Zoo visitors get close encounter with animals

By Denise Jackson

August 14, 2012 Updated Aug 14, 2012 at 8:17 PM CDT

PEORIA, Ill -- Residents and visitors to the Peoria Zoo have more reasons to stay awhile during trips there, as a new exhibit brings them closer to Australian culture.

Behind some wooden fences at the Peoria Zoo, visitors and residents are getting a close encounter with animals all part of the new Australia Walk About exhibit which opened Tuesday.

"Because they're smaller you can be right in with them. You can't do that with the rhino but with an Emu and swans you can be right among them," said Peoria Zoo Director Yvonne Strode.

The $425,000 immersion exhibit includes black swans, emus, and a wallaby that roam freely throughout the trail. Visitors can also go inside a huge cage to see 250 budgies, parrot-like birds and many got a chance to try and feed them.

"I didn't think that all the animals were gonna be out and that we could actually feed the birds so that was really neat," said Laura Bachman of Metamora.

"You get to see the animals up close and personal. It's the perfect thing to experience," said Gus Ganson of West Peoria.

"I just like everything instead of just watching them in the cage. It's kind of fun to just see them not behind the cage and everything," said Olivia Alkayyaly.

The exhibit was paid for with a $350,000 grant from the state department of natural resources and money from the Peoria Park District capital improvement budget. As summer winds down that won't mean the end of attractions.

The zoo will soon debut four new tiger cubs, giving local residents more reasons to visit and stay a while.

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