Potawatomi Zoo opens for the season on Friday

NOW: Potawatomi Zoo opens for the season on Friday

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- The Potawatomi Zoo is set to open for the season this Friday. Temperatures warm up through the weekend, and many animals are already becoming more active. If you've been to the zoo before, this year there are some new additions and experiences.

One of the most beloved animals at the zoo is Masamba, a southern white rhino. In addition to the zoo opening Friday, Masamba is celebrating his fifth birthday. Guests will be able to see him outdoors, as temperatures and weather look to cooperate.

Last year, the zoo's Learning Center was closed because of the pandemic. This year, it will be reopened. You must wear a face mask while inside the Learning Center.

This is a nice building to warm up on a chilly day, and it is home to several animals. Many are mammals: banded mongoose, golden tamarins, a sloth named Lola, and more. Speaking of sloths - the zoo is also excited to present two new female three-toed sloths later this summer!

Lola the three-toed sloth

This building is also home to reptiles, including many snakes. I didn't get too close to the snakes, but I'll take the zoo's word that they are a "fan favorite."

While you are outdoors at the zoo, you won't need to wear a mask as long as you are socially distanced.

One big change you'll see is that the "Australia" section has been relocated (don't worry, the kangaroos are still at the zoo) in preparation for the new giraffe exhibit. You won't be able to see the giraffes this year, but you can watch the 10,000 square foot barn in construction.

"It will be the only barn in the region where you'll be able to feed giraffes in the wintertime," explains zoo director Josh Sisk.

Even though giraffes live in climates much warmer than Michiana, you'll be able to see them anytime of year with their indoor and outdoor exhibit plan. Zoo staff are hopeful to have giraffes by the fall, but definitely before the end of the year.

The zoo is slowly rolling out more experiences with their animals. This season, one animal experience is feeding the bison. There are specially designed doors where the bison can eat hand-delivered hay.

You can be on the lookout for more animal experiences, possibly with otters, in the future.

Most animals are getting active for the season, but there are still a few monkeys and lemurs that will wait to be on exhibit until it is a little warmer. Sisk tells me the animals typically become more active once people start visiting the zoo for the season.

Have fun if you plan to visit the zoo this weekend, and with all the sunshine, don't forget to take your sunscreen! You can find out more about the zoo and their hours here.

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