Two large bronzed lions guard the pedestrian entrance off of Connecticut Avenue to the Smithsonian National Zoo. Entering the lush green urban park I was faced with a wide variety of people. Free to visitors makes the zoo accessible to a multitude of people looking for different experiences, whether its a casual stroll through a park, a morning jogging route, a place to sit a visit with co-workers on a lunch break or of course an animal encounter.
The initial exhibits you come upon are on the Asia Trail. All of these enclosures are large and full of foliage and hiding places. Walking on a wide bricked path lined with bamboo you first arrive at two spacious enclosures for the sloth bear, winding the corner is the clouded leopard. An enclosure dense with trees gives the feeling of watching these clouded leopards in their native rainforests of south Asia. Nocturnal by nature it was no surprise to see this beautiful cat hung up on a tree branch, with all four limbs hanging, fast asleep.
Following the trail you encounter another cat – the fishing cat. The size of a medium to small dog, both cats were active and prowling their own patch of forest with pebbled stream running through. Past the otter enclosure you find the adorable red panda. With steep rock walls, rock ledges and forested paths we caught a glimpse of the red panda nestled in the crook of a tree grooming its beautiful coat. Pausing to watch this sweet faced creature, he gradually ventured out on the limb like a graceful tight rope walker and made his way over to the rock outcropping and skilfully down the wall to the forest floor.