Education, conservation take center stage at Brights Zoo

Greg Peters • Jul 10, 2017 at 4:30 PM

LIMESTONE - What better way to spend time with the family than a trip to the zoo?

While you are enjoying the family time, you can pick up interesting bits of knowledge and information. For example, do you know the difference between a Grant's zebra and a Grevy's zebra? Or did you know that a reticulated giraffe can run up to 35 miles per hour?

These are just a few of the tidbits of information you can pick with a family visit to Brights Zoo, located eight miles just west of Jonesborough just off Hwy. 11-E in Limestone.

The zoo hosts an array of different birds, mammals and reptiles ranging from small to large. Also included are several that are on the endangered list.

"We have over 100 acres here with 50 set aside for breeding purposes and the other 50 for public viewing," said zoo director David Bright. "Each year, we continue to add more animals and programs."

In 10 years, the zoo has come a long way. The property was once a horse farm and then David's dad bought his mother a zebra for their anniversary.

From there, things began to grow.

One main focus of the facility, besides education, is the work to expand the populations of rare and endangered species. The zoo has had great success with the breeding of several different endangered species including the addax, which is considered to be critically-endangered, and the scimitar-horned oryx, which is considered to be extinct in the wild.

Each year as the zoo continues to expand so does the number of animals. For the 2017 season, the facility just recently added a pair of giant anteaters as well as several African servals. In fact, Brights is the only zoo in Tennessee or Virginia that has giant anteaters on display to the public.

"Aside from the breeding, we've had great success with our educational programs and they continue to grow," added Bright. "During the school year, we stay almost booked up during the week with different elementary schools. We also offer our Education on Wheels program where we visit different schools while, during the summer, we offer zoo camps where different age groups come to spend the day."

Aside from the self-guided tours, Brights offers several different daily activities that allow you to get closer to the animals. One of those is the giraffe feeding that takes place three times a day. And, if you didn't know already, a giraffe can eat up to 75 pounds of food a day.

If a giraffe is too exotic or intimidating to feed, then there is a herd of goats just waiting for someone to come along and hand-feed them.

There are also daily talks on specific animals by one of the seven full-time animal keepers. On weekends, the facility offers zoofari rides to view the herdstock, including American bison.

The zoo is privately-owned and receives no local, state or federal funding. Revenue from admission goes directly for the care and upkeep of the animals and facility.

Tickets range from $12.95 to $19.95 with children 2 and under admittted free with a paying adult. Summer hours, from now through September, are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Thursday, and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Last entry is 1 hour before closing time.

For more information on hours, admission prices, membership or directions, visit www.brightszoo.com, follow Brights Zoo on Facebook or call 423-257-1927.

And, for those of you who didn't know, a Grevy's zebra is the largest of all zebras with a white belly, while the the Grant's zebra is smaller and has a striped belly.

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