Note: The Greenville Zoo is not currently offering behind-the-scenes tours. We will update this article if they begin offering the tours again.
Have you heard of Greenville Zoo’s Behind-the-Scenes Tour? KAG Contributor Anna Artz and her family attended a behind the scenes tour of the zoo. She’s written all about the experience here, so you’ll know what to expect if your bring your crew.
The Greenville Zoo is a well-loved downtown attraction in our family. Our kids will never get tired of walking around the zoo, from saying hello to the ant-eater and trying to spot the lions and leopards, to waving goodbye to the pigs and goats at the Farm section near the exit. Whenever the sun is out, a trip to the zoo is always on top of our list. ~Anna Artz, KAG Contributor
What is The Behind the Scenes Tour?
If your family loves animals as much as we do, there’s a special way to visit Greenville Zoo. The Behind The Scenes Tour of Greenville Zoo offers a rare chance to walk behind the zoo’s exhibits and visit to the zoo’s commissary. Ever wonder what it’s like to be a zookeeper? Or what the different animals at the Greenville zoo eat? Or why a giraffe’s tongue is brown? All of these questions and more can be answered by signing up for this tour.
Our family recently attended a Behind The Scenes tour of the zoo, and we thoroughly enjoyed the experience. We learned a lot about the inner workings of a zoo and we also gained knowledge about the zoo’s wildlife conservation efforts. Below are some highlights of our visit.
The tour began with a warm welcome from our guide who was accompanied by a docent volunteer. We then proceeded to the zoo commissary. This part of the tour was learning about the contents and preparation of various animal’s diets. We learned that the zoo’s nutritionist feeds the animals organic vegetables and tries to get the best produce for them in the same way we shop for our own vegetables. We got a glimpse of the kitchen and the menus for each animal. We learned that some ate more frequently than others. While the alligators were known to go several months without eating, the orangutans ate four to five times a day. We were also shown the leaf-eater biscuits, a favorite giraffe snack, which was edible even to humans. We were offered a chance to taste a biscuit and my daughter gamely volunteered and ate the whole cookie! She said it tasted like grass.
The next part of the tour was a visit to the giraffe barn. We entered from the back, where keepers would usually go. We had one of the zookeepers talk about the habits of the giraffe, and we met Autumn, a Masai giraffe, who came by to say hello. She was so close we could see her very thick eyelashes.
As we walked behind the exhibits, we observed that many of the exhibits had an area where the animals can enter and be by themselves. Needless to say, we saw the multiple gates and locks for the lion cage. The zookeepers carry lots of keys!
We then moved on to the Asian animal section. One of the zoo keepers opened the gates for us, and led us behind the leopard exhibit. As we stood next to Emerald, the leopard, we learned that these felines are very good climbers, and we were glad that their area had a steel net above. We were also reminded not to get too close to the cage since a paw could fit easily fit through the fence. We were surprised with how active the animals were. Usually, we find them sleeping in far corner of their exhibit. This time, we were in that far corner and eye to eye with a very awake Emerald.
Another set of gates were opened and we came to the last part of our tour, a visit to the two grand Sumatran orangutans, Kumar and Lana. Not only were we impressed by the size and beauty of the orangutans, we witnessed how the keepers trained the animals using sign language. The keeper showed us how they used sign language to ask the animals do things and in return, the animals received a treat.
Kumar, the male orangutan sensed a snack and approached the fence. The zoo keeper then made some signs with her hands and Kumar responded following her direction. This went on for a while, with Kumar, turning to his left, then his right, opening his mouth and so on and so forth. This gave his keeper a chance to gave Kumar a full body check-up. Not satisfied, at the end of the check-up, Kumar wasn’t quite done. He looked for more grapes, and expressed this by pushing his blanket through the fence. According to the keeper, he was trying to trade his blankie for more fruit!
The whole tour took an hour, but can be longer since the guides and the keepers are happy to answer all of your questions. It was quite a unique experience seeing the animals up-close and interacting with the keepers. Our kids left with much admiration for the zoo keepers and had lots of questions on how to become keepers themselves when they grow up. Our daughter has always talked of becoming a veterinarian. This experience showed her other interesting opportunities for kids who want to work with animals.
Tips for the Tour
- Bring a bottle of water.
- Bring a camera.
- Wear a hat or cap since the tour is mostly outdoors except for the zoo commissary.
- The tour will involve some walking and standing so wear comfortable shoes.
- Be prepared to be licked by a giraffe!
Have you been on a Behind-the-Scenes Tour of the Greenville Zoo?