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The Central Florida Zoological park is small by most major metropolitan zoological park standards, but its a great place for Florida residents - as well as tourists needing a break from the major theme parks - to spend an afternoon.

Although the zoo is small, it still boasts some pretty large, exotic species. Elephants, a mandrill, a huge tiger, a hippo, a bear and leopards are just some of the exciting animals waiting for you. There are also a variety of monkeys and apes, tropical birds and over 50 reptiles. The zoo alos boasts an expansive Cheetah habitat.

Kids really enjoy the Animal Adventure--a place to meet (and pet) a variety of domesticated animals. There are also demonstrations and question and answer sessions for everyone to get more acquainted with the zoo residents.

Education is of primary importance to the zoo's administration. Tens of thousands of school children visit the zoo annually. Everything from Easter egg hunts and elephant birthday parties to Children's Storytime and weeklong Nature Niche study programs increase the knowledge and conservation ethics of the children.

The zoo is also a place for adults to learn more about our natural world. Many times we have been is zoos and aquariums throughout the country and we smile when the kids know more than the parents: No, mommy, a dolphin is not a fish--it's a mammal! comes to mind. The Central Florida Zoo is trying to change all this. For such a small zoo we were amazed at the amount and complexity of events the zoo sponsors. Exotic safaris, a walking club with health lectures, scenic St. Johns river cruises and night-time flashlight walks through the zoo give older animal lovers a thrill of their own. The zoo also sponsors Docent training classes. Docents are volunteer teachers who lead tours and give lectures to the visitors.

The Central Florida Zoo is also doing its part to save highly endangered species. Two endangered cloud leopard cubs were born at the zoo several years ago. Births such as these may become very important to the species' survival. Critics of zoological parks often fail to realize that some of our most precious animal resources may become extinct in the wild, so animals born in zoos may be the only link to reintroducing them to the wild if that should occur - and when they may be better protected.

The 21-acre zoo may not be all-too-large, but it's actually part of a much larger, 109-acre park highlighted with lush palm forests, a plethora of picnic tables, a large pavilion and plenty of places for the kids to romp and play picnic games. Because the actual zoo can be seen in detail in just over a couple hours, we strongly recommend bringing a picnic lunch to round out this enjoyable Adventure.

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