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Family activities plenty at Montgomery Zoo

Visitors to the Montgomery Zoo are in for a pleasant surprise these days. The zoo, which has grown from a very small facility, is now large and beautiful.

From a train ride around the park to eating lunch in sight of giraffes and lions, the zoo does have a lot to offer, especially for families with children who want to find something to do and not drive very far.

For Halloween, the annual ZooBoo festivities will be going on. From Oct. 25-31, there will be games, treats, costumed characters and animals plus a haunted train ride and a hay ride. Admission for the event is $5 if you are not a zoo member and is a safe place to take children for trick-or-treating.

Following that is the Holiday Lights Festival from Nov. 29-Dec. 31. Colored and white lights illuminate the zoo and includes a train ride around the area so you can see the lights. Admission for that is $6.

The zoo is home to more than 700 animals from five continents, with exhibits representing North and South Americas, Asia, Africa and Australia. The zoo has grown to more than 40 acres and is soon to add a museum to its features.

The animals are well-cared for, with large roomy cages that are cleaned out daily and plenty of food, fresh air and water provided.

Kim Haslow has worked for more than seven years with giraffes Chris, who is around 16, Melissa, who is around 5 and Rod, and orphan.

Haslow showed off the huge cages the giraffes sleep in at night during a recent tour of the zoo.

She explained that giraffes have a valve in their brains that shut off blood flow when they drink water as a safety feature.

But the big question – do these tall, lanky creatures stand or lie down to sleep?

A more intricate set of cages house the zoo’s famous Bengal Tigers. These white tigers are caged seperately so they will not agitate each other or the other animals in the middle of the night.

Angelique Suzanne, the interim education coordinator at the zoo, shared some facts about the Bengal tigers.

Because the Bengal tiger has lost its color, they have a much harder time blending into the forest, therefore becoming targets for prey by other animals, even their own kind.

Suzanne explained that in the wild, three things could happen to a Bengal tiger: either the mother rejects it, the mother kills it and eats it, or the mother accepts the cub, but other members of the pack kill it and eat it.

The two Bengal tigers, Zeus and Malika, share their quarters with Beauty, a mountain lion. She is 11 years old and is expected to live up to 30 years of age.

The Montgomery Zoo is open year round with the exception of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. The zoo is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The last ticket is sold at 4:30 and the major animal exhibits begin going in to their homes for the night.