15 Most Fascinating Animals You’ll See In American Zoos


As we all know the animal kingdom is a vast and extraordinary place, teeming with creatures in all shapes, sizes, and colors. But believe it or not, you don’t have to travel the globe to encounter some of the most outlandish animals on Earth! Let’s explore 15 incredible species you can see in zoos across the United States, as compiled by Thrillist, so you can plan your next trip easily.

Albino Alligator


It’s hard to imagine what an albino alligator looks like, but they exist! The Audubon Aquarium of the Americas houses rare reptiles, often compared to mythical beasts with translucent hides dipped in moonlight and pale pink eyes. Spotting this ghostly gator is truly an unforgettable experience.

Blue Lobster

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Not literally, but you’ll be amazed by the vibrant blue lobster at the Maine Lobster Trap Museum. These crustacean oddities are rare due to a genetic quirk that gives them an unusual sapphire hue. The chances of seeing one are like finding a needle in a haystack, so take a picture if you come across one.


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Head to the San Diego Zoo to meet the okapi, a shy forest dweller with striped legs and an elongated, giraffe-like neck. Despite resembling zebras, okapis are more closely related to giraffes! Okapis are fascinating examples of convergent evolution, where animals from different lineages develop similar traits to thrive.

Red Panda

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Prepare to be charmed by the red pandas at the Memphis Zoo. These adorable balls of rusty red fur and bushy tails will surely steal your heart. While unrelated to the giant panda, they share a love for bamboo and a knack for captivating audiences.



The Phoenix Zoo boasts this antelope with spiraling corkscrew horns that would make any unicorn jealous. Addaxes are desert dwellers perfectly adapted to the harsh climate, surviving on scarce vegetation and morning dew. Their impressive horns are not just for show but for defense in battles within herds.

Amur Tiger


Witness the power and majesty of the Amur tiger at the San Francisco Zoo. This critically at-risk cat is the world’s largest type of tiger, with a thick orange coat and bold black stripes. Its powerful roars can be heard over long distances, a testament to its strength in the wild.

Blue-crowned Laughingthrush


Get ready to giggle alongside the Blue-crowned laughingthrush at the Bronx Zoo. This quirky bird has a loud, infectious call like human laughter. Their jolly personalities and surprising vocalizations make them a delight to observe.

Cuvier Gazelle

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Here’s another star at the San Diego Zoo, the Cuvier gazelle, a creature as elegant as it is unusual. Naturally shy, they are herbivores but aren’t your typical graceful grazers. Cuviers stand out thanks to their stocky build and dark, almost chocolate-brown coat, a dazzling contrast to their snowy white underbellies. 

Pacific Walrus


Meet this massive marine mammal with huge tusks and a fun-loving disposition. The ivory tusks are used for everything from digging clams to fighting for dominance within groups. Interestingly, the Pacific walrus is quite sociable in spite of its daunting impression. No wonder they’re a crowd favorite at the Alaska SeaLife Center!

Four-Eyed Turtle


Have you ever heard of a four-eyed turtle? The California Academy of Sciences has a resident four-eyed turtle, aptly named for the unique markings on its head that resemble two sets of eyes. Its spots are thought to confuse predators, giving the turtle a precious extra moment to escape.

Panamanian Golden Frog


Observing the Panamanian species at the Atlanta Botanical Garden is one for the books. These radiant creatures display a notable gold-orange hue and black marks, appearing as real-life treasures. Unfortunately, they’re almost extinct due to the loss of habitat and diseases.

Giant Garter Snake

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Not everyone likes snakes, but seeing a Giant garter snake upfront at Toledo Zoo might change your mind. The North American native has bold yellow stripes running down its back that are so beautiful you might want one for a pet. Kidding aside, garter snakes are harmless to humans and, more importantly, play an essential role in controlling rodent populations.


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The Florida Aquarium showcases this freshwater turtle that has been swimming in the planet’s rivers and lakes for millions of years. Learning about the hicatee’s long history and resilience can inspire us to become better stewards of our water resources.

Leopard Shark


Leopard sharks, named from their characteristic spotted markings, are housed in Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies. These sleek sharks live in warm, shallow seas and play a vital role in the marine food chain.

Komodo Dragon

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The Komodo Dragon is the undisputed king of the Indonesian islands. Reaching up to 10 feet in length and weighing 300 pounds, these are the biggest lizards on land. Sadly, such apex hunters are in decline, but the San Diego Zoo is working overtime to ensure the Komodos survive for generations.


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