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Rain forest in Fresno?

Fresno has cotton (Fresno County grows more cotton than any other county in the country). It has grapes (the same superlative applies). It has some of the country's best Armenian restaurants.

Now it has a South American rain forest. The Fresno Zoo's $2.2 million Tropical Rain Forest opened last year. Its mission: to shift one half-acre of the San Joaquin Valley south about 40[degrees] of latitude. If you live in, or are traveling through, the Central Valley, the zoo and new rain forest are good places to visit.

Inside the exhibit, a fog system akin to the one used at the San Diego Zoo's Tiger River (see page 86 of the October 1988 Sunset) mistily increases humidity and moderates Fresno's winter chill. Streams and waterfalls burble, and beneath a 60foot wire-mesh sky perch and fly two dozen bird species, including cattle egrets, scarlet ibises, Inca terns, and Swainson's toucans. (More fragile species, notably hummingbirds, are housed inside the Maddis Tropical Bird House.)

Fresno being Fresno and not, say, Ecuador, the trees, vines, and shrubs are not all tropical natives (one of tbe largest is a stately valley oak). But plantings include Brazilian peppers, orchid trees, and bamboo palms; hibiscus, plume flower, and flame bush. They're growing to form a dense canopy forest.

Besides birds, the exhibit has turtles, iguanas, and giant anteaters-stickytongued sloth relatives, whose vaudevillian gait and prominent proboscises bring back memories of Jimmy Durante. Shyer, but cuter, are two golden lion tamarins, Brazilian monkeys who survive in tbe wild only in two isolated preserves in Rio de Janeiro State. Fresno's pair are part of a breeding program intended to save the species from extinction.

For there is a somber undercurrent to the fun. The rain forest represented is disappearing, along with its inhabitants. This exhibit is an effort to save a threatened environment through public education. The rain forest is not the sole attraction at the zoo, which has undergone much improvement in the last decade. Also of note are the reptile house and the Asian Elephant Center, home to 43-year-old Nosey and three other pachyderms.

The zoo is open 10 to 5 daily. Admission is $3, $1 for ages 4 through 14. For more information, call (209) 264-5988.

The zoo sits at the southeast corner of Roeding Park. From State Highway 99, take Belmont Avenue east 1/4 mile; the park entrance is on your left. Besides the zoo, the venerable park holds picnic grounds, playgrounds, handsome old trees (though the once-famed plantings of roses and camellias bave fallen victim to maintenance cutbacks), and Fort Miller Block House, whose historic exhibits are open noon to 5 weekends.
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Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Fresno Zoo's Tropical Rain Forest
Date:Feb 1, 1989
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