TODD SCHMIDT/WISCONSIN RESIDENT: "It's just a unique experience. You don't get a chance to drive amongst, basically animals from all over the world and have them come up to your car."
WARREN LEWIS/FOSSIL RIM WILDLIFE CENTER: "This particular bird's native range is in Australia."
Warren Lewis loves his job at what he calls the biggest and best classroom in Texas.
Fossil Rim Wildlife Center sits about 160- miles southeast of Wichita Falls, and east of Stephenville.
Lewis: "They keep that tree line up nice and high."
Unlike zoos, where animals are in enclosed environments, for the most part at Fossil Rim, Visitors remain in their vehicles while the animals roam free across 18- hundred acres of land.
Lewis: "They've got an 18- inch long tongue, and it's real sticky. But, it's actually antibacterial. So, it's actually good. It's probably better than washing your hands."
Giraffes have been a part of Fossil Rim for over 30- years.
They're among about 60- different species of animals now, many of them endangered, being preserved and bred here so they can possibly some day be reintroduced to their native wild habitat.
Lewis: "This is Hartmann Zebra, and it's an endangered species." "They come up to this area when they're pregnant, and they'll have their babies in July. So, we've probably got several females that are pregnant right now, and these are some of the young ones from last year."
Lewis says Fossil Rim is probably one of the most successful breeders of cheetah anywhere.
Unlike other cat species, the female determines who the mate will be.
More than 135- have been successfully bred and raised here since 1986.
Lewis: "They'll pace and look. We've got about 27- of them on the property right now, and some of them are sisters and brothers and they know each other, and they'll keep an eye on each other even though they're in separate areas."
"Most of our animals are from Africa, so the landscape is very similar to Africa. The weather's very similar, and the beauty of wide open spaces is just fantastic. So, our goal is to raise them in as natural of a state as possible."
"European Red Deer, their antlers in the fall will be 4- feet long. Right now, they're in felt."
"This is an Addax, and the reason you're not supposed to get out of your vehicle, especially for this animal, is it's got horns. And, wild animals will typically, it's either fight or flight."
Lewis says somewhere around 240- thousand people visit this not- for- profit- wildlife center each year from all over the world.
It's where history is made.
Recently, With the Southern White Rhino.
"These particular species live to be about their early 40's. So, she gave birth when she was 42. The oldest known White Rhino to give birth on record, at 42, and she's still alive today and out here."
"Now, this one will peck you pretty hard you said. So, I'll just throw it out that way. Ok, let's try the bag then. It will take the bag from you. Wow!"
JEFF SLONE/KELLER RESIDENT: "The animals are going to act different every time. So, you never know. You never know what they're going to do. But yeah, sometimes they're closer to the car. Sometimes they're a little further away. But yeah, bring some food, make a picnic and make a day of it."
So, Fossil Rim Wildlife Center offers safari- like tours for the entire family with plenty of exotic and native wildlife to see. Just up the road about five minutes, sits Dinosaur Valley State Park, with some of the last preserved dinosaur tracks in the world."
JASON SANCHEZ/PARK RANGER, DINOSAUR VALLEY STATE PARK: "We're sitting actually in the Paluxy River Basin, or in the bed of the Paluxy River. This river itself is a wild river when it floods. It will get 30 or 40 feet over the bank, over what level you're seeing now. And, what it does is it will come
through here and it will wash out this bank area, and when it washes out this bank area, it will expose new tracks. Right now, you can see new tracks that are being exposed just by water washing this off. This is a brand new track that's been exposed. This is another one that's being exposed right now."
Sanchez says the tracks of two dinosaurs walking through coastal mud Were made famous in the early 1940's after Paleontologist, Roland T. Bird excavated sections of some of the best examples of dinosaur tracks ever discovered.
Sanchez: "Track here that's 113- to 115- million years old. It's a track of acrocanthrosauraus. It's a meat eating dinosaur anywhere from 15 to 20 feet tall. He weighs anywhere from 3 to 5 tons."
The other dinosaur, that could have been its prey, was so huge the average human would have only come up to its knee.
Sanchez: "This is the Paluxysaurus is what this is called. This is a Brontosaurs animal. It weighs anywhere from 15 to 20 tons. He's 60- to 70- feet long. He's a big animal. If you picture a brontosaurs, just smaller. This is the back left foot of the Paluxysaurus."
Almost all kids are dinosaur fans, and when they come to Dinosaur Valley State Park, they are just in awe, as are adults.
After all, it's not everyday you see proof a dinosaur was standing in the very spot you're standing today.
Dinosaur Valley State Park and Fossil Rim Wildlife Center are two great places for the entire family to connect with the extinct animals that once roamed Texas.
They're where animals of today are being protected from extinction for future generations.
In fact, Fossil Rim's been working with an animal that's been extinct in the wild since 2000, and should be released back into Africa later this year or early next year.
Information for Dinosaur Valley State Park
Information for Fossil Rim Wildlife Center
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