New expansion will celebrate Florida’s flora and fauna as well as the conservation efforts supporting them
“We’re very excited to see this project open to the public,” said Zoo Miami Director Carol Kruse. “The goal of Florida: Mission Everglades is to give our visitors a deeper understanding of the importance of the Everglades and to engage them in helping us save it. We want visitors to be inspired to actually visit the Everglades.”
Just past the new main Entry Plaza, Florida: Mission Everglades will be the first lobe of the zoo that visitors can enter. Upon entry, guests will immediately be greeted by the sights and sounds of a songbird aviary filled with blue jays, various doves, red-bellied wood peckers and other native birds. Next, they’ll pass by a naturalistic lake full of pelicans and wading birds like roseate spoonbills, egrets, herons, and more. Just down the path and under a covered walkway, fun-seeking guests will be able to slide through the North American river otter exhibit and crawl through a tunnel at the American crocodile exhibit.
For adults looking for a break and little ones needing to burn energy, there is the Cypress Landing Playground. Complete with a colorful, giant, water shooting “cypress tree” and “cypress knees” as well as climbable play structures for kids of all ages, this will certainly be the new favorite hang-out. Refreshments, snacks and sundries will be available for purchase at the Cypress Landing Café.
Farther along, guests will be able to come face to face with Florida’s biggest and most impressive land mammals, the North American black bear and the endangered Florida panther. Several viewing opportunities and interactions exist here including a training wall where zookeepers can demonstrate the animals’ natural behaviors. Terrariums along the path will captivate guests with native reptiles and amphibians such as anoles, green tree frogs, box turtles, rat snakes, water snakes and more. Further along the path is the home of the small, long-legged burrowing owl, the gopher tortoise (a keystone species that digs burrows that provide shelter for hundreds of other animals) and the timid, yet inquisitive, nine-banded armadillo.
Finally, an elevated boardwalk area displays the ever iconic American alligator and offers an adventurous rope bridge for those seeking “danger.” Unobstructed views of rehabilitated bald eagles will fill guests with pride for this majestic national symbol. A whimsical “tree house” will give glimpses into the elusive bobcat, the ever-resourceful raccoon and gray fox exhibit. Adding entertainment to education, the new addition will also feature a special “Lostman’s River ride” that allows the guest to float through the heart of the “Everglades” on a slow-moving boat with surprises around every bend.
The first phase of this project was the development of the new Entry Plaza that opened on July 15, 2016. It features new ticketing offices, a 3,500 square-foot gift shop, as well as a 2,300 square foot “Florida Room” to host public and private events. Visitors are greeted with a sleek 3D Zoo Miami sculptural sign, colorful life-size animal silhouettes, and a lit 50 foot Zoo Miami tower. Some of the animal silhouettes contain misting features to cool down guests, and all of the animals represent a migration to a “watering hole” – the beautiful flamingo pond. This is the first time in Zoo Miami’s history that an animal exhibit is accessible to guests prior to the turnstiles. The plaza is partially shaded by a “cloud-like” roof structure, which provides a contemporary aesthetic for entry, exit, day and evening events.
Both phases of this project were a collaborative effort of the Miami-Dade Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces Department, Zoo Miami and Zoo Miami Foundation. This project was funded primarily by the “Building Better Communities” General Obligation Bond Program. Guidance on interpretive elements were provided by the Everglades Foundation and Everglades National Park. Private support included gifts from: Dr. Mark Brown and Josie Romano Brown; The Cobb Family Foundation, Ambassador Sue Cobb and Ambassador Chuck Cobb; Florida Community Bank; The Helliwell Family Foundation; James A. Kushlan Ph.D.; The estate of Beth Krone; Main Street Dental; Marc and Robyn Osheroff and family; Publix Super Markets Charities, Inc.; and Sara H. Woodruff Foundation and Jack and Libby Madden.
About Zoo Miami Listed as one of the best zoos in the country and in the world by Tripadvisor.com, Zoo Miami is home to more than 3,000 animals of which more than 70 are endangered or critically endangered from all over the globe. See animals like okapis, giant river otters, elephants and rhinos in large, open air exhibits. Experience a giraffe feeding station; camel encounters; an Indian rhino encounter; Australian parrot feeding; meet and greets with Zoo Squad mascots; tram tours; family cycles; and water play areas.
Zoo Miami is located at 12400 SW 152nd St., Miami, FL 33177. General Zoo Admission is: $21.95/adult, plus tax and $17.95/child (3-12) plus tax. Children under two, Zoo members and parking are free. Zoo Miami is open daily from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.; ticket booths close at 4 p.m. For more information please visit www.zoomiami.org or call 305-251-0400.
About Zoo Miami Foundation Zoo Miami Foundation is the non-profit support organization for Zoo Miami. Today, Zoo Miami Foundation is one of the largest membership organizations in South Florida, with over 67,000 members. Its activities and programs include fundraising, marketing, volunteer services, educational programs, special events and member programming. Its mission is to encourage an appreciation for the world’s wildlife and to help conserve it for future generations. For more information, please call 305-255-5551.