Imagine standing eye level with a giraffe, holding out your arm for parrots to land on, or massaging the shoulders of an endangered rhino. At Zoo Miami, these experiences happen every day, fulfilling the institution's mission of bringing people and animals as close as possible. More than 2,000 animals—from chimps to tigers to koalas—populate the African exhibit, Asian exhibit, Australian exhibit, and the most recent addition, the Amazon & Beyond exhibit. Many of the individual exhibitions don't use cages, but are instead bound by moats throughout more than three miles of walking trails. This setup allows guests to get closer to animals as they romp in their habitats. More than 1,200 plant species populate these habitats, which are re-creations of the animals' native environments.
Guests can use free WiFi to download a free mobile app for iPhones and Androids. The app then delivers functions such as location beacons so that family members keep track of one another, show times, and GPS-enabled maps that show the nearest dining venue or restroom. Transportation options within the zoo range from an air-conditioned monorail to tram tours, which provide behind-the-scenes insights such as which animals have recently had babies, what they named the babies, and each baby's first word. Developed specifically for kids, a children's zoo offers camel rides, a butterfly garden, and a playground split into water- and jungle-themed areas.
The zoo uses its resources to create symbiotic education and conservation programs. These efforts have raised funds and awareness for a cheetah conservation program in South Africa, the preservation and research of harpy eagles in Panama, and a program that trains Belize farmers in trapping relocating jaguars instead of killing them. This symbiotic approach in programming, which has helped Zoo Miami maintain accreditation from the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, is best illustrated by two of the zoo's mascots, Kaz the rhino and Pio the red-billed oxpecker, who rely on each other for survival in the wild.