After you gain your second wind from relaxing in your Sevierville cabin rental, this is the season to divide and conquer. Don’t drag the kids through all the holiday shopping. Send the diehard gift acquirers in another direction (but don’t forget the unique things found in the gift shop here). Take a break yourself with the sights, sounds, and a few smells of the tropical rainforest, just off the Parkway in Sevierville at Rainforest Adventures Discover Zoo.
No matter your age, you’ll meet something you’ve never seen. We looked straight into the nostrils of a python from six inches away (glass between!), and were lucky enough to hold a blue-tongued skink. There is a vast assortment of reptiles, including an albino boa (which is a beautiful combination of sunflower yellow and cream). Small creatures like lizards, blue poison dart frogs, and Norway rats share the indoors with cockatoos and lemurs.
The whole family can enjoy this venue for a few hours of escape. Its unique collection of animals can be viewed (and some interacted with) up close and personal. All are well-cared for, with the staff intrinsically involved with their ongoing welfare, and true concern for their well being. It is a reptile house also, so be aware there are odors that naturally come from such an environment, which some misinterpret as unclean. It’s an indoor zoo, folks.
This locally owned animal habitat is not actually just a zoo. Many small organizations are run strictly for profit and self-interest using creature performers. Not here. Let’s draw back the behind-the-scenes curtain on this special place. The owner of this location is a renowned animal preservationist with many years experience in animal rescue and rehabilitation. For this reason, a few of the residents here are actually living in a safe home for trauma recovery after being victims of abuse. One example is a toothy caiman crocodile that the Park Service wildlife management requested be removed from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. He was saved from the local Little Pigeon River between Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge: an illegal pet that someone cruelly turned out to fend for itself. Among the reptiles is a beautiful python relinquished from a fraternity house. There are also some endangered species inside that are no longer found in the wild.
The team here has a heart for education regarding animal appreciation. Captive breeding helps increase endangered species numbers, and also provides a haven for those injured in the wild that can no longer survive in the natural environment. Rainforest Adventures works with other zoos around the country to find happy homes for those who have healed after trauma, or are growing and waiting for a proper family fit, including mates and suitable animal social groups.
Throughout the year, babies arrive! We have seen a three-day old capuchin monkey holding tightly to her mother’s shoulder, and a golden-headed lion tamarin that will develop a lovely mane as he grows, and a day-old baby goat sweetly bleating. Most of the exhibits are located comfortably indoors, with glass front enclosures for viewing mere inches away. What a fantastic benefit to study an animal you would never have the opportunity to even glimpse in the wild.
Let’s step outside. Terrapins, llamas, emus, goats, sheep, and more are located here for viewing, seasonally dependent. Coin-operated feed machines dispense appropriate treats for hand feeding the animals. Some are more greedy than others, but all are well-fed and entertaining. These animals understand respect. The llama will spit if he deems it appropriate!
One sweet animal friendship I learned of is Ro-Ro and friends. He is a parrot that was surrendered by his owner, who has a snuggly relationship with a pair of South American cavys. They “groom” each other, so his feathers are a bit askew. He will sing “Row, row, row your boat” with you if he feels inclined. He is one of many great stories inside this creature habitat.
Educate. Rescue. Protect. Rehabilitate. There are some who think zoos are wrong. Spend five minutes with the preservation staff here, and you will appreciate that exotic animals are fascinating! Also, it is quickly obvious that rescuing vulnerable wildlife from irresponsible owners requires both hard work and loving care. Don’t look for a flashy parade of trick animals here. Come and learn, and see the intricate beauty of so many lovely creatures you’ll never see in your backyard.