The North Georgia Zoo

On the way home from our stay in Helen, Georgia we stopped to visit the North Georgia Zoo.  I was determined to see animals on this vacation.  The North Georgia Zoo is located in the middle of the boondocks about 15 miles west of Cleveland, Georgia.  The petting zoo costs $10 but to see the good stuff requires a payment of $26 per adult and visitors must be accompanied by a guide.

My favorite animal was a cousin of the human race–a white handed gibbon.  These lesser apes are social animals but the owners of the North Georgia Zoo were unable to attain a companion gibbon, so they raised it with 2 basset hound puppies.  The 2 now fully grown dogs share the cage with the gibbon who likes to ride on their backs.

The zoo is home for several species of kangaroos and wallabies including the largest kind–a red kangaroo.  That individual was relaxing in the shade on the ground with his back toward us, and I didn’t get a good photo.  But a smaller gray kangaroo was hopping back and forth.


Llama.  I saw a couple fighting and spitting their cud at each other.  Yuck!


African crested porcupine.  This individual was friendly.  Audubon said porcupines made good pets.


Collared peccary.  I could see its sharp teeth when the zookeeper fed it a carrot.


This kangaroo stopped hopping just long enough for me to photograph it.


New Guinea singing dog.


White handed gibbon.


A seriema–the closest living relative of the extinct terror bird.

The zoo has a cougar, a serval, a caracal, and an Eurasian lynx.  I noticed the cougar was behind a double switching cage.  The guide said it’s not a good idea to be inside the cage when the cougar is feeding.

The New Guinea singing dogs have an interesting history.  They are closely related to Australian dingoes.  Seafarers from the subcontinent of India brought dingoes to Australia about 4300 years ago. These same seafaring people visited New Guinea and some of their dogs escaped and established a population here as well during this same time period.  Since then, the New Guinea singing dogs evolved some differences from dingoes and other dogs.  They are shorter than dingoes and have broader skulls, and they can climb trees.  Oddly enough, the females have a peculiar vocalization during copulation.  In general they are noisy “singing” dogs, hence the name.  Dingoes also live in southeastern North America where they are known as Carolina dogs.  Paleoindians brought them to America from Asia.  Dingoes and singing dogs are very similar to the first dogs domesticated by humans.  Reportedly, dingoes make good pets but are harder to train than most dogs and have a tendency to escape captivity.  The ones I saw at the zoo seemed a bit high strung.

I took photos of a llama and a peccary.  These animals were common throughout southeastern North America during the Pleistocene.  The zoo even had a seriema–the closest living relative of the terror bird.

The North Georgia Zoo is a noisy place.  A patron can hear a wolf howling, New Guinea dogs singing, the howls of basset hounds and gibbon, and the crowing of a peacock.

Friendly sheep dogs roam the grounds at night and protect the zoo animals from coyotes, foxes, and bobcats.

The deer and kangaroos could jump over the fences and escape, if they desired, but they are satisfied with their easy life in captivity.

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