The North Carolina Zoo is located just south of Asheboro in the Uwharrie Mountains and has been open since August 13, 1976. (We were there for the 40th anniversary.) With over 2,000 acres of land, this zoo is the most extensive “natural habitat” zoo in the United States and the largest walk-through zoo in the world. The NC Zoo has over 1,600 animals primarily representing Africa and North America.
Advice: Bring Binoculars!
We opted to start with Africa. The Africa section is divided into two distinct parts: Forest Edge and Watani Grasslands. The Forest Edge is where you’ll find zebras, giraffes, and ostriches wandering together. The Watani Grasslands mimics the African savannah, and it is where you’ll find rhinos, African elephants, gazelle, and other African species. Chimpanzees, lions, gorillas and one of the largest baboon troops in the country each have individual exhibits in the African half of the zoo.
The R. J. Reynolds Forest Aviary recreates the hot, humid conditions of a tropical forest. It displays more than three thousand tropical plants and allows visitors to walk among 35 species of free-flying tropical bird.
The North American section is divided into five different sections: Cypress Swamp, Rocky Coast, Streams of North Carolina, Prairie, and Sonoran Desert. We particularly liked the Rocky Coast (polar bears!) and the Streams of North Carolina. It is always good to know what is happening in your local area.