The Valdosta Daily Times
Wild Adventures’ Alapaha Trail still begins where it always has and ends at the same spot it’s been located for years, but along the nature path that is older than the park, visitors will find many changes.
The park has added several new habitats among the trail’s 23 exhibits, along with eight new species of animals, say Walter DuPree, Wild Adventures’ zoological operations manager, and Micha Hogan, a park spokesperson.
Among the new species are animals familiar to South Georgia, which many South Georgians may have never seen up close, DuPree says.
“Lots of people in South Georgia have never seen a raccoon,” DuPree says. Hogan says she had never seen a raccoon, live, until the park opened the habitat for four raccoons.
“We’re trying to get a little more native with our animals to show people what animals they have right in their back yard,” DuPree says.
The park has five new American alligators, in addition to the trail’s long-time gator resident Twister, who weighs an estimated thousand pounds and is 13 1/2 feet long. These new gators enjoy a refurbished pool habitat. Later this month, Wild Adventures expects to host two white alligators on loan from Silver Springs for the season.
Four feral hogs allow South Georgians a close look at the region’s wild pigs. DuPree explains these hogs have longer snouts than domestic pigs, are gray in color, have courser hair and will grow tusks. Already, the feral hogs have muddied their habitat to their liking. They have also uncovered tree roots within the habitat, giving a visible example of the term “rooting around.”
Six Sulcata tortoise are the world’s third largest type of tortoise. They live in a newly created habitat. They can live to be 50-150 years old and can grow to weigh up to 200 pounds.
The sandhill cranes are new. A silver pheasant stands out among a group of other pheasants. A rehabilitated turkey buzzard has been getting accustomed to its habitat; this bird comes from the Southeastern Raptor Center in Auburn.
All of these animals are visible along the Alapaha Trail, which has its origins in the pre-Wild Adventures days of Liberty Farms Animal Park. The park has also cleared some habitats to create areas where visitors can sit and enjoy the environment of trees and swamp. Educational areas explain the types of plants native to the trail and region, as well as the types of wild birds flying overhead.
While an emphasis has been placed on native animals, Wild Adventures remains home to an arkful of exotic animals such as tigers, lions, elephant, rhino, etc. The Alapaha Trail also hosts exotic animals as the native animals’ neighbors.
Trail travelers will find two kinkajou, the laughing kookaburra, two squirrel monkeys, 160-170 parakeets in the walk-in Bird House, the one black-and-white-ruffed and the three red-ruffed lemurs. Biologist Debbie Altieri feeds the lemurs a lunch of chopped bananas and other items. Knowing she’s close with food sends the lemurs leaping from branch to fence and branch again in anticipation of their meal.
While Wild Adventures’ biologists have always prepared meals for the animals, park visitors can now watch some of these meals being prepared at the new Critter Kitchen.
Inside this converted snack station, park biologist Charles Keaton prepares meals for many animals. At this time, he’s chopping a lunch of squash, apple, banana, sweet potato, oranges and carrots for the kinkajou. DuPree says most of these ingredients are purchased as easily as visiting a farmer’s market.
Most of the vegetables are served raw, but some items are cooked for animals with small mouths or older animals that have difficulties chewing harder, crunchier fare.
The public can watch these meal preparations and ask questions at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. Wild Adventures opens daily for the season on May 23.
The trail is also available for educational visits and school tours. Park staff ask that schools plan educational tours in advance. More information: Call Micha Hogan, (229) 219-7114; or visit wildadventures.com