June 21, 2024

Honors students safari through Zoo Knoxville

Lions and tigers and bears, oh my – the UTK Honors Programs see them all.

The Honors and Scholars Program took a walk on the wild side to earn honors seminar credit. The program ventured on a night safari at Zoo Knoxville on April 26 to learn about the animals and observe their behaviors at dusk.

Students entered the zoo as a private group for up-close encounters with the wildlife.

“Being able to be in the zoo without anyone else and getting a tour is absolutely amazing,” Emily Joyner, a 1794 scholar, said. “Even if it did not count as a seminar, I think a lot of people would still be here because it is such a cool experience.”

Nocturnal animal studies accompanied inspection of bio-artifacts. Students examined an owl skull, snake skin, bird feathers, a skunk pellet, a black bear pellet, a giraffe jaw, a mountain lion skull and a lion paw.

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The night jolted back to life when students interacted with live animals. Attendees petted an African Pygmy hedgehog named Owen Quilson, a snake named Jake and two Madagascar hissing cockroaches. This hands-on experience gave students a behind-the-scenes look at the care and maintenance of zoo animals.


Students later made a night trek through the zoo, listening to other animals, including the tigers, rustling about. Following the guided tour, students asked questions to gain information, including how to own a hedgehog in Knoxville.

Zoo Knoxville offers many educational and group opportunities. Night safaris typically last between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. and require advance registration. Bedtime with the Beasts allows guests to “meet an animal ambassador and have a light snack before curling up for the night” at the Zoo.