Oregon Zoo offers close encounters of the animal kind

April 25, 2018 - 2:52pm

New animal encounters at the zoo include a sloth, a porcupine and a pair of tortoises

Forget the backstage passes or the VIP lounge: The hottest behind-the-scenes experience in town is with the animals at the Oregon Zoo. Starting this month, visitors can get up-close and personal with even more of the zoo's residents at new animal encounters like "Tortoise Time" and "Slow Down with a Sloth."

The behind-the-scenes tours range from a painting session with macaw artists Pele and Makani to a meet-and-greet with the zoo's lively Humboldt penguin colony. All encounters include a talk from a zookeeper and the chance to ask questions, take photos and spend time with the animals in an intimate setting.

"People have been completely enthralled," said Bree Winchell, who leads the encounters with Josie, the zoo's two-toed sloth. "Some guests have been so moved meeting Josie and hearing her story, they've actually cried."

In addition to meeting Josie, guests can pet Bebeto the porcupine or take pictures of sea otters — and Instagram stars — Eddie, Juno and Lincoln. For a fuzzier experience, behind-the-scenes tours are also available with the goats and ducks of the Family Farm and the tarantulas of the Insect Zoo.

"The encounters are really incredible," said Portland resident Jamie Edwards, who went on the penguin meet-and-greet recently. "I can't wait to feed the tortoises."

All animal encounters require tickets and reservations in advance, and some member discounts are available. More information can be found at oregonzoo.org/encounters.