Missouri's Third Wonder - The St. Louis Zoo

1 decade 3 years 10 months ago Friday, July 21 2006 Jul 21, 2006 Friday, July 21, 2006 1:52:11 PM CDT July 21, 2006 in News

Angela Hamburg trains the sea lions, and co-stars with them in three shows a day.

"Excellent swimmers and excellent divers, they can swim at speeds up to 20 miles per hour," she said. "They can hold their breath for up to 20 minutes at a time."

Before each performance, Hamburg preps the fish and squid treats.

"Ice it all down nicely," she said.

The Doolin family of Moberly brought their toddler to see the sea lions.

"She's seen them on TV, but never this close. And never when she can maybe touch one," said her mother, Emily. "Her eyes light up. It's pretty neat."

About 3 million visitors a year think the St. Louis Zoo is pretty neat, too. It's setting in Forest Park is lush with greenery and easy to navigate on foot or by mini-train.

However you get around, you'll see giraffes and ostriches. And a Malaysian sun bear taking in the view from his favorite perch. The orangutans are real crowd-pleasers, too.

Curator Steve Bircher said the wonder of the St. Louis Zoo is its residents.

"We have a very diverse collection," he explained. "If you include the invertebrates, the ants and those kinds of animals, we have over 6,000 animals at the zoo."

Including grizzly bears Bert and Ernie.

"We heard about Bert and Ernie up in Alaska," Bircher recalled. "They couldn't hold them, so I was able to fly up to Alaska and then escort these bears on a Federal Express cargo plane."

Bircher's bear trip is a long way from the zoo's beginnings as a World's Fair exhibit more than a century ago.

"We have oak trees here that are over 100 years old that were here before the World's Fair in 1904," he said.

Missouri natives aren't the only ones who consider the St. Louis Zoo a wonder.

"It's really nice," said Paula Polfliet, who's originally from California.

Now, her sons, Jeremy and Joseph, are regulars at the zoo.

"They know every place to go," Polfliet added. "They know what their favorite attractions are. They love the monkey house."

Bircher said, "We know that the children love to come to the zoo, but we see the same smiles and enjoyment from adults as well as kids."

Zagat's guidebook and Parenting Magazine ranked the St. Louis Zoo #1 in the U.S.

Speaking of rankings, watch KOMU News on Friday when Josh Deberge journeys to the place viewers picked as their second wonder of Missouri. A place where floating, fishing and fun are just part of the lure.

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