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.
The Oregon Zoo is a service of Metro and is dedicated to its mission of inspiring the community to create a better future for wildlife. Committed to conservation, the zoo is currently working to save endangered California condors, Columbia Basin pygmy rabbits, Oregon silverspot and Taylor’s checkerspot butterflies, Western pond turtles and Oregon spotted frogs. Other projects include studies on black rhinos, Asian elephants, polar bears and bats.
The zoo relies in part on community support through donations to the Oregon Zoo Foundation to undertake these and many other animal welfare, education and sustainability programs. The zoo is located five minutes from downtown Portland, just off Highway 26 at exit 72. The zoo is also accessible by MAX light rail line. Visitors who travel to the zoo via MAX receive $1.50 off zoo admission. Find fare and route information online or by calling TriMet Customer Service at 503-238-RIDE (7433).
General zoo admission is $10.50 (ages 12-64), $9 for seniors (65 and up), $7.50 for children (ages 3-11) and free for those 2 and younger; 25 cents of the admission price helps fund regional conservation projects through the zoo’s Future for Wildlife program. A parking fee of $4 per car is also required. Additional information is available by calling 503-226-1561.