Monday, May 9, 2011

Totally Texas -- It's a zoo in there

Caldwell Zoo
2203 Martin Luther King Blvd., Tyler
We lured my daughter’s twin boys from the Tyler Rose Garden with the promise of a zoo visit.  They were familiar with the Dallas Zoo, but Tyler’s Caldwell Zoo promised a different set of attractions, including an African aquarium and separate sections for animals from the African savanna and the Americas, where the boys debated the differences between the roaming bison, white-tailed deer and Texas longhorned cattle, and peered at alligators sunning themselves by a stream bank.

In the North American section, a pair of black bears awed viewers with wrestling matches that left muddy paw prints on the transparent protective barrier between humans and ursines in their new exhibit.  The four-year-old siblings weigh almost four hundred pounds for brother Tyler and three hundred for his sister Timber.  Caldwell has joined the zoo-keeping trend of bringing animals, including large predators, close to visitors.  Transparent windows kept not only the bears, but the zoo’s famous white tigers, mountain lions and African lions so close we felt as if we could touch them, but the protective barrier shielded both sides so well that the playful bears could wrestle against it.

Even smaller animals such as the river otters, bobcats and a family of coatis, interacted with each other, seemingly oblivious to the gawking humans in plain sight.  But not all animals at the zoo are hands-off.  Just to the left of the zoo’s front entry is a petting area with friendly goats for human kids to pet and a playground with sand and climbing tunnels.  A highlight of this area is the old red truck formerly owned by zoo founder D. K. Caldwell where children can practice “driving.”  The zoo is open daily except on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s, from until through Labor Day, and with slightly shortened hours after Labor Day through the end of February.  Admission is free for children under three, $6 for children 3-12, $9.50 for adults and $8.25 for adults age 55 and over.  See for group admission discounts and additional information.

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