Fort Worth Zoo Date of Visit: May 18, 2015 For years, Fort Worth Zoo was thought of as being the best zoo in Texas, largely because of its extensive renovation and resurgence in the 1990s. However, when I visited I was a bit disappointed. I enjoyed my visit and thought it was a good zoo but didn’t see much that wowed me and found a few exhibits that were surprisingly weak and substandard. Part of it is the zoo’s specialty is reptiles and I’m much more of a mammal person. The zoo is in a very nice neighborhood with beautiful lush grounds and houses a pretty impressive collection. However, exhibit quality is hit and miss. The Best The Museum of Living Art (MOLA)- The zoo’s best exhibit. Even though I’m not a huge reptile fan, I was very impressed by the quality of this exhibit. Gharials live in an enormous pool with great underwater viewing and quite a few immersive details, Saltwater crocodiles swim around in crystal clear water with again lots of space and great viewing windows, the stunning Flooded Forest habitat houses pacus, caiman lizards, catfish, turtles and basilisks, king cobras have a lighted, nicely vegetated terrarium and a great variety of reptiles, amphibians, fish and invertebrates are found in the building. There must be over 100 terrariums inside. The only weakness is a shockingly small ring-tailed lemur island that was clearly an afterthought. Flamingo Bay- One of the best flamingo exhibits I’ve seen in the country and a great first impression to the zoo. Cheetahs- The complex is viewed on a boardwalk and starts with an expansive grassy yard where waterbuck and bongos rotate. It is quite solid and the antelope share the habitat with crowned cranes. Up next is an excellent cheetah exhibit that is lushly green and provides several hiding and rest opportunities for the fast creatures. I’d say this is definitely one of the better cheetah habitats that I have seen. Up next warthogs have a nice muddy habitat. Meerkats- A mob of these social creatures lives in a well-designed exhibit with plenty of places for them to dig and a good mix of terrain. Texas Wild- A flawed but nevertheless impressive area. It starts with a meticulously designed old style Texas town with a petting zoo and plenty of immersive details and architecture. Horses and longhorns live in solid padlocks nearby. As the boardwalk starts, a shaded grassy habitat contains deer and wild turkeys. Up next is a decent habitat for wolves with a fair amount of hiding space and lots of trees. American alligators and alligator snapping turtles live in an exhibit with underwater viewing that is quite good and river otters have a brilliant spacious habitat with lots of water. A black bear exhibit is not big but has some logs for enrichments and is nice enough. Exhibits for swift fox and prairie dogs are decent. The worst part of the complex is the cluster of exhibit for cats. Cougars have a habitat that is much too small and short of enrichments and naturalism. The only saving grace is a decent amount of vertical space. A jaguar exhibit is undeniably subpar and provides too little space for the big cats. It also doesn’t have near enough vegetation or trees and lacks a pool. Birds, reptile, bats and insects all have strong exhibits. While this exhibit is great from a visitor’s perspective, has a great collection and a few genuinely good exhibits the weakness of its exhibits for its larger residents hurts its quality significantly. Average Asian Falls- The complex starts strong with a very good forested anoa exhibit and the solid Rhino Ridge. Rhino Ridge is a long but narrow Indian rhinoceros yard with an immersive setting and a great waterfall/stream running through it for the rhinos to swim. The exhibit is in a clearing, which adds to the immersion of it. A tiger exhibit is gorgeous and has a good amount of elevation and water but lacks the amount of space and immersion I like in a big cat exhibit. It is quite similar to the tiger exhibit at the Lowry Park Zoo. A smaller grotto that used to house sun bears now has striped hyena and it is merely average. African Hoofstock- The zoo is well known for its black rhinoceros program and the breeding success they have had but the exhibit for the species is rather standard. They inhabit two dry medium sized yards. Giraffes and ostriches live next door in an average sized exhibit that can be viewed across water. World of Primates- The centerpiece of the complex is a large domed building that contains a large mock rock habitat for gorilals with a tall fake tree in the middle. All the primates have indoor exhibits but only colobus monkeys live all indoors. An outdoor gorilla exhibit is long but narrow and is somewhat lush and green. However, I would only say it is of average quality. Bonobos have a multi-leveled exhibit with a climbing structure in the middle and orangutans have a treeless habitat that’s a bit on the small side and has a prominent wooden climbing structure in the middle and a few ropes. Mandrills have a small exhibit with a waterfall and a wooden platform. All the exhibits are more than adequate but I like to see more space and a higher level of naturalism. Australia- Features an average walkthrough kangaroo exhibit and a solid Great Barrier Reef tank. Penguins- African and rockhopper penguins live in an average indoor exhibit that’s a bit on the small size. Poor African Diaroma- Lesser kudu and zebras live in grassy yards that are very generic and bland. Ibex live in a decent rocky habitat at the top. However, what puts this section in poor is the awful lion grotto. The small rocky exhibit is one of the worst for the king of the beasts I have seen and quite a disgrace. Pachyderms- Two godawful exhibits are found here. One is a complete piece of crap that’s called a hippo exhibit. The land area is the size of a closet and the pool is quite small as well. Total disgrace. Next door a herd of Asian elephants is crammed into a barren sandy paddock lacking space, vegetation, naturalism and a sufficient amount of water. A real eyesore and not very good for the pachyderms. Thank god both species are getting new exhibits in the next master plan. The Fort Worth Zoo is a nice zoo with many average to great exhibits and a few very poor ones. If you like reptiles, this is the place for you to go and MOLA is a mustsee. After that the zoo often goes down to mediocrity with unacceptable exhibits for elephants, hippos, lions and jaguars. I’d estimate this zoo is somewhere between 25 and 40 on list of America’s best zoos.