There are hundreds of thousands of things to do in Washington D.C. However, the best part is that most of these activities are free, or at least extremely cheap.
One of the main attractions in Washington D.C. is the Smithsonian National Zoological Park. The Smithsonian National Zoological Park is more often called simply the National Zoo.
This attraction is popular among all ages and types of groups. The National Zoo is one of the oldest zoos located in the United States.
It is also one of the many free attractions. This collection of amazing wildlife from all over the world was created in 1889.
The mission of the National Zoo is to provide leadership in animal care, science, education, sustainability and visitor experience. The fantastic collection of animals covers 163 acres of Washington D.C.
It was the first park of this size to be built in an urban location such as this. It is only twenty minutes to travel from the National Zoo to the National Mall.
However, the 163 acres does not encompass the entire zoo. There is a second section that is used for conservation and research that is 3,200 acres in size.
This section is located in Front Royal, Virginia. The National Zoo is the home of 2,000 animals which encompasses over 400 varying species.
One fifth of the animals showcased in the zoo are listed as endangered or threatened by endanger. The most popular animals at the zoo include giant pandas, birds, great apes, big cats, Asian elephants, insects, amphibians, reptiles, aquatic animals, and many other creatures.
Only thirty to forty of the endangered species they showcase are held at Washington D.C. at any one time as many of the species are needed for research as scientists try to discover ways in which they can preserve these species. The zoo is open every day except for December 25th.
The National Zoo was created through an Act of Congress which decided that it would help advance science and the education of the people. In the beginning, the zoo was only home to one or two types of animals from a variety of exotic species.
However, the selection of animals became much more varied later on. As people began capturing animals for zoos and becoming involved in other activities, the zoos became concerned about the decrease in population for many of the animals.
As a result they decided to focus on the conservation of the animals, rather than their entertainment value in zoos. The first full-time, permanent veterinarian for the National Zoo was not hired until the 1950s.
This action demonstrates how the attitude toward the animals held in the zoo changed. In addition, around this time, Congress was persuaded to change how the National Zoo was funded so that it had a more steady and consistent income that could be relied on.
With a steady and consistent income, it was able to expand even further. As scientists began to further study the animals, they discovered that it was generally better to put them in natural groupings rather than separating all of the species into individuals and pairs.
The animals seemed to be happier and reproduce better in these situations. The main attraction of the zoo is the giant pandas which have called it home for over thirty years.
In 1972, a pair of pandas named Hsing Hsing and Ling Ling were loved by the nation. Then in 2000, another pair of pandas named Mei Xiang and Tian Tian joined the zoo.
Five years later on July 9, 2005, Mei Xiang gave birth to Tai Shan to the joy of all involved. Tai Shan traveled back to China in 2010, but also loved by the people while he was here.
Other Asian species have also seen a rejuvenation of their species. These species include the sloth bears, red pandas, and clouded leopards.
In addition, Asian elephants are scheduled to be added to the zoo in 2012. They will be kept in an exhibit called Elephant Trails.
The zoo is supported by tax revenues that the government collects, so visiting the zoo for free is a great way to get part of your tax money back. This zoo consistently receives more than two million visitors every year.
The zoo also hosts many special events and it is constantly changing. This is a great place to teach children about the wildlife found throughout the world and the importance of biology in a very fun and entertaining way.