Every time I enter an Africa exhibit of a zoo I hear Toto’s song “Africa” playing in my head and a tug on my heart strings for a continent I long to explore and Oregon Zoo’s Africa exhibit was no different.
I arrived at the Africa exhibit with a hungry belly and decided to stop for a bite to eat in the AfriCafé and was amazed. As I grabbed my food and went to sit down I stopped dead in my tracks – there in the café you can sit looking out into the Vollum Aviary where birds flew by and perched high in the canopy of the simulated African rainforest. I LOVED it! After my lunch I went to explore the Vollum Aviary, full of dense, rich green foliage, massive leaves, pretty flowers and lots of colourful birds. Here you’ll discover the curious hamerkop – a small to medium sized bird that make massive nests, the wee little speckled mouse bird that sometimes clings to trees and hangs upside down, as well as many others. Test yourself and see if you can spot them all! Just before I left the aviary a rain shower began – right there in aviary, it was great to see the emerald starling hopping along the ground in the rain as if re-enacting a scene from Singing in the Rain.
Next I was off to Predators of the Serengeti exhibit, home to some fantastic enclosures and a Masai Warriors display. The Masai Warriors are an African people who live in the highlands of East Africa and are a tall and proud people with a strikingly beautiful look with their colourful jewellery and dress. The Masai live much as they did 1000’s of years ago with a life centered around their livestock. Here at the Oregon Zoo there is a great display of some of their weapons, shields, jewellery and clothing.
The Predators of the Serengeti is home to the sweet cheetah and the beautiful painted wild dog – whose exhibit was large, with dens, shaded trees and a babbling brook running through it as well as a display on snare traps where one artist created an awesome art piece representing the face of wild dog with a snare found in the Serengeti. But for me the best enclosure here was for the zoo’s pride of lions, it is by far the largest I’ve seen with massive rocks, waterfalls, plenty of land and trees. The perfect African lion family calls this place home, a large stunning adult male, a beautiful lioness and a few darling cubs, all lounging on their giant rocks looking out over their land – cue The Lion King’s “Circle of Life“.
From predators to herbivores, the Africa Savanna exhibit is home to rhinos, hippos and a great multi-species enclosure where you’ll meet giraffe, Southern ground hornbills, Speke’s gazelle and gerenuks. I’m always absolutely intrigued by gerenuks, they look like a cross between a giraffe and gazelle with slim, slender bodies and long necks and strange eating habits that allow them to fill a niche between both ground feeding gazelles and upper tree feeding giraffes. Gerenuks stand on their hind legs and stretch out their long neck and front legs to reach rich, tender leaves in the trees, a behaviour I got to witness while at the San Diego Zoo, but at the Oregon Zoo it was as if they were trying to camouflage themselves by standing stalk still right beside the tan rock walls of their exhibit.
There are plenty of animals to see in Oregon Zoo’s Africa region like African crested porcupines, flamingos and even naked mole rats – always a favourite of mine. The zoo has an awesome exhibit for their naked mole rats, its like a slice of African ground with windows into their world.
Lastly, but certainly not least is the African Rainforest, home to reptiles and bats found in Africa’s astounding rainforests as well as monkeys like the cape toting colobus monkey and the adorable DeBrazza’s monkey – one of which was sitting on a rope swing, swinging back and forth like a child in a playground.
I was totally blown away by this gem in Portland’s Washington Park. The Oregon Zoo had fantastic enclosures, introduced me to some new animals and now holds a spot as one of the best zoos I’ve visited!