Author Archives: wentworth

  • -

New Sloth Exhibit

The Metro Richmond Zoo is pleased to announce the opening of a new sloth exhibit. The new habitat, called Animals of the Amazon, features different species of animals native to the Amazon rainforest and other parts of South America. These species include: Two-toed sloth, Red-rumped agouti (a type of rodent), 2 species of tortoise, and 2 species of turtles.  

The Animals of the Amazon exhibit allows guest to see different species of animals coexisting as they might in the wild. It is designed to mimic layers of a natural ecosystem: turtles in the water below, tortoises and rodents on the forest floor, and sloths living in the foliage above.  

Here are some interesting facts about some of the animals in this exhibit:

Water below: The Matamata turtle has a flattened triangular head with a large, rough knobby carapace. Skin flaps along head and neck help detect prey. They have a tubular snout that acts as a snorkel- only the tip needs to be above water for breathing.

Forest floor: The Red-rumped agouti is a rodent native to forested areas of South America. They prefer access to water because they can swim. They love Brazil nuts, and they are the only mammal in their range that can open Brazil nut husks.

Foliage above: Two-toed sloths are solitary, arboreal, and nocturnal animals. They sleep about 15 hours per day and move very slowly when they are awake. They have a very slow metabolism. Food may take up to one month to ferment and digest in their multi-chambered stomach.

  • -

New Otter Cove Exhibit Now Open!

The Metro Richmond Zoo is pleased to announce the opening of a new African Clawless otter exhibit. Otters have been a favorite at the Zoo for years, and now they have new and upgraded habitat. This exhibit, called Otter Cove, is more than 5 times the size of their previous home and it features a 12,000 gallon pool of water.

The African Clawless otter is the third largest species of otter in the world. Their hands are clawless and their feet are partially webbed. They are native to Africa near permanent bodies of water in the savanna or lowland forests. Otters are very intelligent, curious, and acrobatic. They love to swim, play, chase, and spin. Their whiskers are highly sensitive and can detect changes in water currents and nearby prey or predators.

Guests can now come face to face with Pili and Max, our two African Clawless otters, through 4 different viewing windows. Otter Cove provides our visitors with incredible views of the otters on land and in the water. Pili and Max are enjoying their new exhibit. Pili is 15 years old, a very old age for an otter, and Max is 6 years.

Construction on this exhibit began in the summer of 2018. It is the Metro Richmond Zoo’s most artistic and detailed exhibit to date. It is part of an ongoing process to remodel and improve many of our existing habitats.

  • -

Celebrating 25 Years

The Zoo is temporarily closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but we are still celebrating our anniversary. Twenty five years ago, the Metro Richmond Zoo opened to the public on April 22, 1995, with 250 animals.

The Zoo has experienced tremendous growth over the years. Currently, the Zoo is situated on 150 acres and is home to 2,000 animals representing 190 species from around the world. The animals at the Zoo act as animal ambassadors for their wild counterparts to help inspire people to care about the survival of all animals. In 2019, an additional 30 acres of adjacent land was purchased which will allow for an expanded parking area and future animal exhibits.

The Metro Richmond Zoo is accredited by the Zoological Association of America (ZAA). The Zoo participates with many other zoological parks from around the world in conservation programs directed by ZAA and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) to manage captive populations of many species. The Zoo is especially known nationwide for its successful conservation programs for the following endangered species: cheetah, African penguin, and Diana monkey. More information about our conservation efforts:

We look forward to the day when we can open our gates again to visitors. We have implemented several new additional safety measures to limit the number of guests in the park and ensure social distancing . In addition to having incredible up-close animal experiences, visiting the Metro Richmond Zoological Park provides important family time, wonderful educational experiences, a chance to escape from the stress of our current situation and get outside in the fresh air, and enjoy a little exercise all surrounded by the wonders of nature.


  • -

Septuplet Cheetah Cubs Born

The Metro Richmond Zoo is pleased to announce the birth of 7 cheetah cubs! Vaila, a second time mother, gave birth to septuplets on November 30, 2018!

This is a very special birth to us because not only is it a big boost for Cheetah conservation by increasing the captive population, but also a cheetah having 7 cubs at once only happens 1% of the time! In addition, the sire is Kalu, a first time dad who was born and raised here at the Metro Richmond Zoo.

All 7 cubs have had several checkups and their first set of shots. They are in great health and growing fast!! Vaila and cubs are currently in our cheetah conservation center and are not on exhibit; however, we plan to move them into the zoo sometime in March 2019. We will make an announcement when they can be seen on exhibit.

The Cheetah is Africa’s most endangered cat, and the wild population has drastically declined from 100,000 to only 7,000 individuals.

The Metro Richmond Zoo works with both The Association of Zoos and Aquariums and Zoological Association of America cheetah conservation management programs.

  • -

Pygmy Hippo Exhibit Now Open

The Metro Richmond Zoo is pleased to announce the opening of our new Pygmy hippo exhibit. The Pygmy hippopotamus is a rare species native to swamps and rivers in forested areas of Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, and the Ivory Coast. They are highly endangered, with only 3,000 individuals remaining in the wild.

At the Zoo, guests can come face to face with Corwin and Iris, our two Pygmy hippos. Corwin is a 2 year old male and Iris is an 11 year old female. The new exhibit provides our visitors with incredible views of the Pygmy hippo on land and in the water. People can interact with the hippos through our underwater viewing window.

Pygmy hippos share the same general form as the Nile hippo. However, the pygmy hippo is half as tall as the Nile hippo. Adult pygmy hippos stand 2.5-3 feet tall and are 4.9-5.7 feet in length. They weigh 350 to 600 pounds. Pygmy hippos are semi-aquatic and rely on the water to keep their skin moist and cool.

Construction on this exhibit began in the Fall of 2016. It is the Metro Richmond Zoo’s most expensive and detailed exhibit to date.


  • -

3 White Lions Cubs

The Metro Richmond Zoo is pleased to announce the birth of 3 White lion cubs born to parents, Xonga and Basa, on April 2nd, 2018. After a 110 day gestation period, Xonga, a 3 year old, first time mother, gave birth to 1 male and 2 female cubs.

Xonga has shown excellent maternal care for her cubs. Both mom and babies are in great health. The cubs have been nursing, and they are growing rapidly. Xonga and her babies are currently in their off exhibit, private den. This allows time for the cubs and mom to bond. Once they are old enough, Xonga and her cubs will go outside on exhibit.

White lions are a rare color mutation of the African lion that occurs naturally in the Timbavati region in South Africa. They are not albino; they are leucistic, which is a lack of dark pigmentation. They get their coloring from a recessive gene known as a color inhibitor. While similar to albinism, this gene is far less severe. White lions still have pigmentation present in their eyes, paws, and lips. White lions can range in color from pale blonde to completely white. To produce a white lion, both parents must possess the recessive gene.

  • -

ZAA Excellence in Breeding Award

The Metro Richmond Zoo is the recipient of the 2017 ZAA Excellence in Breeding award for our work in cheetah conservation! In 4 years, we have had 40 cheetah cubs born.

Zoo Director, Jim Andelin, receiving the award at the 2017 ZAA conference.

Thank you for the recognition, Zoological Association of America.

Read more about our highly successful cheetah conservation program. 

  • -

Cheetah Cubs born July 20th, 2017

The Metro Richmond Zoo is pleased to announce the birth of 4 cheetah cubs to parents, Khari and Hatari. This is Khari’s 2nd  litter, Hatari’s 4th litter, and the Zoo’s 8th litter of cheetah cubs. Khari gave birth to 2 females and 2 males on July 20th, 2017 after a 3 month gestation.

These are the 37th, 38th, 39th, and 40th cheetah cubs born at the Metro Richmond Zoo since 2013. All four cubs are doing well and are in great health. The cubs were born in our off-exhibit Cheetah Breeding Center, but have just been moved to the cheetah exhibit in the Zoo. Khari and her 2 month old cubs can now be seen by zoo guests everyday. These are the youngest cheetah cubs we have ever had on exhibit.


The cheetah is Africa’s most endangered cat. In 1900, the cheetah population was around 100,000 individuals. However, due to habitat loss, human conflict, and illegal animal trade, the cheetah’s current wild population is in drastic decline. It is estimated there are around 7,000 cheetahs left in the wild. Cheetahs in the wild have an extremely high mortality rate. 90% of cubs die within the first three months of life. 50% of these deaths are attributed to predation and the other 40% fall victim to a lack of genetic diversity. Khari’s litter will make a significant addition to the captive cheetah population.

Come visit Khari and her cubs soon!

  • -

Remembering Pawl

The Metro Richmond Zoo mourns the loss of Pawl, one of our male lions. He was nearly 21 years old.

Pawl came to the Metro Richmond Zoo in 2000 and was a favorite among zoo staff and visitors. He truly was the king of the Zoo as his majestic roar could be heard from all corners of the park. He quickly became one of the famous faces of the Zoo.

Pawl lived a wonderful, long life. In the wild, lions live 10-14 years. Often male lions don’t live past 10 years because they lose support from the pride when they are out of their prime years. At the Zoo, he was able to live 20 years under the care of his beloved staff.

A few years ago, Pawl began suffering from arthritis. He was sedated for a full work up and has been medicated since. Over the last couple weeks, he was having a very difficult time getting up and down and going on exhibit. We increased his meds doses, but it did not help much. Pawl stopped eating and doing some of his favorite normal behaviors.

On the morning of September 27th, Pawl was unable to get up, and it was time for us to make a very difficult decision. Our staff elected to humanely euthanize him. Pawl will always remain in the hearts of our zoo staff and guests.

Pawl is survived by Basa and Xonga, our two white lions.

10/11/1996 – 9/27/2017

  • -

New Animal Exhibits for 2017

The Metro Richmond Zoo is always seeking new and exciting ways to expand and renovate our park! We are thrilled to unveil our big plans for 2017.

New Animal Exhibits

Pygmy Hippo 

a pygmy hippo with her baby

pygmy hippo exhibit under construction

The pygmy hippopotamus is native to the forests and swamps of West Africa, mainly Liberia. It is an endangered species with only an estimated 3,000 individuals remaining in the wild. Pygmy hippos share the same general form as the hippopotamus. However, the pygmy hippo is half as tall as the hippo and weighs less than 1/4 as much as the hippo. Adult pygmy hippos stand 2.5-3 feet tall and are 4.9-5.7 feet in length. They weigh from 350-600 pounds. Just like the hippo, pygmy hippos are semi-aquatic and rely on the water to keep their skin moist and cool. Their feet are less webbed, however, than those of the hippo, and their legs are longer than their large relative’s. Little is known about pygmy hippos in the wild. They are more rare than hippos.

At the Zoo, construction is well underway for their exhibit. Their habitat is located between Kumbali & Kago and the servals. The exhibit will contain grassy fields, a mud pit, and a large pool for the pygmy hippos to swim in.


Giant Anteater

a wooden boardwalk will extend above the South American exhibit and down to the lake

indoor anteater shelter

The giant anteater is native to Central and South America. They are around 3.5-4 feet in length and weigh anywhere from 60-140 pounds (males weigh heavier than females). Giant anteaters don’t have any teeth. Instead, they have a specialized tongue that allows them to eat 30,000 ants and termites each day! Their slender tongue is about 24 inches long. The giant anteater has the longest tongue in relation to its body size of any mammal. They have poor eyesight, but their sense of smell is 40 times stronger than that of a human’s.

The giant anteater exhibit at the Zoo will be located between the train station and the South American exhibit (as seen in the photo above). A wooden boardwalk will extend across the exhibit and down to the lake. Visitors can walk on the elevated path and view the anteaters on the right and the tapirs, llamas, and rheas on the left. Two anteaters will arrive at the Zoo in late Spring.


15 New Exhibits in the Reptile Building

Phase 1 of our new Reptile House opened spring 2016. The phase 2 expansion will open later this year with 15 additional exhibits. The new hallway of the Reptile House will contain large multi-species displays with various reptiles.


African Clawless Otter

Our otters are getting a new home! We are building a larger habitat with underwater viewing. Guests will be able to watch the otters swim in the pool through the glass windows. This new exhibit is located down the hill from the playground.


Two Primate Islands

Construction has begun on two primate islands that can be viewed from the Safari Train Ride. These islands will be of similar design to the chimpanzee and orangutan exhibits currently in the Zoo. The water provides a natural barrier for the animals because apes can’t swim due to their heavy body mass.

Otter Cove Now Open!

Kumbali and Kago

Become a Member and Visit Year-Round!