The Smithsonian National Zoological Park, located in Washington D.C. is more commonly known as the National Zoo. The National Zoo is actually two distinct facilities - a public zoo of 163 acres and a 3,000 acre conservatory and research facility located in near the Shenandoah National Forest. In total, the two facilities house over 2,000 animals from 400 different species.
Originally founded in 1889 by William T. Homaday, who was a taxidermist at the Smithsonian Institution, the mission of the Smithsonian Zoological Park was to conserve and preserve endangered species and educate the public about wildlife - a mission far before its time. Homaday opened a small zoological park with American bison, bears and other native animals, but eventually left Washington and the National Zoo over a clash over the zoo's design. Homaday went on to help found the Bronx Zoo, another nationally known and internationally recognized zoo.
Today, the Smithsonian National Zoo is one of the most highly regarded in the world, thanks to its contributions to captive breeding and research on conservation in the wild. The Zoo attracts visitors from around the country and around the world to its Washington D.C. campus, which is free and open to the public.
There are over 2,000 animals belonging to over 400 species in residence at the National Zoo. The animals live in a variety of displays, many of them naturalistic replicas of ecosystems. Amazonia, for instance, features a complete Amazonian ecosystem with a living tropical forest and an aquarium with dozens of fish species. The Cheetah Conservation Station is a grassland outdoor setting similar to the African savanna which is home to cheetahs, Grevy's zebras, gazelles and other African wildlife.
Children might especially enjoy a visit to the Kids' Farm, where children can get to know domestic farm animals and even get a chance to groom some of them. The Kids' Farm includes a playground and is home to rabbits, alpaca, hogs, goats and cows. They'll also enjoy the Elephant House, which will soon be replaced by the Elephant Trails, a new exhibit that promises innovation.
Other exhibits include monkeys, apes, birds, great cats and beavers. In addition to the themed exhibits, there are many animals that live in their own exhibits rather than grouped with other animals.
The National Zoo hosts many annual events and celebrations. Some of the most popular are the Guppy Gala, a family-friendly event that features food, fun and lots of activities to make the night a memorable one for all. Other annual events include the Brew at the Zoo, a beer tasting event for over-21s, Boo at the Zoo, the Zoo's annual Halloween celebration, and Zoolights, with animated holiday displays throughout the zoo.
In addition to the public events, the National Zoo offers the opportunity to hold your own events at the zoo, including Snooze and Roar overnight events for families and groups. For information about admissions and hours of operation, contact the National Zoo at 202.633.4800.
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