FORT LEE, Va. (June 18, 2015) -- The Metro Richmond Zoo is a fun, family year-round destination offering unforgettable encounters with a variety of animals of all sizes from around the world – just minutes from Fort Lee.

“We provide a whole family-type enjoyable adventure for people to be educated about the many natural wonders and animals of the world,” said Jim Andelin, owner and zoo director. “Hopefully, the visit will stimulate people to do things to help protect animals in the wild as well as help support animal conservation.”

The zoo, celebrating its 25th anniversary, is home to more than 2,000 animals representing over 190 species in its 120-acre park. These include many endangered animals such as tapirs, cheetahs, rhinos, tigers and orangutans. Visitors can see a herd of giraffes up close and let these gentle giants eat right out of their hands. Kids will especially like to feed one of the eight giraffes while walking along a walkway.

“An absolute favorite is for people to interact with some of the animals. Feeding and petting the giraffes is a must. We are one of the few zoos to do this. People travel from New York and Pennsylvania just for this opportunity,” said Andelin.

Or, visitors can meet, greet and feed the zoo’s barnyard animals. “We have some of the friendliest barnyard animals you will ever meet,” the website notes. “Feed them with our $2 zoo treat cups, which may be purchased at the front entrance, sky ride café, or in 25 cent machines located throughout the park. Keep our animals safe and only feed them zoo treats provided by the zoo.”

The habitat also has one of the largest primate collections in the country with about 200 primates according to Andelin. “We have a lot of new babies. We recently announced the birth of a new baby orangutan, RJ, which is absolutely adorable. We have several endangered primate families. Kids always love to see the monkeys and apes that are around.”

Another big favorite are the cheetahs. “We have had several litters born and have a cheetah cam that has operated for several litters,” he said. “This has gotten attention both locally and nationwide. They are about 8 months old now and we are exhibiting a mother and some young ones.”

Also during their visit, people will see goats, camels, llamas, chickens, sheep, flamingoes, otters bears, lions, penguins, alligators, bison and more. Bird lovers can immerse themselves in the walk-in budgie aviary and see hundreds of colorful birds as they fly down to perch on their heads, arms and shoulders. Or, hop aboard the Safari Train and ride into the African Savannah. This allows visitors to get up close and personal with free-ranging animals while receiving a guided tour.

The Safari Sky Ride also is popular allowing visitors to enjoy a peaceful scenic tour high above the zoo on a fifteen minute excursion.

The zoo has a long boardwalk trail through a forest where visitors can walk along and feed a wide variety of hoofed animals. Along the way, people can spot several different species including, the Pronghorn, the worlds fastest antelope.

“We also have a have a Zipline and Adventure Park – great for all ages,” said the zoo director. “This is a combination outdoor experience and exercise activity with an incredible view. Visitors will see some of the animals while going through sections of the zoo. It’s a tree-to-tree adventure that takes about 2-3 hours to do. Once you go up in the trees, you don’t come down until you’re done. There are various obstacles and challenges along the 16 ziplines.”

The Treetop Zoofari opened in 2014 and is separate from the zoo. It requires a separate fee. “You don’t have to go to the zoo for this but you can do both with a discount,” he said.

The zoo offers covered pavilions near the entrance. There also are picnic areas, a playground picnic area and a gift shop. If anyone needs to rest during the day, there are benches to relax throughout the zoo.

Andelin grew up in the west on a farm that had cows, ducks, chickens and other animals. “I have always had a love for animals. On the farm, I raised a hawk and had rattle snakes. The farm experience taught be a lot.”

The Metro Richmond Zoo is located in Chesterfield County just west of I-95 – at 8300 Beaver Bridge Road, Moseley. It is open 12 months a year, 9:30 a.m. - 5 p.m., Monday-Saturday except for holidays. The cost for adults is $16.75 a person; $15.75 for seniors; and $10.75 for children, ages 2-11. The zoo offers a military discount of $1 off adult admission and 50 cents off child admission. This discount is for active duty military, their spouses and children. There also are group rates available.

For more information, call (804) 739-5666 or visit www.metrorichmond.zoo.com.