The Central Florida Zoo was my home zoo growing up and for much of my life I went at least twice a month. During my teen years I was a volunteer at the zoo on the Teen Team (basically junior docents.) It is a very small facility and can be seen properly in an hour and a half at the most. The zoo is basically located in a swamp. Much of the property is unable to have development on it because of how swampy the land is and until giraffes arrived in 2014 no hoofed animals other than the farm ones were found at the zoo for this reason. It is located about thirty minutes outside of Orlando in a small town called Sanford. Money is tight at this zoo and it shows. While many Zoochatters are strong defenders of their home zoo, I see a lot of flaws in my childhood zoo and recognize that it is much weaker and often leagues below most AZA institutions I have visited. There just simply isn’t the land or market to make this a great zoo. However, it has made small but significant improvements over the years, most notably by adding a very good otter exhibit and getting rid of the awful steel cages that used to make up the zoo. Excellent River Otter Exhibit- The only truly modern exhibit in the zoo and feels like it belong at a larger, higher quality facility. Built in 2012, it has everything you want in an otter exhibit: underwater viewing, log enrichments, clear water, a waterfall on the rocky backdrop, hiding places, etc. Oddly enough, it is built in an area that until 2003 was a hippopotamus exhibit (the hippo basically lived in a small lake with terrible viewing, dirty water and a caged holding area next to it) Good thing the hippo was moved to Disney’s Animal Kingdom and nine years later an immersive otter exhibit got built in its place. African Crested Porcupine- A surprisingly good exhibit for an animal that often gets the short end of the stick when it comes to exhibitry in American zoos. Built in 1998, it is decently sized, sandy and has a realistic looking rock for the pair to hide. Not state-of-the-art by any means but one of the better exhibits at the zoo. Average Herpetarium- The collection is impressive for a zoo of its size and budget. Opened in 1984, it includes species such as Egyptian cobra (in a solid exhibit), albino eastern diamondback, gila monster, green python, pit viper, green mamba, copperhead and cocquis. The terrariums are pretty typical with painted backgrounds and mulch floorings. Outside there are decent enclosures for Grand Cayman rock iguanas and crocodile mointors. The monitor one has trees for the lizards to climb and the iguana one is sandy and has varied terrain. Crocodilian Exhibits- Outside of the herpetarium there is a row of watery/muddy habitats for American crocodiles, American alligators and caimans viewed from a boardwalk. They aren’t that big but do the job. All these habitats opened in 1980. Bald Eagle- Located on a remote trail on zoo property, this fairly standard exhibit houses a pair of injured birds who have been rescued. Insect Zoo- Located at the front of the zoo, this 2005 exhibit is spacious but has barely any animal exhibits with only a few terrariums. Cheetah- A relatively solid, shady exhibit. When it opened in 1995 it was by far the best exhibit in the zoo but it is unspectacular when compared to most cheetah exhibits at better-known zoos. The cheetahs have huge mounds they can rest on and a decent amount of space but it does not successfully attempt to recreate an African savanna and it is often hard for people to see the cheetahs. Giraffe- The zoo’s most popular animals have a fairly new exhibit that opened in 2014. It is by no means awful but is fairly basic and uninspired- it is a smallish sandy yard surrounded by chain link fence and dotted with palm trees. However, it adds much needed star power to the zoo and giraffe feeding is a good source of revenue. Warthog- The pigs live in a spacious sandy yard that used to house kangaroos and emus. Peccaries and Aldabra tortoises live in smaller yards nearby. Spider Monkey- In 2006, the zoo’s spider monkeys moved from a despicably small round cage at the front of the zoo to this average enclosure. It is reasonably lush and has a good amount of enrichments but is fairly mundane. Animal adventure- Your typical children’s farm with goats, alpacas, llamas, a zebu and a Dromedary camel. Toucan- Live in a decent aviary near the entrance. Poor Indian Rhinoceros Exhibit- Until 2011 this was easily one of the very worst Asian elephant exhibits in the country with a god-awful deep moat and a disgracefully small, barren yard. The rhino exhibit has gotten rid of the moat and added more vegetation to the exhibit but it is still dull and small for a pachyderm exhibit. A positive is the rhinos have a pool. Cougars/King Vulture- A similar siamang exhibit used to be in this area. The cougar exhibit has a cave and mulch substrate but is way too small for the cat that lives there and is basically a glorified cage. The vulture exhibit is rather similar and weak. These habitats were built in 2003. Sloth- A very simple, small exhibit that looks like a square concrete gazebo with a stick in it for the sloth to climb. Bird Aviaries- A couple of subpar bird exhibits are found throughout the zoo. Clouded Leopard Exhibit- Mediocre enclosure for the endangered species that basically is a glorified wooden cage. The Hill- Probably one of the worst zones in any AZA zoo. Back in the day, tigers, lions, black bears, chimpanzees and mandrills among others lived in cages in this region but thank god those days are over. This complete hodgepodge includes Amur leopards, three species of lemurs, fossas, servals, black-footed cats, caracals, prehensile tailed porcupines and caracals. Amur leopards live in a disgrace filled with mock rock and little space. Lemurs and howler monkeys live in cages that should have been bulldozed 30 years ago. The small cats live in subpar enclosures. This area needs to go. As I said above, I feel both love for my childhood zoo and frustration at how much is wrong with it. I have many great memories from the zoo and it was my first love with many animals. From working as a volunteer and visiting for several years, I know the staff is very dedicated and working as hard as they can to make this a better zoo. A black bear exhibit is being built at the moment and I’m hoping it will surprise me and show the zoo is capable of showcasing megafauna in decent exhibits. Tigers and orangutans have been hinted at for many years but I highly doubt the zoo could make good exhibits for either of those animals. My hope is that they make significantly better exhibits for the monkey and cat exhibits that are already on the site.