Author Archives: Knoxville Zoo

Knoxville Zoo Offer $5 Admission For Guests Who Know What the Fox Says


Inspired by the internet sensation making everyone wonder what the fox really says, Knoxville Zoo is offering $5 admission to guests who give their best take on one of the possibilities featured in the popular You Tube music video beginning Saturday, November 2nd  through Friday, November 8th.


Since the offbeat song by the Norwegian comedy duo Ylvis offers a wide variety of possible things a fox may say, guests can offer their favorite interpretation at the zoo’s ticket window to receive a discounted admission of $5 to Knoxville Zoo for themselves and their accompanying party from Saturday, November 2nd through Friday, November 8th


“We’re hoping our guests have a lot of fun with this promotion,” says Alison Travis, director of Marketing at Knoxville Zoo.  “It’s a little silly, but that’s the whole point, really.  It’s a way you can start having fun before you even come through our gates, which we think is a wonderful way to start your visit.”


Those not familiar with the “What Does the Fox Say” video can find a link on Knoxville Zoo’s Facebook page and Twitter profile.  The zoo encourages sharing of the unconventional promotion with friends and family via social media. 


The $5 admission is valid only at the zoo’s ticket window from November 2nd through November 8th and cannot be combined with any other discount or coupon.    

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A Love Triangle in Gorilla Valley?

One lucky, gorilla has the opportunity to find love here at the Knoxville Zoo. He will be introduced to two very lovely ladies, but only one will win his heart. Who will he choose?

 Meet Knoxville Zoo’s most eligible bachelor, Wanto.  Wanto left his life at Kansas City Zoo, and traveled all the way here to Knoxville hoping to find love. Living the single life for many years, Wanto is now ready to find a female companion to call his own.

About our Bachelor:


Age: 35

Home Zoo: Kansas City Zoo

Status: Male Silverback

Wanto, a true romantic is searching for a female companion who will provide love, loyalty, and share her craisins (one of his favorite snacks). Our bachelor enjoys the simple things in life: sunbathing, watching movies, and peanut butter covered celery. Since arriving at Knoxville Zoo Wanto is settling quite nicely into his bachelor pad at Gorilla Valley, and he is feeling more at home everyday. Wanto is eager to meet the exquisite contestants and begin his journey to find love.

Meet the Contestants :


Age: 29

Home Zoo: Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Favorite Game: Tug-O-War

Hope is a playful girl with a big personality. Very outgoing and confident, Hope is sure to leave an impression on our bachelor



Age: 35Image

Home Zoo: Zoo Atlanta

Favorite Snack: Fruit

Quite, calm and smart, Machi is a mystery that is sure to leave Wanto wanting to know more.

So far, Hope and Machi have been getting along great and becoming the best of friends; however, competing for Wanto’s heart may tear their friendship apart.

Will our gorilla bachelor, Wanto find love at Knoxville Zoo? Who will win his heart? Will it be playful Hope or mysterious Machi? So many questions to be answered! Only time will tell if there will be a match made in Gorilla Valley.

Made possible by Knoxville Zoo and the matchmakers of Gorilla Species Survival Plan (SSP).

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So What Do The Animals Do When It’s Cold?

One of the questions we get most often when cold and snowy winter weather rears its head-which also happens to be the same question we get when extremely hot weather comes to Knoxville, ironically-is “What do you do with the animals?  How do they manage in this weather?”  First of all, we find it extremely touching that everyone is concerned about our animal friends and their well-being is on your mind, and we are happy to report that our charges do very well throughout the winter here in East Tennessee. 

We’re fortunate to enjoy fairly mild winters here in East Tennessee for the most part, and the majority of our animals actually seem to enjoy time outside on sunny days when the temperature is in the 40’s.  (And we will always give them access to shelter and/or their indoor areas on days when the weather is a bit more iffy and let them make the choice where they want to be.)  However, the weather forecast is calling for a little something out of the norm for us tomorrow-freezing rain-which can mean problems getting our staff here as well as having to make the assessment if its safe for the animals to venture outdoors.  So what happens at Knoxville Zoo in that case?  Don’t worry, we’ve got a plan!

In the event we’ve got treacherous driving conditions, we have an emergency transportation system to get essential personnel here with 4×4 vehicles, and we also may make the decision to have staff spend the night on grounds.  But rest assured our priority is to make sure the animals are all properly cared for and that they have warm indoor quarters to spend the day if it’s too cold or icy for them to go outside safely.

Now, the downside?  Having to break the news that there will be no playing outdoors if it’s too icy.  Can’t take the risk someone might slip and hurt themselves out in their habitat, you know, or if it’s too cold to enjoy the outdoor habitat safely.  But the good news is that there will be activities to keep everyone busy indoors, and it looks like the weather improves on Saturday.  But our readers may find it interesting to know that quite a few of our animals get cabin fever like we do!  🙂


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What do you give a 9,500 pound elephant for her birthday?

Why, a 50-pound birthday cake, of course!  But you don’t just roll in to the bakery for one of these babies.  Nope, you gotta put a whole lot of love into making treats on this scale.  Erin and Jen, two of our super-fabulous elephant keepers are doing just that, but don’t tell Jana-it’s a surprise for her!  She just turned 32, and even though it’s not a milestone, her keepers said that’s no reason not to party.  So they have been busy constructing special birthday treats for Jana, Edie and Tonka, our African elephants.

When you’re making treats for a 15,500 pound, 9,500 pound and 8,500 pound elephants, it sure puts things in a different perspective.  Here’s the beginnings of Jana’s “cake” (note keepers in the background for scale)…


In case you are new to the elephant birthday cake scene, perhaps you’re wondering why we are showing you enormous cardboard boxes rather than actual pastries.  Well, it’s little hard to find a 50-pound petit four, and that can go straight to an elephant’s hips just like ours.  So our very clever keeper staff make the elephants’ treats out of cardboard, flour and water made into a paste, and paper-all safe for them to interact with and even eat.  (While that may sound pretty unpalatable to you and I, they actually enjoy tearing into their prizes.  Look at it this way-cardboard and paper are made out of trees, which are one of the things they love to eat.)  Once they’ve got the shells put together, they’ll fill them with 50 pounds of hay, biscuits, bread, produce and even a few sweet treats since it’s a special occasion.

Image  Fill ‘er up, please!

Of course, it wouldn’t be a party without balloons, but since real balloons are dangerous for animals to ingest, they’ve got that all figured out-papier mache balloons!  Here they are, hanging out to dry.  They’ll be stuffed full of goodies, too.


They’re still putting the finishing touches on things, but will have everything ready for a little impromptu celebration on Saturday, September 1st, at 2:00 p.m.  You’re all welcome to come down to the Stokely African Elephant Preserve and watch them enjoy their treats.  Although they won’t last long.  Half the fun is tearing into your gifts, as all birthday girls know.

Image  The cake is coming right along…

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We Get That Question A Lot, And It’s Probably Not.

If you grew up in East Tennessee, or have lived here for a while, you probably recall being warned by grandmothers (who will remain nameless to protect their privacy) about the dastardly and diabolical copperheads who lurked in every woodpile and under every rock, just waiting to take a bite out of succulent you.  (Of course, these may have been the same grandmothers who took gullible kids on after-dark snipe hunts.  But that’s a story for a different day.  Or therapist.  Just keeping it all in perspective here, folks.)

With all that said, one of the most common phone calls we get is usually a statement, followed by a very breathless question:  “There’s a snake in my yard!  Is it a copperhead?”  Alternatively, we’ll receive emails of very blurry photos taken from a safe vantage point by a shaky and somewhat apprehensive photographer, but the subject line is pretty much the same.  So we thought it would be a great public service to the snakes and a great weight off the mind of those with snakes passing through their property to shed some light on the subject.

Enter Phil Colclough, our curator of herpetology, to talk about venomous snakes in East Tennessee!

For those of you who can’t stand the suspense, the odds that the snake you have encountered in your yard is a copperhead is pretty unlikely.  Suburbia is just not their scene in Knox County, Tennessee.

It’s always a pleasure to talk with Phil and any of our herpetologists, and they are particularly happy to set the record straight about the types of reptilian fauna one might encounter in our area and put to rest the myth that snakes are just looking for the perfect opportunity to invade your personal space.  Quite the opposite, actually.  “Snakes will not chase you,” says Phil.  “They’re just as eager to get away from you as you are probably from them.  They’re looking for a place to hide.”

Now for the preachy part.  Snakes are an important part of our ecosystems.  They control rodent populations, eat insects and for the most part try to go about their business anonymously.  Why, we could even begin a “Have you hugged your snake today” campaign to make up for many thankless encounters!

Wait, no.  That’s not what Phil advises.  “Leave them alone,” he says.  “Most snake bits occur when people are messing with snakes.”  Well, yes.  That is logical.  One could hazard a guess you are far more likely to bite someone if they are violating your personal space.  The paparazzi have taught us what snakes have known since time immemorial.

Happy snake watching!

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We’re So Cool We Should Change Our Name to “The Fonz”

Okay, maybe that title comes across as a bit conceited, but before you think we’ve lost our heads in a moment of  vanity, we should clarify exactly what we mean when we start talking about how cool we are.

You see, we’ve been noticing that East Tennessee seems to feel a whole lot hotter the past few years.  As in, “back when I was a kid, we rode our bikes until the street lights came on and it was nowhere near this hot!” kind of stuff.  Now, we realize that with age time, our mind tends to recall things perhaps slightly differently than they actually were.  (Welcome to codgerdom, no?)  But then we find that maybe we aren’t just imagining things when we see this article from the Knoxville News Sentinel…

Soooo, we got to studyin’ it, as we say here in East Tennessee, and realized that folks just don’t get the same enjoyment on their zoo visit when it’s over 90 degrees.  “So what can we do to make those days more pleasant for our guests?”, we asked ourselves.  Why, we could cool things off for them, of course!  (See, now we’re getting to that whole “cool” thing.)

Misters, as it turns out, were a good place to start.  So good, in fact, that we’ve added even more this year, making our pathways a veritable oasis on hot summer days.  We also happen to have the good fortune of lots of shade.  (Thanks, trees!)

And while misters are awesome, air-conditioning flat-out rocks, so we have lots of indoor areas for our guests to duck  into for a few moments of cool, air-conditioned bliss.  Probably our most popular stop to cool-off is Wee Play Zoo, an area designed for preschool through elementary-aged kids that lets them  run their very own zoo.  But we have noticed the recent addition of the Playground in a Box has turned into a favorite with adults, too…

But being able to actually play in the water, well, that just adds a whole new dimension to the keeping cool thing, n’est ce pas?  So we decided that we would build the biggest, most fabulous splash pad in the Knoxville area.  You might have heard of it-the Clayton Safari Splash?  At 5,000-square-feet, it has two life-sized giraffe, giant flowers galore, hoops and loops, fountains, water canons, and a toddler play area.  We think it is about the coolest thing ever-literally and figuratively.  (And special thanks to the Clayton Family Foundation for helping us make this a reality.)


So this summer, we say bring on the 90 degree heat!  Well, not really, but if it’s gonna be hot, we’re excited that we’ve got some of the coolest ways in Knoxville to stay comfortable.

Is it shaping up to be an awesome summer?  Exactamundo.

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Things are about to go vertical!

Yes, you guessed it-things have started going vertical on our fabulous new Safari Splash water play area.  Thought our readers would appreciate a photo update on some of the progress!

Yesterday they started installing some of the super-colorful water sprayers that kids can run through:

And guess what comes next-colored concrete!  Stay tuned!

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Parting is such sweet sorrow…

As you can see from the photo above, the red panda cubs that were born here last summer are constantly on the move, and we’re happy to report that’s still the case.  Except this time, they are REALLY on the move, with a little help from a few chauffeurs and Delta airlines.

Yes, you guessed correctly-Dolly, Winston and Bernadette are all grown up and off to start on new adventures at their new homes.  Bernadette is getting settled in at her new home at Virginia Zoo in Roanoke, Virginia.  She’s doing very well and it shouldn’t be too long before she’ll be meeting an eligible bachelor companion.   Dolly and Winston have headed off to new digs at Zoo Boise in Boise, Idaho.  We’ve already gotten word that they’re already kind of a big thing in Boise.  🙂

Are we sorry to see them leave us?  Absolutely.  They have been not only darlings of the internet as we watched them grow up (and thanks to Mozilla for bringing them to the world via web camera), but they are also very special to zoo staff and visitors alike.  Who wouldn’t fall for them?  They’re irresistible and charming to boot.

But while it’s always a bit heartwrenching to send off your youngsters to start a whole new chapter of their lives, you know it’s what’s best for them, too.  We can also enjoy a warm fuzzy feeling knowing we’ve done our job, and done it well, if we can send off three healthy, happy red pandas to be ambassadors for their species and hopefully be parents themselves.  We’ve taken one more step to help this threatened species.  We’ve made a little more progress.  And that, dear readers, is a wonderful feeling indeed.

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At Last! The Answer to One of the Zoo’s Most-Asked Questions!

If you’ve visited the zoo in the last few weeks, you may have noticed that Edie, one of our African elephants, happens to have very shiny tusks these days…Image

Why, you ask, would an elephant be sporting metal caps on her tusks?  Is Edie accessorizing these days?

Well, while we must admit a girl likes a little bling, the reason is not due to Edie’s sense of style.

Edie likes to rub her tusks on things-all elephants do.  Unfortunately, this can ultimately cause cracks in her tusks, and since tusks are modified molars-giant teeth, if you will-cracks may eventually lead to an infection in the pulp of the tusk, which, in a worst-case scenario, might even lead to an elephant version of a root canal.  So our veterinarians and keepers placed stainless steel caps on the ends of her tusks to protect them-much like your dentist would cap a tooth.  The caps will hopefully prevent any future dentistry issues.  They’re attached to Edie’s tusks with epoxy, and will remain on the ends of her tusks as they grow.

Here’s a close-up of Edie showing off her shiny new caps:


Well, maybe she is just a tad bit vain.

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The School That Rare and Endangered Tortoises Built

Michael Ogle, our assistant curator of herpetology here at Knoxville Zoo, is kind of a big deal in the world of tortoise conservation, although he is far too modest to ever admit it.  He’s been a key part of our success breeding some of the rarest tortoises in the world, often making us the first zoo to do so.  He is particularly knowledgeable when it comes to species found in the country of Madagascar, which led to the invitation from the Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to travel to southern Madagascar last month to work with some of his Malagasy counterparts to help locals care for confiscated tortoises.

Unfortunately, one of the biggest factors in the demise of the critically endangered spider and radiated tortoises is the illegal pet trade (these tortoises are highly sought after by collectors in Asia) and the fact that they are considered a delicacy by some more affluent members of Malagasy society.  And to add yet another peril, they are increasingly experiencing habitat destruction due to mineral mining in Madagascar.  These tortoises just can’t get a break.Image

Fortunately for them, there are people like Michael who want to help ensure a future for these guys, and one of the goals of his recent trip, (this is his second), was to teach basic husbandry to the team of police and forestry service employees, who, inadvertently, have found themselves de facto tortoise keepers due to the large number of confiscated tortoises they have intercepted in thwarted attempts to smuggle them out of the country for the pet trade.  (For every animal that survives the illegal trip out of the country, by the way, there are hundreds that do not.)  But the goal is to return every intercepted tortoise back to their native range, hence the need to care for them until they can be successfully transported and returned.  Here’ s Michael (tall guy with a sunburn in the middle of the back row) during one of their husbandry workshops.Image

Now, on to Michael’s other mission on this trip-educating the local villagers about tortoise conservation and encouraging them to re-energize their long tradition of respecting the tortoises who shared their home.  (And getting to that whole school thing.)

Madagascar is not a well-developed or affluent country, and in the villages, schools are rustic at best and students often have to travel long distances to another village to attend school.  The TSA, realizing that if you want to ensure the education of the next generation about the conservation of tortoises, among other things, then it would just make sense to build the village of Antsaokamasy a school.  So build a school they did.  Image

So thanks to the TSA, they now have a lovely new school, which will further the education of 60 students in the village.  But there was one small snafu-they needed schools supplies like desks and chairs and school supplies.  Enter Michael Ogle.

When Michael heard about their plight, he got the idea that he knew enough people who just might be able to help make sure they opened their new school with everything they needed.  So he got busy, and thanks to the generosity of quite a few folks, he raised $3,200 to not only provide the furniture they needed, but to also install solar panels on the roof of the school to light the classrooms!  (The village only has a generator that runs three hours a day to supply electricity.)Image

Michael tells us the children were extremely excited to show off their new school, and the village celebrated its opening with singing by the schoolchildren, speeches by local politicians and a feast of zebu, which is a very large cow found in Madagascar for you foodies out there.  He said they were so proud of their new school, racing inside to see it as soon as they had the opportunity.Image

And all of us are pretty proud of Michael for his skills with tortoises who desperately need his help.  Not to mention his soft spot for the schoolchildren of Antsakoamasy.

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