The Oregon Zoo, like many others, is sectioned into geographic regions, like their Great Northwest where you’ll find animals like black bears, cougars, and bald eagles that call the US’s Pacific Northwest home. The Oregon Zoo is broken into five regions; Great Northwest, Pacific Shores, Asia, Fragile Forests and Africa. In this piece I’ll introduce you to the animals and exhibits that call the Pacific Shores, Fragile Forests and Asia home.
Welcome to the chilled waters of the Pacific Shores where my first encounter was with some sleepy polar bears. Their exhibit offers a great chances to go underground with their awesome underwater viewing access that makes you feel as though you truly are under the Pacific waters, below frozen ice with blue walls and an ice-like ceiling
Next door is Steller Cove, named after the German naturalist Georg Steller who described numerous animals who now bear his name like the endangered Steller sea lion, which call the Oregon Zoo home. Penguins and otters can also be found in the Pacific Shores region along with an Insect Zoo and Lorikeet Landing where you can feed these beautiful and colourful birds, found in the South Pacific and Australia, from a cup of nectar that they lap up with their long tongue while perched on your arm.
Also found here are some of the most endangered and majestic big cats, the Amur tiger and Amur leopard. The Oregon Zoo helps fund Amur Leopard & Tiger Alliance, sponsoring anti-poaching patrols, compensates ranchers for loss of livestock by big cats, funds scientific studying of tigers and leopards in Russia and China, protects habitat and helps educate locals about the importance of conservation. The Amur leopard is the rarest of the big cats with only 200 in zoos and sadly a mere 35 left in the wild.
In the Oregon Zoo’s Asia exhibit you might not find very many species of animal but there will be an epic Asian elephant exhibit opening in the fall of 2015. Elephant Lands will be a world-class habitat covering 6 acres and providing the zoo’s elephants with meadows, hills, mud wallows and pools and will be a great improvement in their health and welfare.
Who else calls Asia home? Here you’ll also find the ever adorable Malayan sun bear, named for the burnt orange patch on their breast as well as the Island Pigs of Asia exhibit. In the Island Pigs of Asia exhibit you’ll meet some pretty interesting looking pigs like the barbirusa best known for their naked-like appearance and odd ‘tusks’, and the Visayan warty pig with the males sporting pretty cool mohawks for the mating season. I was at the Visayan warty pig enclosure at the right time as a keeper was in doing some cleaning and feeding and took some time to talk to the public about their wild counterparts being very endangered due to hunters and diminishing land. Native to 6 of the Visayan Islands in the Philippines, these pigs are now extinct on 4 of the islands. As he spoke one pig in particular seemed quite happy with his tail wagging, with his presence and as he looked down and smiled at the beast and continued to educate the visitors on these fascinating creatures I found a new appreciation for them through his passion.
The Fragile Forests is home to some amazing primates in the zoo’s Red Ape Reserve as well as awesome reptiles and amphibians in the Amazon Flooded Forest. In the Red Ape Reserve you’ll meet white-cheeked gibbons swinging high in the trees, chimpanzees – one of which was doing a little reading before bed while I was there and the ever adorable and human like orangutans – one of which had wrapped herself in a blanket and looked quite like Mother Teresa.