Zoo Atlanta‚Äôs “Wild Encounters”

‘Hey Mom, Can We Feed The Dragon?’

Zoo Atlanta has added a new opportunity to get up close and personal with some of its wild creatures. For an extra fee on top of regular zoo admission, you can gain “behind the scenes” access to help feed Slasher, a Komodo dragon, or the African elephants, or one of those prized giant pandas.
Our family, including James, 6, and Lilli, 4, headed to the zoo for a day of animal gazing, topped by the new “Wild Encounters” experience. The kids were super excited when they learned they were going to be feeding the dragon!
Our family joined eight others – two kids and six adults – for the encounter with Slasher. The experience began when we met with Michelle, one of the “Wild Encounter” guides. Michelle introduced us to one of the Komodo dragon keepers, who took us behind the scenes to give us a little background on this species of lizard that’s native to Indonesia and can grow up to 10 feet long. We learned that Slasher and other Komodo dragons have serrated teeth that replace themselves the way shark’s teeth do, and they have a light sensor on the top of their heads that tells them when to sleep. Next, we got to pass around some molted skin to feel this creature’s bumps. (Slasher is one of two Komodo dragons at Zoo Atlanta. Rinca, almost 2, is not yet ready for the “encounter.”)
We all put on booties and gloves, and were then ushered into Slasher’s containment area. Slasher eats dead mice. Using steel tongs, the keeper picked up a dead mouse, then handed the tongs over to different people in our group. The experience lasted a good 30-plus minutes and the kids loved it. We especially liked how friendly and helpful the staff were; it was apparent they love their jobs. Our family felt the overall encounter was beyond our expectations. We will be doing this again!
– Katie Harris

If You Go

Zoo Atlanta “Wild Encounters”
800 Cherokee Ave. SE, Atlanta; 404-624-5600
Komodo dragon
Cost: $35/person, plus zoo admission
When: Fri., Sat., Sun.,12:30-1 p.m
Capacity: 10 participants
African elephant
Cost: $75/participant, plus zoo admission
When: Daily, 1:30-2:15 p.m.
Capacity: 10 participants
Giant panda
Cost: $150/participant, plus zoo admission
When: Daily, 11:00 a.m.-noon
Capacity: 10 participants
(It’s possible to do all three encounters in a single day, if you can afford it. Children ages 3-8 must be assisted by a parent/guardian while feeding. Younger children can join in at no charge, but cannot feed the animals.)