Dinosaurs make comeback at Jacksonville Zoo

Destination Dino brings prehistoric feel to new zoo exhibit opening Saturday


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Sharp teeth, claws and beady eyes are things visitors normally find at the Jacksonville Zoo.

But some new additions are offering a different type of experience.

One area of the zoo has been transformed into Destination Dino, a dinosaur exhibit with surprises and activities for children.

"They move, because they have compressed air that makes the motions. Even their eyes move, so they look really lifelike, and they make sounds,” said Bob Chabot, director of horticulture and facilities for the Jacksonville Zoo.

The robotic creatures were made to represent exactly how they looked and sounded when they were walking the Earth long ago.

Utahraptor, the largest raptor discovered to date, has been made true to size, complete with feathers.

It's just one of dozens of dinosaurs making a comeback at the zoo, and it took dozens of people to bring the exhibit together.

"It's a lot of work to bring these things in, as you can imagine,” Chabot said. “Lots of heavy equipment. We had to clean up and make the trail through the woods."

The zoo has hosted the dinos for three years, changing the location each year. This year, they took it back to the prehistoric days by turning a preserve into the perfect home for the animals.

Destination Dino also includes a trolly ride, along with new species of dinos, educational signs and hands-on activities throughout the trail.

"Everybody loves dinosaurs. Kids love them; adults love them. It's just something fascinating about them,” Chabot said.

And there's something for thrill seekers, too.

"We've created one little fun scare for people,” Chabot said.

But that's a surprise, visitors will have to experience for themselves.

Destination Dino will open at the Jacksonville Zoo on Saturday and will be open through July 4. For more information, go to jaxzoodinos.org.