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Private Access

Circle of Friends lets you venture inside the world of a giraffe, get closer to a gorilla, or feed a playful red panda. This one-of-a-kind experience is an exclusive opportunity to experience Zoo Knoxville like never before!
 
A behind-the-scenes animal encounter is led by one of our expert keepers and includes a rare tour of our “backstage” areas. Feed a giraffe or have your picture taken with Big Al, one of the zoo’s most popular residents – a tortoise who’s 150 years old and weighs 550 pounds!

Behind-the-scenes experiences are not included with Keeper Level memberships and may be temporarily suspended based on Zoo Knoxville Covid-19 protocols and any other community health and safety issues.

Get A Closer Look With Our Behind-The-Scenes Encounters

Tier 1 Experiences

See multiple birds and watch how they train for shows. You might get to see them paint, too! 

Get a tour of the space where checkups and minor animal surgeries happen on zoo grounds. Animals currently visiting or residing in the clinic may also be viewable.

Meet the peccaries, see their barn, and feed them some produce!

Tour the “kitchen” – the lab space for our reptile collection. See some of the rarest animals at our zoo – and on the planet. Most of the animals seen on this experience are not on exhibit. At any given time, the chelonians in the lab areas may be incubating, hatching or just born.

These two ladies have been at Zoo Knoxville for many years and have had 20 calves between them. Learn all about them as you see them up close and have a brushing session.

  • African Crested Porcupine
  • Budgies
  • Diurnal & Nocturnal Birds of Prey
  • Hawk Walk
  • Seriema Walk
  • Wild Encounters

Tier 2 Experiences

Visit the painted dogs that are currently off-exhibit. Participate in an enrichment toss game and enjoy a chat with our keepers.

See behind the scenes and inside the bears’ exhibit.  Create enrichment objects with peanut butter, peanuts and raisins. Hide them inside the exhibit, and then exit and watch the bears sniff out their treats when they’re released from their dens.

Meet all three of our African Elephants in their barn. See the view from high in the barn loft and feed one of our elephants some treats through a protective barrier. 
 
* Children under 4 must be held or otherwise contained.

Go inside with one of our giant tortoises and learn all about him. Big Al is over 500 pounds and over 150 years old! He’s been at Zoo Knoxville since the 1970s, and loves to be petted and have his neck scratched. 

Meet our giraffe herd in a private area, see the inside of their barn and feed them some treats!

  • Cuban Crocodiles
  • Einstein African Grey Parrot
  • Sloth

Join Us For Our 2021 Circle of Friends Events

March

Baby giraffe debut

April

Exclusive Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Campus Preview Reception

April

Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Campus Ribbon Cutting

May

Dream Wilder Campaign celebration

July

Summer Splash Pad and Cocktails party

August

Lunch with the Zoo Knoxville President and CEO

October

Boo at the Zoo private reception

December

Zoo Lights private reception

All events are tentative and subject to change.