Wild Encounters

Is there a Zoo animal you’d love to meet? Reserving a private Wild Encounter may be right for you! The Wild Encounters program includes a private meeting with your choice of Animal Ambassador for you and one guest (see minimum age requirements). Wild Encounter programs take place at the Zoo, are subject to animal and staff availability, and require advance reservations.  

Each Wild Encounter is a unique experience and is a private program for you and your guest*.  Facilitated by a Zoo Educator or Animal Care staff, you will have the opportunity to meet and learn about the animal of your choice. Touching and/or feeding opportunities are generally included with most animals, (but it's up to the animal so it can't be guaranteed!) Non-flash photography for personal use is allowed with your host's guidance.

To make a reservation request, visit our online registration portal. Click on the Special Experiences tab to send an appointment request or visit the Gifts for Zoo Lovers tab to purchase a gift voucher redeemable at a later date. Contact us at zooeducation@lafayette.in.gov with any questions!

Click here to visit our online (1)
84231557_10157109852498412_3104460601305333760_n

Wild Encounter: Owl

Whoooo doesn't love owls? With this Wild Encounter, participants will meet our resident Eastern screech owl, Nox, in a classroom space. A qualified handler will teach about the unique traits of owls and demonstrate how birds of prey are presented on a glove for education programs. Participants will be given the opportunity to borrow a falconer glove and have the owl sit upon their hand for a feeding opportunity. Handling of owl artifacts are also included.

For: Ages 8+ years.

Program duration: approx. 30 minutes

Fee: $65, includes you and one guest (same day zoo admission included)

Available: daily 10:00-4:00pm


Send an online appointment request

An opossum is standing on a green towel and facing the camera

Wild Encounter: Opossum

Do you love opossums? We do too! They're arguably the most adorable of our Indiana wildlife neighbors, surprisingly beneficial, plus they have pockets!  Participants will learn how unique and special these often misunderstood animals are, and the best ways to help injured and orphaned wildlife. Touching and feeding opportunities are generally included. This encounter takes place in the DeFouw Education Center. 

For: Ages 5+ years.

Program duration: approx. 30 minutes

Fee: $65, includes you and one guest (same day zoo admission included)

Additional participants: $25 each (max 4 total persons)

Available: daily 10:00-4:00pm


Send an online appointment request

A three-banded armadillo is partially uncurled from its shell

Wild Encounter: Armadillo

You'll have a ball meeting one of the Zoo's resident three-banded armadillos. A fascinating and friendly species from South America, these tiny transformers will show off their incredible defense strategy, as well as their other amazing adaptations. The perfect mix of familiar and exotic, armadillos make for a memorable special experience! Touching and feeding opportunities are generally included. This encounter takes place in the DeFouw Education Center. 

For: Ages 3+ years.

Program duration: approx. 30 minutes

Fee: $65, includes you and one guest (same day zoo admission included)

Additional participants: $25 each (max 4 total persons)

Available: daily 10:00-4:00pm


Send an online appointment request

A penguin is looking at the camera with his head tilted to the side

Wild Encounter: Penguin

NEW for 2024! Go behind-the-scenes in Penguin Cove to learn about the Zoo's African penguin colony. Chat with a Penguin keeper and get the inside scoop on how we care for these iconic and highly endangered birds. Your visit includes an up-close and personal encounter with one of our penguins. Touching opportunities are available at the penguin's discretion, so they cannot be guaranteed. These encounters are available seasonally (spring through fall) and capacity is limited.

For: Ages 12+ years.

Program duration: approx. 45 minutes

Fee: $300, includes you and one guest (same day zoo admission included)

Additional participants: $50 each (max 4 total persons)

Available: varies by date


Please contact the Zoo Education Department at zooeducation@lafayette.in.gov to inquire about date availability.

A North American porcupine is holding an ear of corn


Wild Encounter: Porcupine

Meet Polk, the Zoo's North American Porcupine. Participants in this encounter will go backstage to prepare Polk's diet tray and deliver it, observe a training session, and even touch the porcupine (carefully) with handler assistance. A keepsake photo can also be facilitated by your encounter host at no additional cost.  This program takes place in the DeFouw Education Center and includes behind-the-scenes access. Closed toe shoes are required. Porcupine encounter may take place in the outdoor exhibit or in a classroom space, depending upon the weather.

For: Ages 8+ years.

Program duration: approx. 30 minutes

Fee: $85, includes you and one guest (same day zoo admission included)

Available: varies seasonally


Send an online appointment request

107092563_10157588723423412_3317698034205046377_o

Wild Encounter: Galapagos Tortoise

Take a trek behind the scenes at our Galapagos giant tortoise exhibit and meet one of the Zoo's most endangered species. Zoo residents Daphne and Baltra will be waiting to meet participants for feeding and touching opportunities.  Participants will learn how these genetically precious animals receive specialized care. This encounter takes place in the outdoor exhibit yard during warm weather months, or inside the Americas holding building during inclement weather or cold months. Close-toed shoes are required for this experience. 

For: Ages 5+ years.

Program duration: approx. 30 minutes

Fee: $100, includes you and one guest (same day zoo admission included)

Additional participants: $25 each (max 4 total persons)

Available: daily 10:00-4:00pm


Send an online appointment request

PET PREP 101

Wild Encounter: Pet Prep 101

Adding a pet to your family is a big decision, and exotic pets require careful consideration. Responsible pet ownership begins with educating yourself about what all goes into providing that animal with lifelong care. 

The Pet Prep program is designed to help families make informed and responsible pet choices. Meet with a knowledgeable animal caregiver and a real, live Animal Ambassador for the species you select. Ask questions to help decide if this pet is the right choice for you. Topics may include the animal's dietary and environmental requirements, what the daily care routine looks like here at the zoo (or might look like in your home), the species' social needs and typical temperament, safety concerns, and ethical sourcing considerations.

Most zoo animals do not make appropriate pets, so this program is limited to those species that are commonly kept as pets, are legal to own, and can be acquired ethically from captive breeding sources. 

Whether you are an adult researching your next pet or a parent looking to guide your child through a first pet experience, this program is open to families of all kinds. We encourage households to participate together and children ages 5+ are welcome to participate in animal interactions and discussions. To maintain program quality, we limit participation to household groups of up to 2 adults and 4 children per appointment.

Eligible animals include:

  • Leopard gecko
  • Bearded dragon
  • Small snake  
  • Chinchilla
  • Guinea pig
  • Rat
  • Rabbit
  • Parrot
  • Sugar glider
  • Turtle
Please note the Pet Prep 101 program is for informational purposes only and does not connect you with any adoption or sales avenues. This program is offered as a public service to help promote responsible pet choices, and fees are kept low to help make it available to more families. We only charge what we must to offset the basic cost of offering the program.


For: Ages 5+ years.

Program duration: approx. 30 minutes

Fee: $35 per household, includes 2 adults and up to 4 children (same day zoo admission included)

Available: daily 10:00-4:00pm


Send on online appointment request

IMG_0124

Wild Encounter: Wallaby

Hop on over for an up-close encounter with one of the Zoo's wallabies! Participants will have the chance to meet and touch one of our Ambassador wallabies, and learn about this fascinating species from the Land Down Under. This program takes place in either the Education Center or the Wallaby Walkabout yard, depending on weather and other availability factors. A feeding opportunity is also included.

For: Ages 8+ years.

Program duration: approx. 30 minutes

Fee: $75, includes you and one guest (same day zoo admission included)

Additional participants: $25 each (max 4 total persons)

Available: varies seasonally


Send an online appointment request

file2-1

Wild Encounter: Tamandua

Making friends with an anteater might not be on everyone's bucket list - but it should be! Digger, the Zoo's resident tamandua (or lesser anteater) is a fascinating animal. Participants in this encounter will meet Digger for an enrichment delivery session. Watch him play with (and tear apart) his new toys and slurp up a favorite snack. A touching opportunity is included. This encounter takes place in an outdoor exercise yard and is weather-dependent.

For: Ages 5+ years.

Program duration: approx. 30 minutes

Fee: $100, includes you and one guest (same day zoo admission included)

Additional participants: $25 each (max 4 total persons)

Available: April-October, late mornings and afternoons


Send an online appointment request

Gift Viuchers

Gift Vouchers Now Available!

Looking to give the gift of experience to someone you love? Purchase Wild Encounter Gift Vouchers for a specific animal encounter to the sloth, porcupine, or wallaby lover in your life! Your recipient can redeem their gift voucher like cash to schedule their encounter at their convenience. 

Not sure what they'd love? Zoo EDbucks Gift Certificates are also available in multiple denominations to allow your loved one to choose from any of our great education program including Wild Encounters, youth classes and camps, birthday parties and more. Some exclusions apply, see our registration portal for details or contact us at zooeducation@lafayette.in.gov.


Purchase a Gift Voucher online!

Don't see what you have in mind?Contact us to discuss other possibilities. Most of the Animal Ambassadors are eligible for a Wild Encounter upon request. Examples of other Animal Ambassadors that may be available include: prairie dog, tree frogs, tenrec, iguana or other lizards. Sorry, the river otters, monkeys and bald eagle are not eligible for education programs.