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Behind the Exhibit: The Tulsa Zoo's Children's Zoo

Behind the Exhibit: The Tulsa Zoo's Children's Zoo (KTUL)

It may look more like a barnyard than a traditional exhibit, but the Children's Zoo is one of the most popular parts of the Tulsa Zoo.

"We have the cool domestic animals they can come in and have contact with in our contact yard. That includes goats and sheep, as well as animals they can see on our walks or birthday parties," said Emily Hallford, zookeeper at the Children's Zoo.

The Children's Zoo is one of the more interactive exhibits, where occasionally, they'll even bring the animals to you.

"It's a great chance for the public and visitors to get a chance to love on a different animal, feel that they aren't really soft. He's got bristled hair," said Hallford as she took a 200-pound pig for a stroll.

Every morning, the Children's Zoo starts with the lengthy process of assembling meals for the vast array of species there. At least the hogs are easy; they get the scraps from all the other animals.

"We have five of them total -- three guinea hogs, and then we have two miniature pigs, so we make sure to distribute it out to everybody. We have our kangaroo diet. This is a specific diet for kangaroos and other marsupials. This is our river otters; they get frozen thawed fish," Hallford said.

Those are the two unusual species in an area full of domestic animals, but they are also two of the most recognizable animals to kids here at the zoo. The kangaroos are fed right now like every other animal in the zoo. The otters, though, are going through a training process.

They want to have the otters crate trained so they will hop in willingly when they need to take it to the vet or give it shots. The otters are protected contact, meaning the zookeepers and the otters never interact hand-to-hand due to those sharp fish chomping teeth. One last bit of training involves the cows, where Emily weighs them on a regular basis but getting them on the scale can be tricky.

"Weight is a great way to monitor their overall health," said Hallford. "They like to hide it when they aren't feeling good. So, if they are losing weight, it can let us know we have some health issues or underlying issues."

It's a lot to keep track of, especially with all the animals, but it's all in an effort to make the experience magical for kids and give them a love for animals.

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