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Dave Thomas, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

12 of the World's Most Unusual Zoos

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Dave Thomas, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

1. Caves of Sea Lions

Oregon's Sea Lion Caves are the only known mainland rookery and wintering home of the Stellar Sea Lion. The system of sea-level caves also provide sanctuary for the California Sea Lion and serve as a resting place for a variety of birds, from Tufted Puffins to Bald Eagles. There's even a whale watching deck from which visitors can see Gray Whales and migrating orcas.

The caves were discovered by Captain William Cox in 1880, but have only been open to the public since 1932, as the cliffs and lack of roads made it difficult to access the caves by land. Today, visitors can access the caves via their gift shop off of U.S. 101.

2. The High-Altitude Zoo

india_sikkim_day9_61, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

The only specialized zoo in India and the largest high-altitude zoo in India, Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park (a.k.a. Darjeeling Zoo), specializes in breeding animals for alpine conditions, including Snow Leopards, Tibetan Wolves, Red Pandas, and Himalayan Newts. The zoo is also home to Blue Sheep, Blood Pheasants and Bhutan Grey Peacock Pheasants, Satyr Tragopans, and Himalayan Monals.

The zoo was established in 1958 as the Himalayan Zoological Park. It was renamed in 1975 when then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi dedicated the zoo to the memory of Padmaja Naidu, the former governor of West Bengal.

3. The Biblical Zoo

Marice T, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

The Tisch Family Zoological Gardens in Jerusalem, also known as Jerusalem Biblical Zoo, highlights a collection of animals featured in the Hebrew Bible. The narrow focus has been difficult for the zoo to maintain, since many of the Bible's animals are now extinct in Israel. The terms used in the Bible to name animals are also somewhat ambiguous, leading to some uncertainty over which animals are actually discussed. The zoo now includes a variety of endangered species in addition to the biblical animals, and it has become known for its breeding programs, which have enabled it to reintroduce at least 11 species to Israel's nature reserves.

Since its inception in 1940, the zoo has moved several times, but today it resides in the Malha valley. The two-level park includes trees and shrubs mentioned in the Bible, an artificial wall called Moses' Rock, and a "two-story, boat-shaped wooden visitor's center meant to resemble Noah's Ark."

4. Old MacDonald's Farm

Rain0975, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

In 1966, a public park and petting zoo called Old MacDonald's Farm opened in Hampton, Virginia. Designed like a working farm, the park showcases farm animals and fowl as well as Virginia-native wild animals. Now known as Bluebird Gap Farm, the park intends to expose kids to animals in a farm setting, to which they would otherwise have very little exposure.

In addition to the animals, the park showcases both modern and antique farm equipment, the original Hampton train station, a family cemetery, a demonstration garden, and an Azalea Trail featuring rare azaleas.

5. The Butterfly Zoo

Dawn Ashley, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

The U.S. is home to at least 35 butterfly gardens, homes, and exhibits, but the oldest is Florida's Butterfly World, which opened in 1988. (Butterfly World also holds the distinction of being the world's largest butterfly park.) Butterfly World serves as a public attraction, research facility, and butterfly farm.

In addition to approximately 5,000 live butterflies, the park also houses the U.S.'s largest free flight hummingbird aviary, an enclosure in which visitors can feed Lorikeets, tropical birds, botanical gardens, a Bug Zoo with live bugs, and an Insectarium of mounted bugs and butterflies.

6. The Sanctuary for Rescued Animals

New Jersey is home to Popcorn Park Zoo, a sanctuary for abandoned, injured, ill, exploited, abused and elderly animals. The small zoo—housing just 200 animals on 7 acres—has been nurturing rescued animals since 1977. The animals range from foxes, geese, and deer to lions, tigers and bears (oh my!). They also have rescued dogs and cats that are available for adoption.

When I was a child visiting the park with my grandparents, my favorite animal was an elephant with an injured trunk, who was followed around the park by a little troop of ducklings. The elephant would use its trunk to pet and herd the ducklings.

7. The Zoo in a Rainforest

Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo & Gardens in Hilo, Hawai'i, is the only U.S. zoo located in a rainforest. At just 12 acres, Pana'ewa is a small zoo, but it boasts a popular white Bengal Tiger named Namaste, who was given to the zoo by the Las Vegas magician Dirk Arthur.

The free zoo is home to more than 80 different animal species, a petting zoo, and a butterfly house.

8. The Koala Sanctuary

Adam Foster, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Australia, naturally, is home to the world's oldest and largest koala sanctuary, Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. In addition to the koalas, the sanctuary is also home to other Australian animals, including kangaroos, Tasmanian devils, wombats, echidnas, parrots and cockatoos, reptiles, and a platypus.

Visitors have the rare privilege of being able to hold koalas for a fee. They can also feed and pet free-roaming kangaroos and feed nectar to lorikeets.

9. The Home for Birds of Prey

Richard Wise, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The International Centre for Birds of Prey is located in Gloucestershire, England, and houses some 60 species of owls and other birds of prey. At any given time, the Centre has about 20 to 40 trained birds residing in its Hawk Walk, an assortment of birds that rotates throughout the year to give the birds a break from the spotlight. The trained birds are used in flying demonstrations at the ICBP.

The Centre was originally established in 1967 as the Falconry Centre by the Glasier family, aiming to educate people about birds of prey and teach falconry. (Phillip Glasier was the leading expert on hawking and falconry in the UK; his daughter, Jemima Parry-Jones, is the current director of the ICBP.)

10. The Amusement Park Resort Zoo

Jeremy Thompson, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Long before Disney built Animal Kingdom in Florida, England had an amusement park that offered a zoo, rides, and a resort all in one. Flamingo Land, which opened in 1959, is named for its popular colony of pink flamingos, some of the first animals housed at the park, but today the zoo is home to more than 120 species of animals.

The animals are only one facet of this amusement park and resort, which includes more than 50 rides and attractions, three shows, a 9-hole golf course, a fly fishing stream, a 1000-seat entertainment venue, a swimming pool, and log cabins. Flamingo Land was the subject of a "docusoap," Theme Park, on ITV and has also been featured in Zoo Vet at Large on ITV1.

11. The World's Most Northern Zoo

Norway's Polar Zoo is the world's most northern zoo and the zoo with the biggest area per animal ratio. Spread over 114 acres, the zoo focuses on creating a "Scandinavian wilderness experience," showcasing animals in their natural habitats. The cold-weather animals include wolves and bears as well as red deer, reindeer, moose, and musk ox.

The Polar Zoo offers some unique experiences, including a wolf camp and fox camp in which you can get up close and personal with socialized wolves and foxes, respectively. You can also go "photoguiding," during which a keeper will take you inside enclosures to take "the perfect picture," or join the wolves for a "howl night," in which you not only meet the wolves inside their enclosure but also howl with them.

12. The Harem's Zoo

Egypt's Giza Zoo, an 80 acre zoological garden encompassing Giza's largest park, first opened in 1891 on land that was once part of the harem gardens. The original collection of animals was taken from the private menagerie of Imsa'il Pasha, the Khedive of Egypt from 1863 to 1879. The harem building itself served as a natural history museum from 1890 through 1902.

Today, the zoo houses a wide variety of animals, but the architectural and botanical features are just as fascinating. The garden roads are paved with black stone flags from Trieste, and footpaths are done in mosaic designs. The zoo includes a suspension bridge designed by Gustave Eiffel (of Eiffel Tower fame) that allows visitors to view the animals from above; it is thought to be the world's first elevated viewing area in a zoo. There are also five grottos and a Japanese building.

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How Far Out of Town Can You Get in an Hour? This Map Will Tell You
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iStock

Sitting through traffic on a Friday is no fun. Depending on where you live, though, it could either be a minor headache, or a traumatic event on par with heading to the airport the day before Thanksgiving. The Washington Post recently mapped out just how far you can get out of town on a Friday afternoon in major American cities in just one hour.

The Post’s Sahil Chinoy used traffic information culled from cell phones and car sensors by the location data company Here Technologies to map out travel times from downtown neighborhoods at 4 p.m., 7 p.m., and 10 p.m., showing how car travel varies by city and time on a Friday night. (They’re all estimates based on July 28 data.)

A U.S. map shows blue radii around cities illustrating a travel time of one hour in a car at 4 p.m. on a Friday.
Sahil Chinoy // The Washington Post

Unsurprisingly, considering geography and city culture, the answer can vary a lot. Compare Southern California and Northern California, for instance. In L.A., well-known for its horrendous traffic, an hour can’t even get you through the county. You’ll be able to travel 25 miles in that time period, at best—probably while suffering through that weird phenomenon where all the cars on the road slow down for seemingly no reason. But in Sacramento, you speed through up to 50 miles at rush hour. (You can get more than 50 miles from Las Vegas, too, but it’ll mostly land you in the middle of the desert.)

Some cities remain active long into the night, too, while others empty out right after the workday ends. In New York City, you can’t even get past the New Jersey suburbs at 4 p.m., and that doesn't change much as the night goes on. In most other cities, though, there's much less traffic by 10 p.m. compared to the late afternoon and evening. In Boston, for instance, you can travel 25 miles farther if you leave at 10 p.m. compared to leaving at 4 p.m.

The map shows what you probably already expected: In cities that were built around the car, it is, for the most part, easier to get out of town. Older cities on the East Coast like Philadelphia or Baltimore have tiny one-hour radiuses, while cities in Texas and the Midwest are easier to navigate behind the wheel.

Geography matters a lot, too. Cities that are built around water tend to be harder to escape from, like San Francisco, Seattle, and New York. If you only have a few bridges that lead out of town, they’re going to get clogged with traffic, while a city with several large highway arteries can move more people. Miami is virtually impossible to travel from because the city is wedged between the ocean and the Everglades.

That traffic time does more than just eat into your weekend plans. It’s really bad for your health. You’re essentially stewing in emissions, and long commutes on a regular basis are associated with stress, high blood pressure, and obesity. That may be fine if you’re trying to get out of the city for a weekend in the country every once in a while, but if you’re just trying to get home on a Friday night, that’s a different story.

For a closer look at the data and how it varies based on the time of day, see Chinoy’s graphics at The Washington Post.

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Take a Tour of Singapore's Incredible Supertree Grove
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There aren't many parks like Supertree Grove. Tucked inside Gardens by the Bay, a nature park in Singapore comprised of 250 acres of reclaimed land, Supertree Grove is a futuristic colony featuring 18 manmade tree-like vertical gardens, which are home to more than 160,000 plants, including more than 200 varieties of bromeliads, orchids, ferns, and tropical flowering climbers.

Visitors to the park are encouraged to walk from one tree to the next along a raised path overlooking the city. At night, the photovoltaic systems built into the supertrees light up with solar power, covering the area in dazzling purple hues.

Supertree Grove was commissioned by the Singapore government as a way to improve the quality of life for its residents, but they seem to have achieved more than that: the park has become a must-see site for horticulture enthusiasts and curious travelers from all over the world.

You can see more of these Supertrees in the video from Great Big Story below:

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