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Day Trips: Visit Utah's Hogle Zoo: About the Merchant

Suddenly I was engulfed in a wave of terrifying sound, a roar almost terrifying in its primal ferocity. My eyes darted around instinctively to seek ways of escape, to get away from there quickly. My 2-year-old daughter was cowering in my arms hiding her head in my shoulder, shaking from fear. Was I in the wild facing some huge bear? No.

I was at Salt Lake City's Hogle Zoo.

Several years ago Hogle Zoo opened up a new area in the zoo called the Asian Highlands. They have several natural enclosures there for Big Cats of Asia, and it is an impressive display. On this recent visit to the zoo we had the privilege of hearing one of the five tigers on display there give a bone chilling roar that evokes panic in the heart of anyone that hears it. The fact that this tiger is only yards from you behind a relatively weak looking mesh fence adds to the thrill. Though the mesh fence is far more than enough to stop any assault by the tigers, the appearance of fragility is enough to shake you at times as they approach closely to it. It is part of the excitement of seeing these magnificent animals.

The tigers are certainly not the only animals at the zoo. There are many different species of animals available to see, including many different kinds of monkeys and apes, who can be incredibly entertaining. Among the species you will see are wolves, giraffes, kangaroos, camels, birds and many more. If you come during the summer months the zoo has a bird show that educates as well as entertains. Though Hogle Zoo does not have the diversity of animals on display it did years ago, the quality of the facilities housing the animals that do make their home there is much improved and adds greatly to your visiting experience.

A far cry from the zoo I encountered as a child, the Hogle Zoo is now an AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums) accredited member, a privilege that only 10% of North American zoos and aquariums achieve. As a child I remember the small, cement floored cages for the Big Cats cruel enclosures that left little room for the animals to roam and were little better than prison cells. That zoo is long gone, thankfully, and the Hogle Zoo of today is a wonderful place to visit and a fantastic learning experience. The animals are cared for and have wonderful enclosures that are more like their natural habitats than cages.

Located at the mouth of Emigration Canyon in the Salt Lake Valley and across from the This Is The Place monument and Matheson State Park, the zoo on any given day during the summertime is as busy as can be with people coming to enjoy the sun and see the animals, and if they're not careful, maybe learn something along the way about these wonderful wild creatures. Equally as entertaining and sometimes even more rewarding is a visit during the winter time when crowds are down and the temperature has plummeted. Sometimes when the crowds are not present the behavior of the animals seems more natural and you get a better idea of what they must be like in the wilderness. It can be fascinating and extremely entertaining, especially when they take an interest in you and stop to observe your behavior, as if you are the one on display for their entertainment, which to some extent is true.

In addition to all the wonderful exhibits the zoo now enjoys, a new area called Rocky Shores will be opening in spring of 2012 and will be a respectable addition to the zoo. It will have the advantage of being the largest addition ever created at the zoo and is a major step forward for Hogle Zoo in conservation of animals. Concentrating mostly on preserving the polar bears planned to be on exhibit there, the aquatic enclosure will also have sea lions, seals and brown bears on display as well. This new facility will be a welcome addition to a wonderful zoo that has come into its own in the 21st century. I highly recommend a membership to the zoo so you can experience it year round, but if that is not within your budget a visit during the quieter seasons of winter, spring or fall is in order. Also, during the winter time is a program introduced a few years ago called Zoo Lights, with holiday light displays to entertain and cheer visitors coming during that time. See the Hogle Zoo website for further details on programs now and upcoming.

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