Baby Western lowland gorillas Obi and Ubuntu have drawn crowds to the Zoo Knoxville since their births in spring 2015. The two are the first gorillas ever born in Knoxville and the first in more than 30 years in Tennessee.
Obi, which means “heart,” was born to Hope on May 28, 2015, and Ubuntu, meaning “I am because of you,” came five days later on June 2 to Machi. Both babies were fathered by Bantu. Infant gorillas learn to walk by six months and visitors are able to check in on the babies as they grow and pass milestones. Another baby is expected in early fall 2016!
Obi and Ubuntu are not the only new attractions at the Zoo Knoxville, a woodland park holding more than 800 of the world’s most fascinating animals. Walking paths connect habitats, such as the African grasslands, home to elephants, zebras and giraffes. The Williams Family Giraffe Encounter has a treetop platform to bring you face to face with these long-necked animals that can grow to 17 feet. For a fee, guests can actually feed the giraffes. Here you can meet the zoo's giraffe herd including newcomer, one-year-old Frances.
Black Bear Falls, where bears frolic near viewing windows, and, just around the corner, an aquatic African penguin colony with 13 tuxedoed birds are unique Zoo Knoxville habitats. Lions, tigers, chimpanzees, wolves and river otters are among the many other animals to see.
Everyone loves Nature Play, a new area of the zoo with a vine tunnel into a magic garden. Climb through tunnels and over rocks, play in the dirt, and romp around in this fanciful natural playground.
Komodo dragons and exotic lizards roam nearby in a tropical rainforest called the Pilot Flying J Wee Play Adventure. Young explorers can climb on elevated ropes and bridges, zoom down slides and crawl through tunnels in this adventure-filled play space.
Feed the brightly colored Australian birds at Budgie Landing, part of the zoo’s Calyton Family Kids Cove experience. The feathered friends may land on your shoulder and pick seeds from a stick you’re holding. Birds are also the stars at the Forest Amphitheater Show, where an international flock is full of surprises, especially Einstein, an African grey parrot with a remarkable vocabulary.
The zoo also has a hot spot to cool off during the summer months—Clayton Safari Splash. It’s Knoxville’s largest splash pad with more than 5,000 square feet and includes two life-sized giraffe structures that spout water and add to the splishy, splashy fun. Safari Grill serves burger and fries, and Pizzoria has subs and pizzas. Concession stands are plentiful.
The zoo hosts numerous exciting events throughout the year, including Feast with the Beasts, where 50 restaurants offer samples of popular dishes and musicians rock on three stages. BOO! at the Zoo has become Knoxville’s favorite Halloween tradition.