pm. Admission is $7 per person, ages four and older. FOTAZ memberships and other zoo passes are not valid during Holiday Light Safari.

Alexandria Zoo will close at 4 pm and reopen at 5:30 pm each evening of Holiday Light Safari. In the event of inclement weather, the decision to cancel an evening of Holiday Light Safari will be announced via the Zoo’s facebook page.

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Florida sandhill cranes back at Alexandria Zoo

Sandhill cranes back at Alexandria Zoo

After the completion of renovations to their exhibit, Florida sandhill cranes are back at Alexandria Zoo.

Florida sandhill cranes (Antigone canadensis pratensis) are found in Florida and southeastern Georgia. They inhabit freshwater wetlands, including marshes, wet prairies, and savannas.

Sandhill crane pairs perform unison calling to create a bond. The unique melody composed by these elegant birds is a loud, rolling, trumpeting sound. The call varies in length, strength and loudness depending on its intention.

Animal Health Center reopens

Animal Health Center reopens

After a year of construction, the veterinary team has moved into the newly renovated and expanded Animal Health Center.

Like any modern medical facility, the Animal Health Center includes an examination and treatment room, fully equipped sterile surgery, radiology, laboratory, pharmacy, diet preparation kitchen, and nursery. The building also includes animal holding, quarantine, sterilization room, laundry, storage, office, and employee bathroom with a shower.

"Our top priority is providing excellent, whole life animal care," said zoo director Lee Ann Whitt. "The upgraded animal hospital is another step toward fulfilling our mission."

In 1986, Alexandria Zoo became one of the first small zoos in the country to have an on-site animal health care facility and full-time veterinary technician on staff.

As our animal family has grown and regulations to veterinary medicine have evolved and improved, enhancements to the 30-year-old facility became a necessity. The most notable feature of the building is the addition of a sterile surgery suite, which is now required by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

"I am excited for the increased space and flexibility in providing ongoing care to our animals," said zoo veterinarian Dr. Rebekah Riedel. "The addition of a sterile surgery suite will facilitate both elective and therapeutic procedures being performed on grounds."

The renovation was funded by the City of Alexandria. Friends of the Alexandria Zoo (FOTAZ) also aided the project by purchasing equipment such as a digital x-ray machine. The building was designed by Yeager Watson Architects and built by Bayou Rapides Construction Company.

Top 5 reasons to attend Les Fest

Top 5 reasons you should attend Les Fest

5. The Atmosphere
Come pass a good time with the best of Louisiana from down-home Cajun cuisine to the soulful sounds of bayou blues resonating on stage. Set against a backdrop of amazing animals, national and international acts have graced the stage at Les Fest over the years such as James Boogaloo Bolden, Bonerama, Walter Wolfman Washington, and Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes.

4. Local Bluesman
Alexandria native Eric Johanson will be opening the night with his soulful blues guitar. Johanson has toured across the US and internationally as lead guitarist for the legendary Cyril Neville, Grammy-winning Zydeco artist Terrance Simien, and performed onstage with Tab Benoit, JJ Grey & Mofro, Eric Lindell, Mike Zito, Anders Osborne, the Neville Brothers, and many more.

3. It's a Good Cause
Les Fest celebrates the late zoo director Leslie "Les" Whitt, who dedicated his life to serving the citizens of Alexandria and promoting the conservation of the world’s wildlife. The event raises funds to support the Zoo’s mission and continues to keep his dream alive for Alexandria Zoo.

2. Fabulous Food
We’ve composed a menu sure to make your mouth water. Local favorites Atwood’s Bakery, Back Woods Catering, Copeland’s, Julia’s Mexican Restaurant, Panaroma Foods, Southern Creations, Spirits Food & Friends, and Tunk’s Cypress Inn are serving a lineup bursting with flavor.

1. Tab Benoit is back!
The acclaimed blues musician is back for an encore performance at Alexandria Zoo. Winner of multiple Blues Music Awards including the B.B. King Entertainer of the Year and Contemporary Blues Male Artist, Benoit was inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame in 2010.

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Capybara born at Alexandria Zoo

Since December, Alexandria Zoo has welcomed over a dozen new babies representing six species. The most recent arrivals are four capybaras.

The three males and a female were born on August 19. After a five to seven month gestation, capybaras give birth to up to seven young. At birth, the babies weigh two to three pounds.

Capybaras (Hydrochaeris hydrochaeris) live in dense vegetation surrounding lakes, rivers, swamps, marshes, and ponds in Central and South America. Capybaras are the world’s largest rodents, weighing up to 150 pounds.

Tab Benoit at Les Fest

Tab Benoit is back at Alexandria Zoo's Les Fest

Is there a better combination than the blend of blues and nature? On Thursday, September 28, the soulful sound of blues will be flowing among the hoots, howls and roars of the animals at Alexandria Zoo.

Les Fest is the Zoo's signature adult evening filled with live music and delicious food. The event celebrates the late zoo director Leslie "Les" Whitt, who dedicated his life to serving the citizens of Alexandria and promoting the conservation of the world’s wildlife. Two of Whitt's great loves included Alexandria Zoo and music, both of which take center stage at Les Fest.

Musician and wetlands preservation advocate, Tab Benoit, will bring his acclaimed bayou blues sound back to Alexandria Zoo. Benoit, a Houma, Louisiana native, is an American blues guitarist and singer. Winner of multiple Blues Music Awards including the B.B. King Entertainer of the Year and Contemporary Blues Male Artist, Benoit was inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame in 2010. In 2003, he co-founded Voice of the Wetlands, a volunteer-based non-profit organization "focused on driving awareness about the loss of the wetlands in southern Louisiana."

Alexandria native Eric Johanson will be opening the night with his soulful blues guitar. Johanson has toured across the US and internationally as lead guitarist for the legendary Cyril Neville, Grammy-winning Zydeco artist Terrance Simien, and performed onstage with Tab Benoit, JJ Grey & Mofro, Eric Lindell, Mike Zito, Anders Osborne, the Neville Brothers, and many more.

In addition to music, the evening will feature a superb lineup of food, soft drinks, margaritas, beer and wine available for purchase. Local area restaurants and caterers will be donating their culinary talents to compose an enticing menu of both savory and sweet creations. Vendors include Atwood’s Bakery, Back Woods Catering, Copeland's, Julia's Mexican Restaurant, Panaroma Foods, Southern Creations, Spirits Food & Friends, and Tunk’s Cypress Inn.

Gates will open at 6:30 pm. Individual tickets are $25 through September 21 and $30 after September 21. Tickets and reserved tables are available for purchase on the zoo's website,, and at the Alexandria Zoo office. Tickets can also be purchased at the gate during Les Fest.

Proceeds from Les Fest help advance the Zoo's conservation mission and aid projects designed to enrich the lives of animals at the Zoo.

Learn More   Purchase Tickets   Why Les Fest?

Birthday Parties

New to the herd

Alexandria Zoo's herd just got a little bigger. A male and female Reeve's muntjac were born within a month of each other.

The two fawns and their mothers are doing very well. The male, "Miles", was born July 16, and the female, "Mila", was born August 10.

Female muntjacs give birth to one to two young after a six-month gestation. Young are born with spots and weigh only about 19 - 24 ounces. The fawns are weaned around 2 months of age.

These small deer are native to the deciduous forests of southern China and Taiwan. They are also known as "barking deer" due to the deep bark-like sounds they make when on alert. Muntjacs are among the oldest known deer species, with fossil remains dating back 15 to 35 million years ago.

Miles and Mila are on exhibit with the rest of the muntjac herd across from the siamangs in the Asian area.

Learn more about muntjacs

Birthday Parties

Party with the animals

A child's birthday is so much more than cake and gifts! With the launching of themed birthday parties, children can experience Alexandria Zoo in a whole new way.

Families can choose from up to five unique themes, each including their own special activities, animal encounters, and VIP tours. Themes are geared towards the five immersive regions of the Zoo: Australia, Africa, Asia, South America, and Louisiana. Each party includes ice cream and cake, a Party Host, and an Assistant to help facilitate your child’s special day.

"The parties are more than just entertainment, they're educational too," said Birthday Host Diane Salinger. "The unique themes tie in the whole day and go beyond what a normal guest gets to experience."

The birthday family and friends will have the air-conditioned birthday building for 90 minutes for the standard package and two hours for the premium package. And a visit to Alexandria Zoo wouldn’t be complete without a ride on the Bayou Le Zoo Choo Choo!

Birthdays are offered Saturday at 10:00am or 1:00pm, subject to availability.

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Zoo internship program accepting applications

As a community driven institution, with a mission of promoting conservation and understanding of the natural world, Alexandria Zoological Park understands that fostering environmental stewards in our emerging workforce is of the utmost importance. Having highly skilled and experienced conservationists in our community and beyond is critical to the advancement of our field and mission.

To that end, the Zoo has created an internship program for current and recent college students to acquire practical, tangible experience that is so important to finding a desirable career in student’s major of study after university. The internships last around three months and require only part time hours, allowing students to focus on their studies while completing the internship requirements.

Students gain experience, develop skills, make key connections, and find their true passions throughout the course of their time at the Zoo. "My favorite part of the internship program is the overall breadth and depth of each position," said Zakary Shafer, Curator of Education. "Interns will always be working towards goals and final projects while doing their day to day duties."

Regardless of skill set, past experience, or future ambitions, Alexandria Zoological Park has an internship opportunity for you. The unique multi-tract structure of our Zoological Internship allows students to focus on skills and opportunities that they may be lacking or that best suit their future endeavors.

The interns may choose to focus on Animal Care by performing husbandry throughout the Zoo, share their passion for wildlife through Conservation Education, or support Conservation Research with onsite and offsite projects. The flexibility and scope of our Communications Internship is ideal for those who may not know where they want to end up yet, while providing ample experiences for polished students in their early careers as well. Alexandria Zoological Park has career mentors eager to encourage and challenge interns to achieve their goals here and beyond the Zoo.

For internship descriptions and how to apply, click below.

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River otter pups born at Alexandria Zoo

River otter pups born at Alexandria Zoo

On February 26, the Alexandria Zoo family got a little bit bigger. North American river otters Mack and Emmy welcomed two new additions, a male named Ollie and a female named Maisy.

Otter pups are born blind and completely dependent on their mother. "Emmy has been an awesome mom so far. We’re so excited at how well she’s done," said zookeeper Laura Yerby.

Around one month old, the pups' eyes open, and at about two months, mom starts teaching them to swim.

For now, Emmy and the pups are separated from Mack, so Mom and Dad will alternate time in the exhibit. "As soon as the pups start swimming well, which usually happens around three months old, we'll introduce Mack back into the family," said Yerby.

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Don't miss this summer's biggest blockbuster hit

Don't miss this summer's biggest blockbuster hit

This summer, coming to a zoo near you, it's Summer Safari: Lights. Conservation. Animals! Our production crew is ready on set for this action-packed adventure filled with wildlife and conservation.

During Summer Safari, children in pre-k through the 8th grade can spend a whole week learning about Alexandria Zoo, its unique residents, and how we all play an important role as stewards of our planet. Classes are geared to a specific age group, with fun, age-appropriate lessons and activities. Sessions include animal encounters, visits with zookeepers, behind-the-scenes tours, hands-on activities, and more.

Under the guidance of educators and zoo staff, children explore the natural world through fun and exciting conservation activities with the goal of fostering their love and appreciation of wildlife.

The weeklong, half-day camps begin June 5 and run through August 4. Class fees are $95 for current FOTAZ Members and $115 for non-members.

For more information about Summer Safari or to register online, click below.

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5 animals that deserve some love this Valentine's Day

5 animals that deserve some love this Valentine's Day

We all need love, even animals. While the cute and fuzzy creatures hog most of our affections, there are many less glamorous animals that deserve our love and appreciation for the vital role they play in healthy ecosystems. Here are five animals looking to win over your untamed heart this Valentine’s Day.

1. Red River Hog
Super fine swine looking for love. Ruggedly handsome and always dressed for success in a colorful red coat. Enjoys spending days wallowing in the river. Always in search of a good meal and someone to share it with.

2. Madagascar Hissing Cockroach
Seeking someone to share hugs and hisses with. Loves the nightlife and taking long walks in the forest. Avid environmentalist, working to keep forests clean and healthy.

3. Corn Snake
Serpent searching for that sss-pecial someone to slither into my heart. Bessst at keeping rodents from destroying crops. Very laid back, rarely gets rattled.

4. Double-wattled Cassowary
Family-oriented, devoted dad. Enthusiastic gardener, dropping fertilizer and seeds throughout the rainforest.

5. King Vulture
Seeking a royal place on the throne of your heart. Enjoys the majesty of flying. Crowning environmental achievement is cleaning up rotting carcasses and preventing the spread of disease.

Want to learn more about these amazing creatures?
Red River Hog | Madagascar Hissing Cockroach | Corn Snake | Double-wattled Cassowary | King Vulture

Mambo over for the Mardi Gras Party

Mambo over for the Mardi Gras Party

Laissez les bons temps rouler Saturday, February 25 at Alexandria Zoo! Following the Children’s Parade, mambo over to the zoo for the Mardi Gras Party from 2 - 4 pm.

Sink your teeth into a delectable slice of king cake, courtesy of Atwood's Bakery. These sweet creations will be served up at the Festival Plaza.

Enjoy two live performances on stage. Hit the dance floor with The LaCour Trio and take a nostalgic journey through World War II-era musical classics performed by the National WWII Museum's charming vocal trio, the Victory Belles. Their spirited performances of such hits as Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree, Chattanooga Choo Choo and I'll Be Seeing You, are all sung in a rich, three-part harmony.

Guests can also tour the zoo, stop by the Education Building to see some little creatures up close, and visit with Roary the Lion and other costumed characters.

The Mardi Gras Party is sponsored by the City of Alexandria, Friends of the Alexandria Zoo, Atwood's Bakery, and the Alexandria / Pineville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. Regular zoo admission. FOTAZ Members are free with card and photo ID.

Oh, baby! Two endangered primate species born at Alexandria Zoo

Oh, baby! Two endangered primate species born at Alexandria Zoo

In less than a month, Alexandria Zoo has had the privilege of celebrating the births of a trio of healthy babies.

Walk through the Asian area at Alexandria Zoo on any given morning and you’re likely to be serenaded by siamangs Tucker and Ashley. With the arrival of their first offspring on December 22, the pair and the zoo have a lot to sing about. The baby, whose gender has yet to be determined, is the first siamang born at Alexandria Zoo.

On January 8, the cotton-top tamarins welcomed twins, marking the arrival of the zoo’s first babies of 2017. Cotton-top tamarins have been at Alexandria Zoo since 1987 and the twins are the most recent of several tamarins born here over the years.

The births are significant for the conservation of both species as siamangs are endangered and cotton-top tamarins are critically endangered.

All three youngsters are being reared by their very attentive moms and dads, which have exhibited excellent parental care. Both the siamangs and cotton-top tamarins have built strong family bonds, with both fathers sharing in the duties of raising the young.

Once the babies are old enough to live on their own, the Species Survival Plan coordinators for each species will determine whether the offspring stay at the zoo or go to another facility to be paired with other primates. Both primate families are spending time in their outdoor habitats so visitors can catch a glimpse of the little bundles of joy.

Watch Siamang Video   Watch Cotton-top Tamarin Video

Long journey home for young cubs

Long journey home for young cubs

For brother and sister Jack and Diane the cougars and brothers Chipp and Obie the black bears, life took a rocky turn at a young age.

At only a few months old, the wild born sibling pairs were orphaned. In the wild, young cougars and black bears can stay with their mothers for up to two years. "The life skills that are developed while watching and learning from a parent, particularly the mother, are difficult for a human surrogate to instill," said Dr. Rebekah Riedel, Zoo Veterinarian. "This makes reintroduction back into the wild impossible in many cases."

Some orphaned animals are able to find a permanent home while others are not so lucky. Providing refuge for orphaned wild animals is an important role that zoos are sometimes able to fill, depending on timing and space availability.

Due to age and health issues associated with our elderly female cougar, the zoo began the search for a pair of young cougars. "The process usually begins by contacting the Species Survival Plan coordinator for the species and watching other zoos’ news to see if they are temporarily housing orphaned animals," said Lee Ann Whitt, Zoo Director. "We were able to provide a home for two young cougars and are happy to announce our older female, Kira, is still doing ok."

Charismatic cougars Jack and Diane were born in Washington state and arrived at the zoo in late 2015. Cougars are renowned for their strength, stealth and agility. Both Jack and Diane love to jump and balance on their exhibit props and investigate new sights and sounds. The pair will be moving into the renovated cougar exhibit later this spring.

"When we lost Mike, our male black bear, the search began for a nuisance or orphaned black bear in Louisiana. What we didn't expect was adopting two adorable brothers from a rehab facility in Minnesota," said Whitt. "But our accepting the cubs saved their lives."

Chipp and Obie were born in early 2016 in Minnesota and arrived at the zoo in December 2016. The rough and tumble boys have adapted quickly to their new home and are often seen playing and wrestling with each other. "They're a lot of fun. They're a handful and messy, but I'm having fun taking care of them," said zookeeper Laura Yerby. Right now Chipp is a little larger than Obie. As adults, black bears usually reach four to six feet in height and weigh 200 to 600 pounds.

Despite the shaky beginning for these two sibling pairs, each has found a place to call home at Alexandria Zoo.

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Share your love of animals and conservation

Share your love of animals and conservation

Alexandria Zoo is looking for adults with great people skills and a love for animals and conservation. Each year, volunteers donate hundreds of hours of their time, talents and energy in support of the Zoo.

Volunteers train to assist the zoo in the areas of education, special events, landscaping and grounds maintenance, zookeeper work and more.

Alexandria Zoo is accepting applications for the 2017 Adult Volunteer Training Program through Tuesday, January 31. Applicants must be at least 18 years old and possess a high school diploma or GED. Volunteers are required to pay a $25 program fee, attend all applicable training sessions to be held at the Zoo, and be a member of FOTAZ.

More Information   Download Application