(Photos courtesy of a Tacomamama reader)
Yesterday, we renewed our membership to the Point Defiance Zoo. Over the course of the three years we've lived here, that membership has paid for itself many times over.
If you haven't been to the zoo in a few years, you might not recognize it right now. Since 2004, they've added a huge "Asian Forest Sanctuary," featuring tigers, gibbons, tapirs, enormous porcupines, and more. They've also added on a new Kid's Zone, which has a very creative playground designed by Kompan, a playground designer with it's US headquarters in Olympia, an interactive water fountain (not on until Summer) a huge slide, and a petting zoo. The Kid's Zone alone makes the membership worthwhile.
The zoo's not a bad place to go even on a rainy day, since the aquarium is quite an attraction in its own right. If you go, don't forget to enter through the bamboo on the right and check out the sharks.
My daughter's favorite part of the aquarium is the Marine Discovery Center, a hands-on exhibit where visitors can touch small sea animals, make a craft, and talk to volunteers about the aquarium. This exhibit also showcases local wetland conservation efforts, such as the Puget Creek Restoration Society. We usually spend at least an hour in this part of PDZA, when it's open.
Some of the animals you don't want to miss at PDZA include:
- Beethoven the Beluga whale. Born at Sea World in San Antonio and brought to Point Defiance in 1998, Beethoven lost his half-brother to liver failure in 2006. After this loss, he suffered an illness. In April, PDZA announced that he had recovered. Last time we saw him a few weeks ago, he was once again playing and interacting with his trainers. He seems to have a seal or two to keep him company at the moment while the zoo looks for a new companion.
- ET the Pacific walrus. Oil workers in Alaska found ET when he was a starving pup. He was raised at PDZA. He now has two lady friends, Basilla and Joan, there to make a love connection and possibly little walruses.
- The white-cheeked gibbons. One of the zoo volunteers told us a story once about a gibbon who enjoyed riding the tapirs and otherwise harassing the other animals so much that he could only be placed in an enclosure alongside porcupines. We thought maybe this was a tall-tale until we saw these antics for ourselves on a recent visit.
Don't forget to check out the new Paul Titus Carousel while you're at the zoo. Each animal was hand-carved and painted by the Washington Antique Carousel Society. Rides are $2 each.