MIAMI, Nov. 22, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- Locals and tourists alike will want to visit Zoo Miami to experience Florida: Mission Everglades and the grand opening festivities on December 10 & 11, 2016. This new, 4.5 acre, $33 million permanent addition will encourage residents, as well as out of town visitors, to connect with approximately 60 species of wildlife from our own backyard, many of which are endangered or threatened.
"We're very excited to see this project open to the public," said Zoo Miami Director Carol Kruse. "The goal of Florida: Mission Everglades is to give our visitors a deeper understanding of the importance of the Everglades and to engage them in helping us save it. We want visitors to be inspired to actually visit the Everglades." Just past the new main Entry Plaza, Florida: Mission Everglades will be the first lobe of the zoo that visitors can enter. Upon entry, guests will immediately be greeted by the sights and sounds of a songbird aviary filled with blue jays, various doves, red-bellied wood peckers and other native birds. Next, they'll pass by a naturalistic lake full of pelicans and wading birds like roseate spoonbills, egrets, herons, and more. Just down the path and under a covered walkway, fun-seeking guests will be able to slide through the North American river otter exhibit and crawl through a tunnel at the American crocodile exhibit. For adults looking for a break and little ones needing to burn energy, there is the Cypress Landing Playground. Complete with a colorful, giant, water shooting "cypress tree" and "cypress knees" as well as climbable play structures for kids of all ages, this will certainly be the new favorite hang-out. Refreshments, snacks and sundries will be available for purchase at the Cypress Landing Café. Farther along, guests will be able to come face to face with Florida's biggest and most impressive land mammals, the North American black bear and the endangered Florida panther. Several viewing opportunities and interactions exist here including a training wall where zookeepers can demonstrate the animals' natural behaviors. Terrariums along the path will captivate guests with native reptiles and amphibians such as anoles, green tree frogs, box turtles, rat snakes, water snakes and more. Further along the path is the home of the small, long-legged burrowing owl, the gopher tortoise (a keystone species that digs burrows that provide shelter for hundreds of other animals) and the timid, yet inquisitive, nine-banded armadillo.