South Africa

Black-footed penguins and Shoebill storks greet visitors year round in the outdoor South Africa exhibit. During the summer months this lush botanical area is also home to unusual reptiles and amphibians from Madagascar.

White-crested turaco

White-crested turaco, Tauraco leucolophus

Turacos are an entirely African family. Traditionally considered distant relatives of cuckoos, it has been proposed these fruit and bud-eating birds may be more closely related to owls. Found almost coast to coast across Africa, in a narrow ribbon of forest habitat, this species is popular in zoos and private collections because of its “Groucho Marx eyebrows” contrasting with its unique white head. Many have hatched since the first captive breedings in the 1970s.

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Rock hyrax

Rock hyrax, Procavia capensis

Reminding some people of guinea pigs, or annoyed teddy bears, these ten pound mammals are considered by zoologists to be related to the ancestors of elephants and manatees. The skull displays similarities to these animals and this is also supported by DNA research. Found in many parts of Africa, as well as Arabia and the Middle East, they live in cliffs, kopjes, and other rocky areas, in groups of up to 80, led by a dominant male.

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Black-footed penguin

Black-footed penguin, Spheniscus demersus

Living on both coasts of South Africa, as well as Namibia, this engaging bird was encountered by Vasco da Gama and his crew, as they rounded the Cape of Good Hope in 1497, becoming the first penguin known to Europeans. Also known as the African or Jackass penguin, this is the first penguin bred in zoos, in London in 1907, as well the first in the US, at the Bronx Zoo in 1915. Almost all of the more than 2,000 kept world-wide are captive-bred; more than 700 live in North America. With only 50,000 in the wild, this is an important resource.

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