One thing about having a grandchild live nearby is that you are often invited (by his parents, and sometimes by him) to various fun activities. One place we’ve gone this month is the North Carolina Zoo. Eli loves animals, the more the better, And our trip to the zoo didn’t disappoint.

he NC Zoo is nestled on 2,600 wooded acres centrally located in the heart of North Carolina in Randolph County. With 500 developed acres, it is the world’s largest natural habitat zoo. You can discover more than 1,800 animals in habitats ranging from Africa’s grasslands to North America’s forests, with an Asian habitat under construction. This zoo was featured on the Disney channel not long ago.

Having this much space in which to see wild animals means a lot of walking, and since my husband and I have four artificial knees between us, we were kindly treated to a tour by golf cart, with lots of stops. Whew.

Here are a few of the zoo’s residents that we got to see, some up close and personal. One of the older male chimps seemed to take a real liking to my husband and came back to the glass partition several times to ‘commune.’

This is a group of oryxes who inhabit a wide plain with a herd of rhinos – peacefully! They are a type of antelope with long straight horns.
Two lazy rhinos. Southern white rhinos are the most social of the rhino species and live together in groupings called “crashes.” Rhinos in the wild live into their early 30s and can live into their early 40s under human care. The North Carolina Zoo now has a rhino crash of seven females — Linda, Kit, Abby, Nandi, Bonnie, Jojo and Mguu.
The two elephants in the front are mother and daughter, Tonga and Batir. The ones are the rear are best friends. There are seven elephants at the North Carolina Zoo, three bulls and four cows, and six elephant keepers! Rafiki (at the back, in the rear) is the matriarch of the elephant herd at the Zoo.
This is one of the bull elephants I think his name is Louie) who graced us with a walk over to where we were standing (behind a fence). The bulls are kept separately from the females.
This is the zoo’s female lion named Mekita, age 13. She was pacing back and forth that day because behind the wire at the rear was Haji, three years old and weighing 400 pounds, who came from the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans as a companion for Mekita. Haji and Mekita have been going through introductions—comparable to a chaperoned courtship—in their indoor quarters. Introducing lions to new companions and habitats can be a lengthy process.
The giraffe habitat The habitat is 3.5 acres and mimics the lightly-wooded savannas found in Kenya. There are also zebras there and The Zoo’s 13-year-old giraffe Leia gave birth to her calf—six feet tall at birth—on Saturday, May 20, 2023. He dropped six feet to the ground when he was born. His name is Fenn.

The zoo has an enormous grizzly bear, Ronan, who weighs 700 pounds and is nine years old. He came from the Reid Park Zoo in Tucson.
QWe also saw a brother and sister pair of arctic foxes. The artic foxes shed their gray fur and put on a beautiful white fluffy coat to match the snow in their natural habitat. Along wit hte polar bear they are kept in a climate controlled environment during the hot months.
We particularly enjoyed watching the chimp colony, which ranges from an older male, seen here communing with my husband, to a new baby. This large community of chimpanzees call Kitera Forest home. They’re very social and don’t mind walking up to the glass to greet visitors. It was interesting to see older chimpanzees since most of what we had seen previously were young and trained. With a new baby, the Zoo’s troop now consists of seventeen – ten females and seven males.
Our last stop was to see the Western Lowland Gorillas. This fellow was quite social and is a large male, but not yet old enough to develop a silver back. The park is helping to save wild gorillas by equipping ranges with tools to track and reduce threats and to count the gorillas themselves.

The North Carolina Zoo works closely with wildlife conservation centers and organizations around the globe to protect wildlife, and prevent illegal wildlife trade across the world. Some of the local species we work to protect include Eastern hellbenders, the American red wolf, and the Pine Barrens treefrog. The American Red Wolf, which was reduced in numbers to double digits at one point, is a success story. These wolves have been released into eastern North Carolina while maintaining the colony at the zoo, and occasionally newborns will be introduced to wild mothers to increase genetic diversity. The Red Wolves in the wild each wear a GPS tracker so they can be located at any time. This is worn on a PINK collar so hunters will not kill them. This strategy is working because the only Red Wolf death in recent years was from natural causes.

I hope you like the tour of the zoo as much as we did!




  1. D.L. Finn, Author

    This looks like a lot of fun, Noelle! We live near our grandkids and have gotten to do the special things with them too. Xo

  2. What a wonderful place to visit, Noelle! I love open habitat zoos. All of the photos are awesome. I especially loved the elephants, giraffes and the arctic fox. Awesome share!

    1. Thanks, MC. They are currently trying to raise money for the Asian pavilion (tigers and elephants, oh my) and then to rebuild their Aviary, which had fallen into disrepair and was closed during the bird flu.

  3. I love seeing animals in habitats that match their wild ones as closely a possible. The Portland Zoo has done that for some animals, but for others it can be disheartening (ie condors with no place to fly). The NC zoo looks like fun and what a great way to spend time with the grandson. Thanks for sharing your day at the zoo, Noelle. 🙂 <3

    1. We did enjoy it but were among the last people to see the young giraffe, Fenn. He was startled this week and ran into a fence and broke his neck. We are truly heart-broken.

  4. This was fascinating! What a wonderful zoo for Eli to enjoy and learn about animals. I would have enjoyed going there too. Thanks for the tour! Love the elephants the most! Hugs x

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