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From Our Editors
Before visitors to the AZA-accredited Virginia Zoo see any of its live animals, a life-size statue of an African elephant greets them. The zoo's 53 acres of landscaped grounds have welcomed new sculptures, enclosures, and eco-friendly innovations in recent decades that build on a 100-year legacy of conservation.
Mammals such as African lions and kangaroos, birds such as rhino hornbills and African crowned cranes, and a variety of snakes and amphibians roam themed habitats—some of which are interactive or equipped with viewing bubbles that protect visitors from any monkeys with paintball guns. Visitors can view these protected creatures by walking or by taking a narrated ride on the Zoo Train, a one-third scale working model of a C.P. Huntington steam engine. Zoo staffers work to preserve 16 of the resident species through cooperative breeding, field projects, and reintroduction initiatives as part of the AZA's Species Survival Programs.
Each year, Virginia Zoo staff and volunteers work together to design and plant 10 themed gardens filled with colorful exotic plants, many of which are given as treats to their 400 animals. In the garden, visitors can learn about composting, using rain barrels, and ticketing littering garden gnomes. Projects, such as recycling old tires into planters and industrial spools into stepping stones, teach children about reuse, too. The zoo also builds on its conservation efforts with an array of environmental conservation programs. Staffers use only natural rainfall and drip irrigation to water the gardens, establish rain gardens to absorb runoff, and educate visitors on environmentally friendly gardening practices in the eco-garden—earning the zoo a designation as a Virginia Green attraction.