Among Chicago’s many other attractions is the Brookfield Zoo, located 14 miles (22.5 km) west of downtown, where you can see some of God’s most amazing creatures. Get an up-close look at a polar bear in the Bear Grottos, or listen to chattering monkeys in the Tropic World. Bird lovers, don't miss the Perching Bird House, but be sure to view the Feathers and Scales exhibit through biblical glasses! And while you’re there, look closely and you might see a roadrunner!
In the Fragile Desert exhibit lurks one of Africa’s most recognized creatures—the meerkat. Meerkats, members of the mongoose family, are native to the Kalahari Desert of Botswana and South Africa, where they live in colonies. Living in a desert can be harsh, but meerkats are well-suited for the environment, with dark circles around their eyes that reduce glare from the sun and small ears that can close to keep out sand. They have short, strong claws for digging, which comprises a great deal of a meerkat’s average day; they dig to find food and to make or expand their burrows.
A popular denizen of the Children’s Zoo at Brookfield is the reindeer. Native to the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions of North America and Eurasia, the reindeer is uniquely suited to living in such a cold, harsh environment. Their fur is hollow, which allows them to keep in body heat. Their broad feet have sharp edges, which are useful for gripping the ice. Unlike most deer, reindeer shed and re-grow their antlers every year, and females have antlers as well as males. Domesticated reindeer have been used by humans for centuries, primarily in Scandinavia and Russia.
The Forest exhibit is home to a very special animal, the mysterious and elusive okapi. Once thought to be mythical, the beautiful okapi looks like a cross between a zebra and a short-necked giraffe. The Brookfield Zoo became the home of the first baby okapi born in captivity in 1959.
The Brookfield Zoo is more than just seeing animals—you can also go behind the scenes with Zoo Chats and Wild Encounters, where zookeepers share the secrets of working with zoo animals. Interact with farm animals at the Children’s Zoo, or see a Dolphin Show. And when you’re done, there are plenty of dining and shopping options available!
Furry, two-humped Bactrian camels, native to the Gobi Desert of Mongolia, are specially equipped to deal with harsh environments. In addition to storing fat in their humps for lean times, they also have the ability to close their nostrils to keep out sand. Two long sets of eyelashes protect their eyes, and their large footpads help them travel over sand. Their thick fur is protection against the cold, harsh winters of the Gobi Desert and is shed for the extremely hot summers. In the Brookfield Zoo, they make their home in the Hoofed Animals exhibit, but in the wild of Mongolia they are endangered, with only about 1,000 left.
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