The Denver Zoo (the fourth most popular zoo in the nation based on paid attendance) is home to 4,000 animals, representing more than 750 species. See a pride of lions prowling Predator Ridge, or watch frolicking polar bears under water at Northern Shores. Primate Panorama features fun-loving orangutans, tree-dwelling monkeys and rope-climbing gorillas.
Recent News: Denver Zoo is currently building Asian Tropics (www.denverzoo.org/at), the largest development in the Zoo’s 100-year history, which will occupy 10 acres and is scheduled to open in the summer of 2012. This will be the largest bull elephant habitat in the world. Visitors will see majestic Asian elephants, Indian one-horned rhinos, acrobatic gibbons, fishing cats, and black leopards, all from the center of an Asian village. Visitors will walk under an elephant crossing bridge to arrive at the center village. Ingenious water ponds are used to separate visitors from the animals. One of the most exciting components of Asian Tropics is the planned use of a biomass gasification system, which can turn human trash and animal waste into energy to power the exhibit. The gasification system will convert more than 90 percent of the zoo’s waste into usable energy.
Wild Animal Sanctuary
This is the largest carnivore sanctuary in the U.S. with 290 lions, tigers and bears, who roam free on the 700 acre facility. Located 30 miles northeast of Denver, the Sanctuary also has packs of wolves, bobcats, an extremely rare black leopard, and more than 70 tigers. Visit at dusk when the animals are particularly active and you can hear the wolves howling and the lions growling. Visitors walk along an elevated deck looking out on an unusual sight – the rolling high plains of Colorado that have been fenced into pastures filled with prides of lions, roving tigers, or frolicking grizzly bears. All of these animals had been abused in their previous life and have now been rescued to live out their days in a beautiful setting.
Recent News: In late 2010, 25 circus lions located in Bolivia needed to be rescued, so the Sanctuary joined forces with Animal Defenders International – as well as a host of other government agencies, corporations and dedicated individuals such as Bob Barker – to save their lives and provide them a home on the open plains of Colorado. The rescue garnered press coverage worldwide.
Butterfly Pavilion & Insect Center
This enclosed tropical jungle with streams and waterfalls is home to 1,200 free-flying butterflies, imported from all over the world. The Pavilion combines science education with hands-on fun to teach visitors about invertebrates, science and conservation. Butterflies gently land on your shoulders, or fly from flower to flower. Those who are more brave can hold a tarantula.
Recent News: The new Tropical Odyssey exhibit takes visitors to the tropical rainforests of South America, featuring some of the most vibrant butterfly species in the world. Tropical Odyssey not only highlights the visionary impact of sustainable agriculture as a solution to rainforest destruction, but also addresses current challenges with deforestation and what each of us can do to support sustainability of our natural resources.
Discover more than 15,000 fish, mammals, and plants, including sharks, stingrays, and even Sumatran tigers, all under one roof in the only major aquarium of the Rocky Mountains. Gigantic tanks simulate the Gulf of California or the deep blue waters of Sumatra. If visitors feel like getting wet, the Under the Sea exhibit lets you swim alongside a 250-lb. Queensland grouper, moray eels, and guitar fish. The Aquarium’s restaurant lets you dine next to sharks and schools of colorful tropical fish.
Recent News: This summer, watch the new Mystic Mermaids show, as mermaids swim amongst their sea life friends, teaching about the importance of eco-friendliness. The family friendly, interactive show is choreographed to music and is performed daily.
Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge
Located just 10 miles from downtown Denver, the Arsenal was once the most polluted spot in the U.S., but it has now been cleaned up and transformed into one of the three largest urban wildlife refuges in the nation, home to 330 species including bald eagles, buffalo, deer and burrowing owls. A new $7.5 million visitor center tells the story of how this former weapons manufacturing site went through one of the largest environmental cleanups in history. Today, the there are 10-miles of trails through the 15,000-acre site, or visitors can take guided bus tours to see hawks, eagles and what will ultimately be a herd of 250 free-roaming buffalo.
Recent News: In Summer 2011, the Arsenal unveiled its new Visitors Center, a 12,500-square-foot, $7.6 million project that was constructed with renewable or recycled materials (including beetle-kill trees). The new attraction features a classroom, an auditorium, a gift shop, an activities area and an exhibit showcasing the Arsenal's history.
Buffalo Herd Nature Preserve
Bison (or buffalos) are among the most iconic symbols of the American west. Denver maintains two herds of 50 head that are direct descendants of the last wild buffalo herd in America. One is located along I-70 at Exit 254 in a beautiful location with a mountain backdrop of snowcapped peaks. The buffalo have their tunnel under the highway, so they can be on either side. Buffalo weigh up to 2,000 pounds and can outrace a Quarter Horse in short distances. The City of Denver also has a nearby elk herd at Genesse and a second buffalo herd, 10 miles south of Denver at Daniels Park.
Rocky Mountain National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP), just an hour and a half drive from Denver, is the most popular attraction in Colorado, drawing three million annual visitors to its 416 square miles of mountain beauty. The wilderness area includes 359 miles of hiking trails, 150 lakes, 60 mountains taller than 12,000 feet, and the opportunity to view a wide array of wildlife. The park is home to an elk herd numbering more than 3,000, so these majestic creatures are among the most-easily-seen wildlife. After facing near extinction last century, the bighorn sheep population is currently thriving– there are roughly 800 of these striking animals in the park. The moose is a naturally shy creature, but sightings occur almost daily in the summer along the banks of the Upper Colorado River in the Kawuneeche Valley. Nearly 300 species of birds have been documented in the Park and surrounding areas. Specialty species found in the park include: White-tailed Ptarmigan; Blue Grouse; Gray Jay; Clark’s Nutcracker; Williamson’s Sapsucker; Three-toed Woodpecker; and the Mountain Chickadee.