National Zoo exhibit highlights North American species
The American Trail exhibit showcases American and Canadian species.
September 1st, 2012
05:16 PM ET

National Zoo exhibit highlights North American species

California sea lions, gray seals and brown pelicans are just a few of an impressive list of animals on display in the nation's capital.  The National Zoo in Washington on Saturday held its grand opening of the remodeled "American Trail" exhibit, which features only species from the United States and Canada.

"We tend to highlight a lot of pandas and African species and those kinds of exotics," said Rebecca Miller, an animal keeper at the National Zoo. "But we have some really great animals here (in this exhibit) that people can see ...  American-born," she said.

The landscaping is designed to mimic the animals' natural environment.

The renovated exhibit was five years in the making and cost $42 million. This new version of the exhibit is more environmentally friendly in that it uses recycled and filtered water, rain garden drainage methods and certified wood. The walkways and sight lines have also been improved for visitors.

"Now it's a much more naturalistic experience with all the rock work," Miller said.

And just as important, the terrain has also been improved for the various species that make American Trail their home.

"It's also more natural for our animals," said Miller. "They have choices on where they can go."

American Trail offers visitors the opportunity to learn more about various species and conservation efforts that help ensure these animals don't return to the endangered species list.

"There's a lot of animals that people can see here that were once almost hunted to extinction," said Miller. "Because we've put in the Endangered Species Act and people care more about the environment, people can see these various species more often now."

The bald eagle, gray wolf and brown pelican were all once listed as endangered. It took some time, but the populations of those three species have rebounded enough where they are no longer seen as being threatened.

Of course, there are always the perennial favorites at every exhibit, such as the sea lion pools at American Trail.

The sea lion exhibit is a favorite of visitors.

"They're just so animated. People love watching them," said Miller.

Not surprisingly, the visitors we talked with agreed.  "No question, the sea lions," said Candace Johnson. "My kids can't get enough of them."

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Filed under: Animals
soundoff (18 Responses)
  1. Dave Wilson

    Yeah. American animals are cool. We don't need a bunch of foreign animals here taking their jobs.

    September 1, 2012 at 5:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • PiousPawn


      September 2, 2012 at 6:44 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Davey Wilson

    They spent too much money on this. Everyone loves American animals but still. I mean, come on.

    September 1, 2012 at 5:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • MIna

      They may have spent money, but think about who is going to visit to see these creatures, which will require for someone to tend to them, someone to sell souvenirs to the visitors, someone to sell tickets, snacks, and drinks to the visitors, a person to take the tickets, and to clean the park and maintain the enclosures...

      Just because there is a cost initially, doesn't mean that it won't pay off.

      September 2, 2012 at 4:03 am | Report abuse |
  3. Kenney

    @ steve wilson,,, your fisrt post was good ! Lmfao

    September 1, 2012 at 6:23 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Kenney

    I meant dave,,

    September 1, 2012 at 6:25 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Steller's Sea Cow

    With 99.9% of all species that have ever existed on Earth being driven into extinction, what is left to show?

    September 1, 2012 at 7:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Oakspar

      Are you really complaining that there are no longer simildons, cave bears, terror birds, t-rex, and velociraptors arround? I don't think "The raptor's got my baby!" would be a funny Seinfield reference if one was actually slurping down the innards of your firstborn.

      Yes, most animals are extinct, but that does not mean we no longer have a wonderfully diverse world to enjoy.

      September 11, 2012 at 10:14 am | Report abuse |
  6. Portland tony

    Maybe by seeing these creatures alive and up close, the younger generations will take the necessary, steps to see that they don't join the many species that have gone extinct at man's hand!

    September 1, 2012 at 9:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      As the bald eagle, the grey wolf, and the brown pelican have been taken off the endagered list, I think perhaps our future generation may well heed that wish!

      September 2, 2012 at 12:33 am | Report abuse |

    Hopefully this will renew interest in saving our wildlife.

    September 2, 2012 at 12:10 am | Report abuse |
    • Mark

      or eating them... mmm tasty american animals.

      September 11, 2012 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
  8. MIna

    They should display animals like the Pronghorn, North America's fastest animal (it can run 60 mph, assumed due to an evolutionary adaptation to run away from the now extinct North American cheetah.), the Jaguar (there are Jaguars in the United States you know), as well as the Ocelot, which also sometimes is found in the United States.

    People seem to forget that the animals of the Americas are just as beautiful, interesting and exotic looking as any in Asia or Africa, not to mention that like those exotic species, they need our help to protect their lands and to make sure they're here for ages to come.

    September 2, 2012 at 4:00 am | Report abuse |
    • Nathan

      Will the bald eagle get to wear a toupee ? Ii hope his head don't get cold.

      September 2, 2012 at 8:58 am | Report abuse |
  9. -Fat Racist- (R-Ohio)"My monkey's on fire"

    nathan. is your head cold?

    September 2, 2012 at 11:53 am | Report abuse |
  10. NDN PONY

    They need to put the American Mustang on the endangered list , the way The BLM is taking them off public lands!

    September 2, 2012 at 7:53 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Obama Mama

    Wolves-very beautiful animal.

    September 3, 2012 at 12:16 am | Report abuse |
  12. simpleton

    mountain lion

    September 4, 2012 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |