Lions, tigers and servals, oh my

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Serval Photo credit: Mary Schettler

Thirty-five minutes west of Rexburg lies the Idaho Falls Zoo at Tautphaus Park. Home to more than 300 individual animals of 130 species from various parts of the world, its motto is the “best little zoo in the west.” The zoo is a great place for dates, roommate outings and educational experiences.

With no short supply of animals, the zoo allows guests to spend hours walking to different exhibits featuring animals from all over the globe. Exhibits include North America, Africa, Asia, Australia and New Guinea.

The zoo is set up with paths to easily navigate through the park. Starting in the North America exhibit, visitors can see animals like penguins, otters, eagles and an alligator.

One animal species showcased in the New Guinea exhibit is the singing dogs. They get their name from their wide range of vocalizations. In appearances they resemble dingos.

Guests love to see and learn about the zoo’s predatory cats, like the lions, snow leopards and servals — a wild cat native to Africa.

The Asia exhibit once housed a resident tiger, Basha, but unfortunately, she passed away due to her old age.

According to eastidahonews.com, “At 18 years old, she was the oldest living tiger at any Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) accredited zoo … the average lifespan for females of her species is 14.3 years.”

Currently, the Idaho Falls Zoo is on a waitlist to have a new tiger move in.

In the children’s zoo, guests enter a paddocked area to brush and pet the rough, wiry coats of goats lounging in their pen. A play structure surrounds the enclosed area where kids can play in the shade. A yak, horse, donkey and llama live in a barn as part of the exhibit to view but not touch.

“It was fun and interactive,” said Mallory Buist, a freshman majoring in general studies. “It was a good break to go before finals started.

Apart from visiting for a fun day trip, the zoo offers a variety of educational programs for youth, families, educator/adult programs and school field trips. They also provide animal fact sheets on their website.

The zoo is open daily from 9:30 a.m. – 5 p.m., including holidays, and tickets are available on their website.