Hattiesburg Zoo opens new Africa exhibit and campsite

This is a press release from the Hattiesburg Zoo.

HATTIESBURG, Miss. - After months of preparation, the Hattiesburg Zoo will open two new attractions on Thursday, Oct. 19 at 5:00p.m. The Zoo will introduce its new African cape porcupine and Africa southern ground hornbill mixed species exhibit and then Camp Capybara, an “overnight educational adventure” campsite for nighttime group stays.

Ashley, the African cape porcupine, is nine years old and came to the Hattiesburg Zoo as a donation from the Miami Zoo. She currently weighs approximately 40 pounds and loves to eat. “Ashley has been introduced to her exhibit-mates, the southern ground hornbills, and all get along great. The keepers have learned that Ashley has a bit of sass and loves her food,” Stephen Taylor, Hattiesburg Zoo animal care manager, said.

African cape porcupines can live to about 20 years old and are found in south and central Africa. Almost the entire body of this nocturnal animal is covered in quills, which contrary to popular belief, they cannot shoot. When threatened, porcupines flare their quills to appear larger and shake their tail to make a noise similar to that of a rattlesnake. Porcupines are typically herbivores but sometimes eat insects or carrion.

The African southern ground hornbill is one of two species of ground hornbill and is the largest species of hornbill. Hornbills can weigh up to 13lbs and grow to over 3 feet in length. In captivity, hornbills have lived up to 70 years. The Hattiesburg Zoo will welcome three of these hornbills in this new mixed species exhibit.

Camp Capybara, which has also been under construction this year, will be home away from home for overnight guests. The campsite features six large wall tents that can hold up to 10 campers each, private picnic areas, and a central firepit for telling stories and making s’mores.

“Overnight programs are one of my favorites because we get to show the Zoo and animal behaviors during the nocturnal time period. Kids and parents alike really enjoy it, and are surprised by animal behaviors they don’t usually see during the day. This new camping attraction will make our Zoo Overnights extra special,” Jeremy Cumpton, Hattiesburg Zoo education manager, said.

Hattiesburg Zoo Overnights is an out-of-the-box educational program for groups of all sizes. Each Overnight features animal encounters, science experiments, train and carousel rides, flashlight tours, dinner and breakfast.

“The Hattiesburg Zoo has seen significant growth over the last year, including the addition of the black jaguar Maya, the High Ropes Adventure Course, Snow Cone Caboose, and expansion of educational programs. We are eager for the community to visit Ashley and her hornbill companions as well as seeing the Zoo after dark with a stay in Camp Capybara,” Rick Taylor, executive director of the Hattiesburg Convention Commission, said.

Zoo admission is $5, and children under 2 are free. General admission tickets can be purchased at the gate upon arrival.

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