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2016 Feather, Fur and Scales photography contest winners

As the Zoo’s staff photographer, one of my favorite events of the year is our Feathers, Fur and Scales Photography Contest. For thirteen years, I’ve had the pleasure of viewing some of the most incredible photos of our residents. With 120 photo submissions in our three categories, youth, teen, and adult, our judges were hard-pressed to declare winners this year with the sheer amount of artistic talent. Our judges included Richards Group Creative Director Gary Gibson, Getty Images photographer Romilly Lockyer, and Collin College photography instructor Anna Fritzel.

We honored our winners and their guests with an awards luncheon at the Zoo, where they also received their prizes. We even had a winner enter all the way from Newhall, Iowa! Thank you all so much for your submissions. Your photography inspires us, and teaches the world to care about threatened and endangered animals.

Below are the 13th annual Feathers, Fur and Scales winning entries in each category. Cheers!

An-Old-Soul
Grand Prize: Shawna Hinkel
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Dallas Zoo’s gun ban upheld by Texas attorney general

The Office of the Attorney General of Texas has upheld our policy barring weapons on our grounds, rejecting a citizen complaint filed last fall.

The Attorney General determined that the policy does not violate Texas law, ruling that the Dallas Zoo “meets all requirements to qualify as an amusement park,” which are legally allowed to prohibit weapons. As a privately-operated, non-profit zoo, we have controlled access, security guards on-site, and rides that are inspected annually by the state Department of Insurance.

In a letter to the zoo dated March 30, 2016, the Attorney General’s Office said it has closed the complaint.

“We’re heartened that the Attorney General realizes that our zoo, which is visited by more than 1 million people each year, isn’t the place for weapons,” said Gregg Hudson, CEO and president of the Dallas Zoo. “The vast majority of our guests are families with children, and they have strongly supported us on this issue.”

Penal Code section 30.06 and 30.07 signs are posted at each zoo entrance, explaining that handguns, concealed and open-carried, are prohibited.

We have both Dallas Police Department officers and a private security firm on grounds daily. In addition, our staff is trained by the Dallas Police Department to respond to issues related to animals.

“The safety and security of our guests is of utmost importance to us, and always will be,” Hudson said.

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Reliant powers our guests with free phone charging stations

Dallas Zoo's New Device Charging StationWe’ve joined forces with Reliant, an NRG Company, to provide our guests with the latest in mobile charging technology – two NRG Street Charge® stations. The 12.5-foot towers, donated by Reliant, are located in the Lacerte Family Children’s Zoo and near the Wilds of Africa Grill. The stations are equipped with solar panels and a bevy of mobile device charging cables, allowing you to plug in and get a free charge. The donation furthers Reliant’s mission to power people’s lives at home and on the go and supports our commitment to ensure quality amenities for their visitors.

“We are always looking for new and innovative ways to provide guests with the best experience when getting up close to the animals,” said Gregg Hudson, Dallas Zoo president and CEO. “With our strong commitment to customer experience and the community’s continued interest in sustainable solutions, the NRG Street Charge stations donated by Reliant are a win-win for everyone, animals included.”

The Dallas Zoo is the largest zoological park in Texas and houses more than 2,000 animals, making it easy for visitors to spend an entire day exploring countless exhibits – from the African savanna to the South American rainforest. As mobile device users know, going a whole day without refueling a phone can often lead to headaches, especially when there are exotic animals to photograph and precious moments to capture.

“As part of Reliant’s commitment to power Texans’ lives at home and on the go, the NRG Street Charge stations allow guests to enjoy a day at the Dallas Zoo without having to worry about their phone batteries hitting zero,” said Elizabeth Killinger, president of NRG Retail and Reliant. “These Street Charge stations offer free device charging for visitors, a fantastic service we are excited to share with the Dallas community and Dallas Zoo guests.”

The award-winning charging stations use three solar panels to turn the sun’s energy into free power for up to six devices, including iPhones and Android-model phones, simultaneously – as fast as a traditional wall outlet would. The outdoor stations won’t let dark skies or a few clouds damper the charge either, as an internal battery within each station stores energy during the day so it can continue to keep devices energized at night and when the sun is not shining.

The NRG Street Charge stations donated by Reliant come at an opportune time as the Zoo continues to break attendance records – having received over one million annual visitors in 2015 for the first time in our 128-year history. With attendance already on the rise in 2016, more and more visitors can now experience the attractions with confidence that their devices can stay powered.

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Spring break survival tips

With Spring Break just starting, we’re gearing up for nice weather and lots of smiling faces of school kids enjoying a well-deserved vacation. These are some of our busiest weeks, so planning ahead can help you have a fun and memorable visit. Check out our pro tips!

  • Parking and transportation: Arrive right when we open at 9 a.m. (or a little bit earlier) to nab a parking spot and start your Zoo adventure. Or an even better idea: avoid Dallas rush-hour traffic and take the DART Red Line right to our front door! It adds to fun day of adventure, too.

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  • Dress comfortably, and keep your feet happy: Check the weather and dress appropriately, or bring a bag with a rain jacket, sunscreen or hat – depending on the forecast. Early spring is beautiful, but you know what they say about Texas weather – anything can happen! And while you might want to show off your fashionable new sandals, remember that we’re a 106-acre Zoo – you can never go wrong with a trusty pair of sneakers!

Kids Leaning in Nature Exchange, Cathy Burkey

  • Strollers, wheelchairs and souvenirs: Our Zoofari Market rents strollers, wheelchairs and motorized scooters on a first-come, first-served basis. It also sells a variety of clothing, toys, books and gifts to help you remember your visit. (Remember, members get 10% off!)

Gift shop front

  • Mmmm, food: When your tummy starts growling louder than our animals, it’s time to refuel. Pack your own snacks or lunch, or grab a bite at one of our three dining locations – Zoofari Food Court, Wilds of Africa Grill, or Serengeti Grill. When packing food and drinks, be sure there’s no glass or alcohol – otherwise, bring whatever suits your fancy.

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  •  Read the map, download the app: Check out the daily keeper chats and special programs, which are listed on the map you’ll receive as you enter the Zoo. You can also download our free app by searching “Dallas Zoo” to plan ahead before you arrive! There’s plenty to do – explore Nature Connects®, a LEGO® brick art exhibit; catch the Wonders of the Wild bird and wildlife show, presented by Kimberly-Clark; feed giraffes and lorikeets; watch our cheetah and Labrador retriever best buddies play in the Cheetah Encounter, and more!

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  • Sign up for camp: Kids – want to have an extra-special Zoo experience during your break? Parents – want a little extra time to run errands in your day? We offer single-day Zoo camps for kids in PreK-Grade 5 that are both fun and educational. Register now!

Apollo camp meme

  • Get social: Take an “elphie” (elephant selfie), or snap a profile pic by a penguin. Tag us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter – we love keeping up with you, and love to feature our guests’ photos!

IMG_0910 Gypsy Elephant CS

  • Take our survey: We’re always working to provide the best experience for you, so we want to hear about your day. On your way out, stop by the survey kiosks, located to the right by the exit turnstiles.

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  • Come back: As the largest Zoo in Texas, there’s a LOT to take in, and always more to see, learn and explore. Our members may visit each of the 364 days we’re open, and with our current promotion, you will save 15% when starting a new membership! Depending on your family size, it pays for itself after as few as two visits.

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Nature Connects® brick building contest winners announced

As soon as we announced our Brick Building Contest tied to the Nature Connects exhibit opening, we knew we’d be in for a treat once the entries started pouring in! We asked you to create your best original nature-themed sculpture, which would be judged by a public vote, as well as an expert panel that included a Master Model Builder from LEGOLAND® Discovery Center in DFW.

We got 31 amazing entries and were blown away by the talent from the four categories (age 10 and under, age 11-17, age 18 and up, and family builders). We loved how each entrant described how their sculpture helped them connect with nature. Eleven-year-old Wesley Tatum from Cleburne, who loves insects, was inspired to make his red velvet ant sculpture after he visited the ants at the Dallas Zoo. Six-year-old Emily from Coppell created “The World” because she wanted to include many animals and plants, including the jungle, desert, Iceland, and the ocean.

Expert judge James Wilson, a Master Model Builder from LEGOLAND Discovery Center DFW, said the talent that was shown in this building contest was phenomenal.

“I could really see the passion and hard work put into the models. And I was very surprised that some of my favorite models actually came from the younger contestants. As a Master Model Builder, I was mainly looking for the models that use unique or interesting building techniques, which I was pleased to find a lot of. Especially in the parrot in the 18+ division – the use of LEGO surfboards as tail feathers was outstanding.

“I noticed a good number of the models were made to look like a scene, as if it were depicting a scene from a story or even a favorite part of a families visit to the Dallas Zoo. It was interesting to think about the story the builder was trying to convey with their LEGO model,” said Wilson.

All entrants deserve a big round of applause for their incredible efforts, and we’d especially like to give three cheers to our amazing winners, who are listed below by category. These builders won a family four-pack of tickets to the Zoo, where they can see the incredible LEGO® brick sculptures of Nature Connects, created by world-renowned artist Sean Kenney. They’ve also each won a special VIP animal experience, which we’re sure will help them connect to nature in a whole new way. And because we loved all of these entries so much, we’re going to give tickets to everyone who entered!

Check out all of our winning sculptures below.

Expert Judges Category, age 10 & under: “Under Water Aquarium” by 7-year-old Camryn Edwards from Waxahachie
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