PEORIA – The Peoria Park District has a gem just south of the Sauk Valley – the Peoria Zoo.
Zoos take visitors to other parts of the world and Peoria's is no exception. More than 100 species are there. Birds, reptiles, mammals, amphibians and fish provide plenty to see.
Explorers enter Africa by stepping through the Zambezi River Village banquet facility. Six species will be readily noticeable, but don't panic if a lack of fencing attracts the attention. The animals are "fenced in;" the restraints just aren't visible.
Zebras, rhinoceroses, antelopes, giraffes, lions and monkeys all are part of life in this small corner of Africa. Moving along a boardwalk, guests may have the opportunity to feed the giraffes. And like the real Africa, the terrain changes so visitors move from grasslands into the forest regions.
At the end of the trail, the explorers will find an exhibit dealing with the smaller African creatures, such as weavers, mole-rats and tree boas.
The next stop is Asia. Visitors who take this trail will find tigers, and the lesser-known Sichuan takin and mungjac. These can be followed by a visit to Astural with its parma wallabies, emus and black swans.
And don't miss the critters of a more domestic nature that make their home in the zoo: sheep, goats, ponies and chickens.
Peoria Zoo is not without its share of special events. Two of them add an unusual twist to a visit. The Behind the Scenes Tours are at 9 a.m. March 29 and April 26. For an hour and $22 per person above admission, guests get to see how the animals are cared for, what they eat, and where they sleep. Registration is necessary; call 309-681-3513 to make arrangements.
Visitors also can check out the zoo after dark. This tour is scheduled for 7 to 9 p.m. April 25 and costs $20. Subjects will include nocturnal animals and night houses. Register at the above number.
On April 12, an Easter egg hunt is planned. The cost is $6.50 for children and $9 for adults. The action begins at 10:30 a.m. for children up to 3; 10:50 a.m. for ages 4-6, and 11:10 a.m. for ages 7-9.
Those who are interested in shopping will find the Safari Gift Shop filled with plush animals and assorted gift ideas. To bring home something really unusual, check out the merchandise made from elephant dung – no stink involved – honest.