Founded in 1922, the Houston Zoo is an exciting live animal adventure that provides a unique educational and conservation resource serving more than 1.9 million guests annually. Set in a 55-acre lush tropical landscape, the zoo is home to more than 6,000 exotic animals representing more than 800 species. Visitors can experience the wonders of Africa at The African Forest, the new 6.5 acre, $40 million addition featuring chimps, rhinos, and giraffes. Travel to Africa. No Passport Required.
Operated by the not-for-profit Houston Zoo Inc., the zoo is dedicated to the conservation of endangered species, the provision of engaging educational opportunities and the creation of stimulating exhibits that broaden the experiences of guests and encourage their curiosity.
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The African Forest
Your adventure begins as you enter The African Forest, trekking down a path that emerges into a village trading outpost. You explore the small, round huts that surround a fire pit. As you wind your way into the forest, drums pound in the distance, and you find an indoor chimpanzee study site with a huge glass wall for observation. The chimps enjoy watching you as much as you study them. As you depart, you walk through a rocky tunnel, and a clearing suddenly emerges. You see white rhino relaxing in the sun while kudu stand nearby. As you walk further, your stomach rumbles, and luckily, there’s a restaurant just around the corner. As you eat, you observe elegant Masai giraffes, zebra, and ostriches.
Asian Elephant Habitat
Covering an enormous three acres, the McNair Asian Elephant Habitat is a fun, naturalistic place to live and enjoy for the zoo’s seven elephants. Watch young elephants Tupelo and Baylor splash around in their 80,000 gallon pool, while a shaded, 200-seat demonstration area is a great place to see keeper talks from our elephant care team. You can even see inside the 7,000 square foot elephant barn, where elephants are given daily baths (be sure to check the keeper chat schedule for times!). Since adult males and females live apart in the wild, you’ll see the same living arrangement here at the zoo: the females are in one yard with their calves, while our older male, Thai, and younger Tucker enjoy space to themselves.
Shoebill Stork Exhibit
African-native Shoebill Storks get some love from the Houston Zoo in a large, new aviary that opened in June 2010. Inside, the exhibit features a wading pool, a beautiful old oak tree and a more than 70-year-old faux concrete tree. Encased by stainless steel woven mesh, guests are afforded clear views of the animals from three sides of the stork’s exhibit space.
A journey through Natural Encounters is like an adventure through an entire continent: see animals from the river’s edge, rainforest canopy, desert, and coral reef, all under one air-conditioned roof. Tree branches stretch out over pathways, waterfalls cascade into pools, and animal meet you at every turn. Come nose to nose with some of the world’s most endangered animals as you experience animals up close through large glass viewing panes. You can even crawl right into a see-through tunnel to view piranhas inside their exhibit! As you leave the building, watch meerkats peek out of their burrows while their sentry watches for predators as medical center helicopters fly overhead (they look a little like hawks to meerkats).
Fischer Bird Gardens, Tropical Bird House, and Birds of the World
One of the largest collections in any US zoo, the zoo is home to over 250 species and 800 individual birds. There are three main bird exhibits: Fischer Bird Gardens, the Tropical Bird House, and Birds of the World. As you enter the Bird Gardens, you are greeted by the largest vulture in the New World: the king vulture. You can also see huge rhinoceros hornbills, unusual turacos, and gorgeous scarlet ibis. The Tropical Bird House is a lush retreat filled with the sounds of the rainforest. Play “I Spy” as you try to find all the species of birds flying around you! As you walk through Birds of the World, enjoy beautiful flamingoes, the strange yet amazing shoebill stork, and many more incredible species.
John P. McGovern Children's Zoo
Watch a river otter play underwater, explore a realistic bat cave, get up close and personal with the goats and sheep in the petting area, and watch an entertaining show in the butterfly pavilion. The Children’s Zoo takes you through forty exhibits showcasing the six ecosystems of Texas: the city, Gulf Coast, desert, forest, prairie, and farm. If the kids need to burn of a little energy, visit the playground so they can jump, slide, and climb. As you stroll through, don’t forget to stop by the Naturally Wild Swap Shop, where you can bring items that you find in nature and trade them for natural items in our collection.
Take an expedition from the coral reefs of the Pacific to the Amazon Basin and the Rift Valley lakes of Africa by visiting the Kipp Aquarium. Home to over 200 species and 2,000 individual fresh and saltwater fish, as well as marine invertebrates, you’ll be sure to find a new favorite underwater animal here. As you enter, see a flooded Amazon forest filled with huge stingrays and gigantic catfish – but be careful, as a large school of piranhas is close by! Explore a little further to see a rescued sea turtle swimming with other amazing fish found in the Gulf. Be sure not to miss the bright green moray eel, giant pacific octopus, sharks, and the delicate, beautiful moon jellyfish.
Wortham World of Primates
Located in the heart of the zoo, Wortham World of Primates offers up close viewing of some of the world’s most fascinating and intelligent creatures. Nestled in a naturalistic setting, Wortham World’s boardwalks and tree houses allow visitors to observe the behavior of a wide variety of threatened and endangered primates including lemurs, red capped mangabey, siamangs, patas monkeys, Bolivian gray titis, cotton top and golden lion tamarins, howler monkeys, and Sumatran and Bornean orangutans.
See some of the world’s most venomous snakes and exotic amphibians in the reptile & amphibian building! Just outside the building, visit Smaug, one of the zoo’s resident (and very large) Komodo dragons. Inside, you’ll see Blanco, one of only fourteen white alligators in existence. You can also learn about snakes in Texas – and you surely won’t be able to miss some of the world’s largest, like the reticulated and Burmese pythons. The dart frogs also aren’t hard to find, colored with beautiful, bright jewel tones. There are over 900 animals representing more than 140 species of reptiles and 40 species of amphibians – can you find them all?
This exhibit is divided into two areas within the Zoo: west and east. At west Hoofed Run, you will see several species of African animals in two exhibits, including giant eland with their huge, twisted horns, warthogs, lowland Nyala, and even marabou storks to keep the hoofed animals company. Over on east Hoofed Run, bongo, yellow-backed duikers, and okapi make up a large part of this cast of characters. If you’ve never seen an okapi, make it a “must see” when you visit – it’s a relative of the giraffe, but you might think it’s closer to a zebra when you see it. Cranes and ground hornbills also make their home on west Hoofed Run, keeping life interesting for the hoofed animals they live with.
Lions and Tigers and Bears – and more
Lions, tigers, and bears…oh my! Meet the king of the jungle, tigers, jaguars, grizzly bears, fossa, and so many other carnivores as you trek through the wilds of the Houston Zoo. Your journey through the Carnivores exhibits will require a keen sense of sight –keep your eyes peeled in the small cats exhibits, because they like to hide – and their coats provide the perfect camouflage. Also, don’t miss the University of Houston’s mascot, Shasta the cougar. Think cats don’t like the water? Think again! Stop by to visit the tigers, and you might just see them taking a dip in their moat. Take a close-up peek at the lions in the lion tunnel, where you may be able to observe our lion girls playing with special toys and treats.
The Houston Zoo’s Wildlife Carousel is located at the entrance to the John P. McGovern Children’s Zoo. The carousel is a unique work of art, hand carved and painted. Many of the exotic animals represented on the carousel can be found in the zoo, such as the okapi, bongo, babirusa and giant eland. Also represented are the only armadillos known to exist as carousel figures. A portion of the proceeds from the Carousel helps fund the zoo’s ongoing conservation efforts. Riders of all ages can have fun taking a spin and knowing that they are bringing hope to endangered species and wild habitats around the world!
Tickets: $1.25 members, $2.50 non-members
Take your seat and hold on tight for new thrills and chills as the Houston Zoo brings Ice Age Dawn of the Dinosaurs and Grizzly Bears to the 4-D Experience in The African Forest. The 4-D Experience begins with the spectacular visuals and surround sound of a 3-D movie and then adds the fourth dimension of the senses – motion, scent, wind, mist, bubbles and light. You not only see and hear the action but you feel it too! That’s the 4-D Experience at the Houston Zoo. Located next door to the Herzstein Trading Post at The African Forest, the 4-D Experience offers zoo guests a variety of short family-friendly films. For more information about show titles and prices, visit the Houston Zoo on the Web.
Zoo guests have a unique opportunity to interact with our our Masai giraffe family at the Giraffe Feeding Platform. Our giraffes are among the most beloved at the Houston Zoo for their charm and obvious curiosity about their visitors. Make your way up the ramp to the feeding area for a birds-eye view of the giraffes, zebra, and ostriches while you offer a crunchy lettuce leaf snack to your new long-necked pals. Feedings daily at 11 am and 2 pm* – $5 for giraffe food. Revenue generated from giraffe feeding helps support the care of our giraffes and the other 6,000 animals at the Houston Zoo.
*dependent on weather and giraffe participation
Ride METRORail to the Houston Zoo from the Fannin South Park and Ride lot. With frequent service, METRORail is a convenient answer to traffic congestion in the Texas Medical Center/Hermann Park/Museum District corridor. For METRORail information, visit www.ridemetro.org.
The Houston Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). Look for the AZA logo whenever you visit a zoo or aquarium as your assurance that you are supporting a facility dedicated to providing excellent care for animals, a great experience for you, and a better future for all living things. With its more than 200 accredited members, AZA is a leader in global wildlife conservation, and your link to helping animals in their native habitats.
Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau - Member