PEORIA — If you’re looking for a howling good time this October, look no farther than Howl-ZOO-Ween, which will be held at the Peoria Zoo from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Oct. 14 and 15.
All ghosts and ghouls are welcome to attend this family friendly annual event. Don’t miss the trick or treat trail with gobs of candy that winds through Africa, the zoo’s newest attraction. There will also be magic shows at 6:30 and 8 p.m., a costume contest at 7 p.m. each night, creepy crawly animal encounters at 6 and 7:30 p.m., games and rides, a “scary” trail for those brave enough to go through, and so much more!
If being hungry scares you most, don’t miss great food from Backyard BBQ, apples from Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory and treats from the Zoo Lodge.
The Peoria Zoo is located at 2218 N. Prospect Road, and tickets for Howl-ZOO-Ween are $5 for non-zoo members. Call 309-681-3513 or visit www.peoriazoo.org for more information.
The zoo has been a part of Peoria for more than 100 years. The zoo, originally called the Glen Oak Zoo, had its beginnings in the late 1800s when a herd of elk was donated to the Peoria Park District. During the next 50 years, the “zoo” moved to several locations, eventually near the lagoon in Glen Oak Park.
In order to develop a more formal collection, advice was sought from Marlin Perkins, director of the St. Louis Zoo and later star of Mutual of Omaha’s “Wild Kingdom,” and local architect Cletis Foley. The current Glen Oak Zoo exhibits building opened in 1955.
In the 1970s, the zoo took on a more professional appearance, emphasizing education, conservation and recreation. Friends of Glen Oak Zoo was formed and collaborated with the Peoria Park District to offer new animals and exhibits.
In 1992, a community task force was formed to analyze the zoo’s status and recommend a path regarding its future. The conclusions: The zoo is an important part of the community; it should remain centrally located; and a master plan should be developed to give direction.
In 2002 the Peoria Park District and the Peoria Zoological Society signed an agreement regarding the expansion of the zoo, and fundraising efforts began.
In 2009, the construction of the Africa exhibit was completed, and it opened to the public.
Upon entering the Zambezi River Village in the exhibit, zoo visitors will experience a unique simulation of African grasslands. As the visitor overlooks an interpretation of the Zambezi River, they will view six different species whose barriers are invisible to the public. Perhaps the first species the visitor will notice will be the white rhino or the endangered Grevy’s zebra. As the visitor continues to walk up the boardwalk it would be impossible for them to miss the almost 17-foot-tall giraffe. Perhaps they will even be lucky enough to feed the giraffe at the interpretive station on top of the boardwalk. Alongside the giraffe are Thomson’s gazelle and gerenuk antelope. A lion will undoubtedly be atop a kopje, a unique island of granite rising from the sea of grasses of the savanna.
Continuing on the boardwalk the visitor will actually experience a drop in temperature as they descend the boardwalk amid the lush, thick foliage and approach many forest dwelling species. Red river hogs by far the most colorful and striking of the wild pigs will be housed in the same exhibit with colobus monkeys. Continuing on the path, the striking mandrills are sure to catch the attention of all who walk their way. These endangered monkeys are one of the largest species of monkeys in the world. Their furry head crests, manes and beards are quite impressive, but what will really get your attention is their bright coloration. They have thick ridges along their noses that are purple and blue; their noses and lips are red; and their beards are golden.
Upon returning to the Zambezi River Village one last very special experience awaits the visitor. This one of a kind exhibit is designed to interpret some of the small species living Africa. Once in the building, the room is filled with an interpretive tree that houses many small exhibits including zebra mice, golden taveta weavers, African rock pythons, giant Zambian mole-rats, pancake tortoise, dung beetles, hissing cockroaches and Madagascar tree boas.