ShareThis Page

Philly's new children's zoo shows off animals' abilities

| Saturday, April 27, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Aiden Shepherd, 1, interacts with goats on Tuesday, April 23, 2013, at the petting area of the KidZooU section of the Philadelphia Zoo.
ITwo children visit an interactive station that teaches about energy conservation on Tuesday, April 23, 2013, in the KidZooU section of the Philadelphia Zoo.

PHILADELPHIA — Kids who clamber around a novel playground at the Philadelphia Zoo might suddenly find themselves at eye level with a monkey. Or even with a stair-climbing goat.

It's one of many features at the new $32 million KidZooU that's designed to help youngsters develop compassion for animals and look at ordinary creatures in different ways.

The space opened this month and replaces a children's zoo that had not been significantly updated since it was established in 1957. The old exhibit — which closed late last year — did not have an indoor area, making it difficult to enjoy in bad weather.

Nearly two years in the making, KidZooU features many rare breeds of ducks, sheep, fowl and ponies among its outdoor denizens. An indoor education center includes tropical fish, butterflies, rats and an ant farm, as well as hands-on exhibits about habitat conservation and classroom space.

In addition to the traditional petting zoo, visitors can see demonstrations of the creatures' extraordinary skills. Chickens will tackle agility courses, while pigeons will show off their ability to count. Really — pigeons can count.

“It's my dream that a kid will leave here and, the next time they see a pigeon in a park, rather than chasing it and trying to kick it, they're really engaged and say, ‘Wow, that's a smart bird. I want to watch it,'” said Andrew Baker, the zoo's chief operating officer.

Visitors might look at goats in a new way, too. A 400-foot-long protected path allows the four-legged creatures to leave their enclosure by crossing a bridge above the entrance to KidZooU. The path leads to a staircase — goats love to climb — that parallels a playground climbing tower for children, giving each species a unique view of the other.

Kids could have a close encounter with small primates. The Treetop Trail, which allows monkeys and lemurs to traverse the zoo property via enclosed, suspended pathways, now ends in a giant cage that hangs next to the kids' tower.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.