One great place to see wildlife in Brooklyn, including animals that you can’t see anywhere else in the city, is the Prospect Park Wildlife Center. This small zoo offers a surprisingly diverse array of exhibits, from exotic endangered species such as the Golden Lion Tamarin, to heirloom farm breeds, to species such as the North American River Otter that are native to the New York City area. In all, there are more than 125 species in the zoo’s 12 acres.
The zoo is managed by the Wildlife Conservation Society, which also manages the Bronx, Central Park, and Queens Zoos and the New York Aquarium. (The Staten Island Zoo is independent.) It is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and participates in the WCS’s worldwide conservation efforts and AZA’s species survival plan, a cooperative breeding program among accredited zoos. Several of the animals on exhibit were born here, and occasionally visitors are excited to see new babies, especially in the late spring and early summer.
The Prospect Park Zoo offers several indoor and outdoor areas with different themes. Primates including two kinds of tamarins, White-Faced Saki Monkeys and Hamadryas Baboons are featured in the Animal Lifestyles (rotunda) building, along with fish, pallas cats, Scops owls, snakes, tortoises, and iguanas. The Animals in Our Lives building houses six different nocturnal species, a variety of amphibians, several kinds of turtles, snakes, fish, meerkats, mongooses, and more birds, as well as a small theater. The Discovery Trail features an aviary, tufted deer, otters, porcupines, and red pandas. In Wild Australia you can see emus, dingoes, wallabies, a kangaroo, Cape Barren geese and African guinea fowl. Other outdoor areas exhibit ducks, black swans, sea lions, prairie dogs and other animals. (Some animals and birds that are native to warm climates are off exhibit in cold weather.) In the barn area children can feed sheep and goats and view alpacas, a miniature horse, a cow, geese and turkeys. The zoo also has indoor Discovery Center with interactive exhibits for small children, classrooms, a food vending area, and outdoor picnic tables.
There are three sea lion feedings daily and several annual special events such as October’s “Boo at the Zoo” and a Fleece Festival in May. In addition, there are a variety of weekend family programs and a Zoo Camp summer youth program. Guided tours can be arranged for schools and other groups.
In addition to the wildlife on exhibit, the zoo is seasonally home to many wild birds including robins, barn swallows, cardinals, and mourning doves, and small native creatures such as chipmunks. Wild mallard ducks mingle with the zoo’s exotic waterfowl in its two ponds, which are also home to numerous native turtles.
The zoo’s gardens and decorative plantings are also well worth noticing, offering a profusion of beautiful, butterfly-attracting flowers in spring, summer, and fall.