If you’ve been reading here for a while then you know that I love cats no matter the size, and I’m an avid visitor of zoos while I’m traveling. I know zoos are controversial to some people – keeping animals out of their natural habitat and everything – but I’m a fan of zoos that let the animals live in habitats as natural as possible.
The Denver Zoo opened in 1918 after the mayor of Denver was given a black bear cub. At that time there were only monkeys, elk, bison, and birds, in addition to the aforementioned black bear. That year the Denver Zoo became the first zoo to instate design tactics from Carl Hagenbeck, who proposed that animals should be able to be viewed at eye level with humans, in their natural habitats, and without cages, but using only natural barriers.
On my second day in Denver, I went for a long walk to get brunch at WaterCourse Foods and then I Uber’ed over to the Denver Zoo. It was the weekend before Halloween and their annual “Boo at the Zoo” weekend was in full swing so there were children EVERYWHERE. (If you know me, you’ll also be able to surmise this was less than ideal for me.)
I bought a ticket, entered through the turnstile, and readied myself to keep my cool while navigating through swarms of tiny, screaming humans. There were pumpkins everywhere, of all sizes, with carvings of animals in them, and zoo employees handing out candy to kids in costume. There were also some adults in costume but some of the costumes were a tad creepy.
A little kid dressed as a lion in a circus cage. Good job, parents.
As far as big cats go, the Denver Zoo had tigers, leopards, cheetahs, snow leopards, lions, and a clouded leopard. The tiger exhibit included a neat “cat” (literally) walk where the tigers could hang out and watch everyone from above. There were signs hanging up that said, “Are you being watched?” Hm, maybe? Thank you, Denver Zoo, for that added bit of creepiness!
L-R: Snow leopard, tiger, regular leopard, a couple of lionesses.
The clouded leopard was my favorite though. He was about twice the size of a house cat and had such pretty markings. Little did I know when I saw the clouded leopard was that they are usually very elusive in the wild. Apparently only 6 have been tracked for the purposes of studying and their habitat has been mostly demolished from all of Asia to only a few thousand square miles in Thailand. I’m really glad I got to see this one up close.
Other animals that lived at the Denver Zoo include giraffes, zebras, capybaras, penguins, African wild dogs, otters, penguins, and a ginormous Komodo dragon!
I think you need to give yourself at least 2 hours to really take in the Denver Zoo in it’s entirety, but since I visited most of the cats twice, and I often got lost, I spent nearly 3 hours there.
If you can’t be bothered to go outside the city of Denver to go for a hike, the Denver Zoo is a great option for a less intense “hike” of sorts!