Las Vegas has a wild side. No, this time we’re not talking about
the city’s nightclub scene or those “What happens here, stays here”
advertisements pitching the city’s anything-goes attitude, this is
about fur and feathers, claws and critters. Animals have found a
home here in the Las Vegas desert, and there is more to be seen
than most people realize. Those looking to get really wild should
explore the following spots where you’ll find sharks, dolphins,
white tigers, lions, Chilean flamingos, African penguins and more.
Perhaps the most impressive of all Las Vegas’ wildlife exhibits is
Mandalay Bay Shark Reef, an attraction which features 1,200
different aquatic species, including 15 different species of
sharks, tropical and freshwater fish, sea turtles, crocodiles and
rays all swimming in a 2 million-gallon aquarium.
Visitors entering Shark Reef will find that the setting resembles
an ancient temple ruin with a sunken galleon ship. The exhibit is
home to several endangered golden crocodiles the only ones to exist
in the Western Hemisphere. Other exhibits include a touch pool area
the kids will love and a look at that famous Amazon predator, the
But there’s a reason it’s named Shark Reef, and in a massive tank
visitors come eyeball to eyeball with several different shark
species, including blacktip and whitetip reef sharks, bonnetheads
and nurse, sand tiger and zebra sharks to name just a few.
If sharks scare you a bit and dolphins are more to your liking
check out Siegfried & Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat
at the Mirage. The Dolphin Habitat is designed to be not only
entertaining but educational. The exhibit even includes a video of
a dolphin named Squirt being born. The habitat is a research
facility, so trainers are on hand to answer questions, and the
Atlantic bottlenose dolphins do perform some tricks during set
exercise periods, but don’t expect elaborate shows.
The facility holds 2.5 million gallons of water and includes a
22-foot-deep viewing tank, with both an outdoor and underground
viewing area. The Secret Garden houses white tigers, white lions,
black panthers, a snow leopard, golden tigers and a four-ton Asian
elephant named Gildah.
Down the road, the Flamingo Wildlife Habitat contains 15 acres of
tropical gardens right next to the resort’s pool complex. It holds
more than 300 bird species including, you guessed it, Chilean
flamingos. But you’ll also find African penguins, silver pheasants,
swans, ducks, a koi pond and turtles on the grounds.
Longtime Las Vegas visitors may remember the days when you had to
walk under a lounging lion to enter the MGM Grand. The entrance was
later reconfigured and a huge bronze statue was erected on the
corner of Las Vegas Boulevard and Tropicana when casino executives
realized that, in some cultures, the entry was considered bad luck.
However, the MGM lion is still a mainstay at the property and
guests can see the real thing at the resort’s Lion Habitat. Here
several African lions and their cubs are rotated in and out of a
glass habitat with 35-foot-tall walls. Throughout the day,
trainer’s play with the animals, but chances are you’ll find the
500-pound beasts snoozing. Lions sleep an average of 18 to 20 hours
Las Vegas may lack a major metropolitan zoo, but the Southern
Nevada Zoological Botanical Park has some rather unique animals for
its size. The three-acre park has more than 200 species of plants
and animals. Visitors are often surprised to find a family of
Barbary apes living in the complex, but they’re not alone;
chimpanzees, eagles, ostriches, emus, talking parrots, wallabies,
flamingos and every species of venomous reptile native to southern
Nevada call the small park home.
So the next time a client is planning a visit to Las Vegas don’t
forget to mention the city’s truly wild side.
Flamingo Wildlife Habitat
Mandalay Bay Shark Reef
MGM Grand Lion Habitat
Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat at the
Southern Nevada Zoological Botanical Park