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Animal Encounters

A portion of each Animal Encounter purchase goes towards protecting animals in the wild.

2022 Encounters

Meet us for an up-close encounter with one of the slowest animals you will ever see. Learn about our remarkable sloth Curly from the keepers who know him best. During this opportunity, you will have a chance to feed him his favorite snacks and even participate in a ‘slothie’ (selfies with a sloth!).

$195 Member/$220 Non-member (per person)

Reserve Tickets

Member Portal

Encounter Details:

  • All day Zoo admission included for you to explore the Zoo before and after your Animal Encounter.
  • This encounter is for all ages. If you have someone under the age of 13, an adult will need to be registered with them.
  • This encounter is limited to just six people per encounter. If you have fewer than six in your party, you may be joined by other registrants, not to exceed the six persons total.
  • For the safety and well-being of our animal residents, there is no flash photography allowed in this area.

Accessibility:

  • Walking and standing for 45 minutes 
  • If wheelchair accessibility is needed please contact us prior to purchasing this experience

We are a Zoo for All; if you have an accommodation request, please contact us at education@houstonzoo.org or at 713-533-6739.

Interact with one of Africa’s rarest species during this one-of-a-kind experience. Get eye-to-eye with Kwame “Kwaa-mey” and Sukari “Sue-car-e” as you visit their habitat and learn about the closest living relatives to the giraffe. We will provide their favorite food items for an opportunity to feed them, but it will be their choice to eat this leafy treat.

$125 Member/$150 Non-member (per person)

Encounter Details:

  • All day Zoo admission included for you to explore the Zoo before and after your Animal Encounter.
  • This encounter is for ages four years and older. If you have someone under the age of 13, an adult will need to be registered with them.
  • This encounter is limited to just six people per encounter. If you have fewer than six in your party, you may be joined by other registrants, not to exceed the six persons total.
  • For the safety and well-being of our animal residents, there is no flash photography allowed in this area. Don’t worry though, we have a special photo moment opportunity planned for you during your encounter that you can share with friends and family.

Accessibility:

  • Walking and standing for 45 minutes 
  • If wheelchair accessibility is needed please contact us prior to purchasing this experience
  • Step up on to narrow platform to feed

We are a Zoo for All; if you have an accommodation request, please contact us at education@houstonzoo.org or at 713-533-6739.

Known as the “man of the forest”, these intelligent giants form close bonds with each other and their care team. Utilizing a special feeding port you will assist in delivering a tasty treat to the orangutans during this exclusive, front-of-scenes experience. Learn all about our orangutan family from the staff that know them best.

Required: All guests must properly wear a mask during the entire animal experience for the safety of our other guests, staff and animals.

$65 Member/$90 Non-member (per person)

Encounter Details:

  • All day Zoo admission included for you to explore the Zoo before and after your Animal Encounter.
  • This encounter is for all ages. If you have someone under the age of 13, an adult will need to be registered with them.
  • This encounter is limited to just six people per encounter. If you have fewer than six in your party, you may be joined by other registrants, not to exceed the six persons total.
  • For the safety and well-being of our animal residents, there is no flash photography allowed in this area.

Accessibility:

  • Walking and standing for 45 minutes 
  • Bending, kneeling or crouching for short periods of time
  • Wheelchair accessible  

We are a Zoo for All; if you have an accommodation request, please contact us at education@houstonzoo.org or at 713-533-6739  

Meet Max and Marley in our South America’s Pantanal exhibit. Get to know each otters’ personality and discover how much fun it is to care for these playful giants. Climb to the observation deck for a one-of-a-kind view while you listen to their amazing (and loud) vocalizations.

$125 Member/$150 Non-member (per person)

Encounter Details:

  • All day Zoo admission included for you to explore the Zoo before and after your Animal Encounter.
  • This encounter is for all ages. If you have someone under the age of 13, an adult will need to be registered with them.
  • This encounter is limited to just six people per encounter. If you have fewer than six in your party, you may be joined by other registrants, not to exceed the six persons total.
  • For the safety and well-being of our animal residents, there is no flash photography allowed in this area

Accessibility:

  • Bending, kneeling, or crouching for short periods of time 
  • Walking and standing for 45 minutes
  • Ability to go up and down stairs, hand rails available

We are a Zoo for All; if you have an accommodation request, please contact us at education@houstonzoo.org or at 713-533-6739.

Get a first-row seat to see how keepers build relationships with our amazing elephants! You will have an opportunity to feed, hear stories about our herd, and touch one of these amazing creatures with a photo opportunity you can share with your friends and family.

$195 Member/$220 Non-member (per person)

Reserve Tickets

Member Portal

Encounter Details:

  • All day Zoo admission included for you to explore the Zoo before and after your Animal Encounter.
  • This encounter is for all ages. If you have someone under the age of 13, an adult will need to be registered with them.
  • This encounter is limited to 12 people per encounter. If you have fewer than six in your party, you may be joined by other registrants, not to exceed the six persons total.
  • For the safety and well-being of our animal residents, there is no flash photography allowed in this area. Don’t worry though, we have a special photo moment opportunity planned for you during your encounter that you can share with friends and family.

Accessibility:

  • Walking and standing for 45 minutes 
  • Unpaved surfaces including loose dirt and gravel
  • Wheelchair accessible

We are a Zoo for All; if you have an accommodation request, please contact us at education@houstonzoo.org or at 713-533-6739.

Here’s your chance to experience what it’s like to bathe an elephant! Head behind the scenes to help scrub down one of our elephants with a photo opportunity you can share with your friends and family.

$225 Member/$250 Non-member (per person)

Reserve Tickets

Member Portal
Encounter Details:

  • All day Zoo admission included for you to explore the Zoo before and after your Animal Encounter.
  • This encounter is for all ages. If you have someone under the age of 13, an adult will need to be registered with them.
  • This encounter is limited to just six people per encounter. If you have fewer than six in your party, you may be joined by other registrants, not to exceed the six persons total.
  • For the safety and well-being of our animal residents, there is no flash photography allowed in this area. Don’t worry though, we have a special photo moment opportunity planned for you during your encounter that you can share with friends and family.

Accessibility:

  • Walking and standing for 45 minutes 
  • Lifting large brushes 
  • May get wet 
  • Wheelchair accessible 

We are a Zoo for All; if you have an accommodation request, please contact us at education@houstonzoo.org or at 713-533-6739. 

2023 Encounters

Registration information coming soon!

Get a first-row seat to see how keepers build relationships with our amazing elephants! You will have an opportunity to feed, hear stories about our herd, and touch one of these amazing creatures with a photo opportunity you can share with your friends and family.

$195 Member/$220 Non-member (per person)

Reserve Tickets

Member Portal

Encounter Details:

  • All day Zoo admission included for you to explore the Zoo before and after your Animal Encounter.
  • This encounter is for all ages. If you have someone under the age of 13, an adult will need to be registered with them.
  • This encounter is limited to 12 people per encounter. If you have fewer than six in your party, you may be joined by other registrants, not to exceed the six persons total.
  • For the safety and well-being of our animal residents, there is no flash photography allowed in this area. Don’t worry though, we have a special photo moment opportunity planned for you during your encounter that you can share with friends and family.

Accessibility:

  • Walking and standing for 45 minutes 
  • Unpaved surfaces including loose dirt and gravel
  • Wheelchair accessible

We are a Zoo for All; if you have an accommodation request, please contact us at education@houstonzoo.org or at 713-533-6739.

Here’s your chance to experience what it’s like to bathe an elephant! Head behind the scenes to help scrub down one of our elephants with a photo opportunity you can share with your friends and family.

$225 Member/$250 Non-member (per person)

Reserve Tickets

Member Portal

Encounter Details:

  • All day Zoo admission included for you to explore the Zoo before and after your Animal Encounter.
  • This encounter is for all ages. If you have someone under the age of 13, an adult will need to be registered with them.
  • This encounter is limited to just six people per encounter. If you have fewer than six in your party, you may be joined by other registrants, not to exceed the six persons total.
  • For the safety and well-being of our animal residents, there is no flash photography allowed in this area. Don’t worry though, we have a special photo moment opportunity planned for you during your encounter that you can share with friends and family.

Accessibility:

  • Walking and standing for 45 minutes 
  • Lifting large brushes 
  • May get wet 
  • Wheelchair accessible 

We are a Zoo for All; if you have an accommodation request, please contact us at education@houstonzoo.org or at 713-533-6739. 

Step into our treehouse and get a up close view into our gorilla’s world. Spend time feeding and interacting with our great apes all while learning about how our global partners are protecting gorillas in the wild.

Required: All guests must properly wear a mask during the entire animal experience for the safety of our other guests, staff and animals.

$65 Member/$90 Non-member (per person)

Reserve Tickets

Member Portal

Encounter Details:

  • All day Zoo admission included for you to explore the Zoo before and after your Animal Encounter.
  • This encounter is for all ages. If you have someone under the age of 13, an adult will need to be registered with them.
  • This encounter is limited to just six people per encounter. If you have fewer than six in your party, you may be joined by other registrants, not to exceed the six persons total.
  • For the safety and well-being of our animal residents, there is no flash photography allowed in this area.

Accessibility: 

  • Walking and standing for 45 minutes 
  • Ability to go up and down stairs, hand rails available
  • Elevator available if needed
  • Wheelchair accessible

We are a Zoo for All; if you have an accommodation request, please contact us at education@houstonzoo.org or at 713-533-6739 

Take the perfect tortoise selfie when you’re up close with some of the Zoo’s longest-living residents, the Galápagos tortoises. During this experience, you’ll have special access into our tortoise yard, learning all about these special residents while feeding them their favorite treats.

Pro tip: Feet are friends, not food. Our tortoises might confuse red shoes for treats, so it’s best to leave your red shoes at home for this one (yes, we’re serious). Closed-toe shoes are required.

Note: These experiences are available April – October.

$125 Member/$150 Non-member (per person)

Reserve Tickets

Member Portal

Encounter Details:

  • All day Zoo admission included for you to explore the Zoo before and after your Animal Encounter.
  • This encounter is for ages five years and older. If you have someone under the age of 13, an adult will need to be registered with them.
  • This encounter is limited to just six people per encounter. If you have fewer than six in your party, you may be joined by other registrants, not to exceed the six persons total.
  • For the safety and well-being of our animal residents, there is no flash photography allowed in this area. Don’t worry though, we have a special photo moment opportunity planned for you during your encounter that you can share with friends and family.

Accessibility:

  • Walking and standing for 45 minutes 
  • Unpaved surfaces including loose dirt and gravel
  • Bending, kneeling and/or crouching for short periods of time

We are a Zoo for All; if you have an accommodation request, please contact us at education@houstonzoo.org or at 713-533-6739 

Animal Encounters FAQ

What happens on an animal encounter?

Our Animal Encounters are unique opportunities to meet our zookeepers and get up close to your favorite animals. Each encounter is an interactive experience designed with our animals’ welfare in mind.

Interactions with the animals will be determined by our zookeepers. Our staff are experts in determining what is appropriate based on the animal’s behavior that day. Our Animal Encounters, which are conducted following AZA standards, allow guests to be as close as possible to their favorite animals while keeping the animals’ well-being at the forefront of every interaction.

How long is an encounter?

Animal Encounters are 45 minutes long, beginning with a 15-minute front of scenes tour led by our Conservation Education staff. We’ll spend the remaining time with our keeper meeting the animal(s), learning about how they are cared for and the challenges these animals face in the wild.

How early should I arrive?

Allow plenty of time for parking and arrival. The Zoo opens at 9 a.m., and you are welcome to explore the Zoo before and after your Animal Encounter. Guests arriving five minutes or more past the scheduled start time will be unable to join the experience.

Where do I park?

Parking is the same as for any other Zoo visit; check our Directions webpage if you need more information on directions, parking and arrival options. Free parking outside our gates in Hermann Park can fill quickly. Guests arriving 5 minutes or more past the scheduled start time will be unable to join the Animal Encounter.

Where do I meet?

You will meet your guide just inside the Zoo at the McGovern Front Entry Plaza at the digital Plan Your Day screen located near the construction fence.

Do we need to print our tickets?

There is no need to print tickets; simply show the ticket on your phone when you enter. Your Animal Encounter tickets are exempt from the timed ticket procedures and you are welcome to enter the Zoo anytime on the day of your experience.

What is the dress code?

Plan on walking with Zoo staff throughout this Animal Encounter, and please dress comfortably for the weather. Closed-toe shoes are required.

What happens if it rains?

Animal Encounters are rain or shine. This encounter is primarily outdoors, please dress for the weather and for walking during this Animal Encounter.

What else do I need to know?

Animal Encounters are a guided walking experience. Some Encounters require guests to walk long distances. Certain Encounters are accessible for guests using wheelchairs, including the Elephant Encounter.

On select Animal Encounters, a face mask is required for for the safety of our guests, staff, and animals. Please review the information on each individual Encounter to determine the best fit for your family.

Please advise us of any disabilities, special needs, medical conditions, or any other concerns you may have that could prevent you from fully participating in the experience. The more information you can provide, the better we can assist you.

Please note: Service animals are not permitted on any of the Animals Encounters or Behind the Scenes Experiences.

What if I need to cancel?

Cancellations must be made seven days in advance or payment will be forfeited. Cancellations must be made in writing and sent to education@houstonzoo.org

Any Other Questions?

For questions regarding this or any other Animal Encounter, call the Conservation Education department (713) 533-6739 or email education@houstonzoo.org.

Purchase An Encounter Gift Certificate

Give the gift every animal lover wants! This gift certificate allows you to purchase any of the experiences below and the recipient to choose from available dates. A PDF of your gift certificate is attached to your receipt for convenient presentation. Recipients may redeem their certificate up to six months from the date of purchase.

Purchase A Gift Certificate

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