PRESCOTT - The Heritage Park Zoological Sanctuary will celebrate a century of natural history Saturday as the zoo's way of honoring Arizona's February 2012 centennial.
Nature walks will take place at the top of the hour between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. A new endangered species maze will track choices that led to species' demise. A new introduced species game will ask people to guess whether animals are native or not. And docents will talk to visitors at various enclosures.
All activities are included in the regular zoo admission price. For entrance fees and more information go online to heritageparkzoo.org or call 778-4242. The zoo is located at 1403 Heritage Park Road.
Along with nature walks and games, the Centennial Zoofest aims to educate people about what has happened to the state's natural landscape over the past century.
Some native animals such as the wolf and black-footed ferret are doing a lot better now, and experts will talk about their recovery. Talks featuring some of the zoo's residents will take place at 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., with a Game and Fish Department presentation focusing on the ferrets at 11:30 a.m.
Other non-native animals have invaded Arizona and made it harder on the natives, especially crawfish and pet turtles that people have released into natural waterways. Talks featuring some of these live animals take place at 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.
To kick off the Centennial Zoofest, the Highlands Center for Natural History is hosting a free talk at 6:30 p.m. today called "The Heart of Natural History."
Thomas Fleischner, a Prescott College environmental studies professor, will give the talk.
The center is located at 1375 Walker Road, off Highway 69 just south of Costco in Prescott.
Zoo and center officials hope that people will do their part to keep non-native species at bay in the wilds of Arizona.
The zoo has plenty of non-native residents that are abandoned local pets, from a Burmese python to red-eared slider turtles.
A driver found Amarillo the python sunning itself on a Prescott Valley street a few years back. The owner apparently didn't think about how huge it would get, and decided to let it loose.
So many pet owners have illegally released red-eared sliders into local waterways that they now are causing problems for native species, said Wayne Fischer, animal care manager at the zoo.
"Sometimes they're just thrown over the fence" at the zoo, said Heather Brown, the zoo's events coordinator.