Zoo Tampa

I am playing catch up on all my photos right now…but I am getting there! A rainy and dreary day yesterday helped me stay inside and stay focused to get some of my photos processed. While we were in Tampa last month with family, Lily and I snuck away for a day at Zoo Tampa. We had a really nice time. We enjoyed seeing all the green…we went on St. Patrick’s Day. It was a little warmer than we were used to but we made the most of the zoo, traversing the whole thing at least twice. I wanted to make this a special occasion for both of us, so I purchased some “behind the scenes” opportunities. We did three of them: fun with penguins, feeding/training a Greater One-Horned Rhino, and watching them train an African elephant behind the scenes.

The penguins were fun. We went behind the penguin house and was able to meet one of their little penguins. She hopped around us and we were able to pet her gently on the back. They are wet and have dense feathers and feel just like you would imagine them to feel. She was obviously very enamored with her trainer, because she followed her around like she was in love with her. Lily is a puffin lover and this was the closest thing they had to a puffin. We had to sign a waiver that we were okay with being pooped on by the penguin…..evidently they can spray their poop up to five feet away. Thankfully, we did not have any issues with this.

The next encounter was with Jamie, the female One-Horned Rhino. She stuck her head into a hole in the fence and we fed her lettuce. We had a trainer with us and she had to present herself with her mouth closed and calm before she got her treat. We also had to sign a waiver with the rhino….not that we would be willing to be gored or anything like that – that we would be okay with having rhino drool on us. When Lily was feeding Jamie, she had a rope of drool to the ground that was pretty spectacular. Lily didn’t get drooled on though. A zoo photographer took some photos of us that I will try and share at the end of the photos in this post. Jamie has a baby rhino who is a couple of years old. His name is Gronk. I love it! I asked if Rob Gronkowski knew he had a rhino named after him and the zoo employee said, “Oh yes! He has been here to visit him several times!” How cool is that? I have to say that feeding a rhino was really neat.

From there we went to the African elephants. They are near and dear to my heart. Our zoo in Omaha has 3 baby elephants and the handlers at Zoo Tampa were jealous. Their “babies” are 9 years old! We got to meet Ellie. She is 21 years old, if I remember correctly, and she was super smart. They pulled in her former trainer to come and help her demonstrate for our group. This trainer worked with Ellie and the other elephants for many years but about a year ago, had moved to a different animal encounter. The chemistry between the handler and Ellie was palpable. There was a lot of love there. The handler had a huge bucket of roughly cut up apples, which she placed in the end of Ellie’s trunk. She also had whole squashes that she gave Ellie to eat. After a particularly arduous task, she threw a whole cantaloupe into Ellie’s mouth. She just crunched it down and then for about 20 seconds or so, there was cantaloupe juice running down the back side of her trunk and onto the dirt. Did you know that elephants only have 4 molars? They are big ones though! Ellie knows a ton of tricks. Some are to help with when the vets need to draw blood, etc. They do that from the back of their ears.

We learned a lot of interesting things at Zoo Tampa. Evidently they have their own show on Disney Plus! I don’t have that channel so I had no idea. However, people were often exclaiming that they knew the trainers or the animals and their stories from the show. I will have to try and look it up and see if we can see it on another platform. What do you think is the most expensive animal to feed at Zoo Tampa is? You’ll never guess…as I was shocked to find out it is their manatees! They had 11 when we were there last month. They eat 6000 lbs of romaine lettuce a day! That is A LOT OF LETTUCE!! It costs more than the big chunks of meat for the big cats…more than the food for the elephants. You will see in the photos of the manatees that there is just a halo of lettuce on top of the water for them to eat. Zoo Tampa also has koalas, which I am not sure I ever saw in person before. We were able to catch the McCaw flyover, when the group of colorful birds are let loose to fly over the zoo and fed peanuts by their trainers. We also saw a very interesting bird called a shoebill. They look prehistoric and are oddly beautiful. Lily loved them! We happened to be there at the end of the day when they were feeding them fish. It was really cool. Anyhow, we had a really good time. I look forward to going again when we are down there.

One thought on “Zoo Tampa

  1. Lily, puffins are my favorites too! What a great day! I’m going to look them up on Disney+ for my granddaughter!


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