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‘Dinoroarus’ a scary new attraction at the Zoo

FOREST PARK – Dinosaurs are roaming around the St. Louis Zoo, and nobody seems to care. Scary ones, such as a life-size Triceratops, a 12-foot-tall Tyrannosaurus rex, a giant storklike Quetzalcoatlus, an 18-foot-tall Brachiosaurus and a nest of duck-billed Parasaurolophus babies.  

If that’s not enough, children are walking right up to them and talking about how awesome they are.

If that’s enough to attract you to a scary dinosaur, the temporary Emerson Dinoroarus exhibit at the zoo is the place for you. Officially opening Saturday, it features 16 different groups of moving and stationary dinosaurs. It runs through Oct. 31 at the site of the old 3.5 acre Children’s Zoo, which was closed last year during the height of the pandemic. 

“In the meantime, we want to continue to have an opportunity to engage children and their families in a different way,” said Michael Macek, director of the zoo. “That is relatively safe during the pandemic, and Dinoroarus provides an opportunity to continue to talk about things we normally do like extinction, climate change, conservation, evolution, things like that.” 

The zoo Facilities Management Department desigrned and built the exhibit from the footprint of the old Children’s Zoo, Macek said. The cost was about $800,000. 

If the zoo’s projections are right, revenue and attendance should pay for the exhibit in about a year. Plans are to run the exhibit for two or three years, until the zoo breaks ground for a new children’s zoo. 

The models of the dinosaurs are extremely accurate based on fossil records, Macek said.

“The dinosaurs are representative of various periods, so it’s not like a single period,” Macek said. “We picked the ones we knew the children like the most.”

As for skin colors shown on the models, Macek said that DNA had been collected from fossils that suggested they were quite colorful. 

St. Louis Zoo visitors enjoy the Emerson Dinoroarus exhibit.

“Now, we are taking some liberties with regards to patterns and true colors,” Macek said. “But we do believe from fossil records that they probably were in fact more colorful than people generally thought.”

One interesting thing about dinosaurs is that a number of species had feathers. That includes the Utahraptor.

“Dinosaurs are in fact birds, or birds in fact dinosaurs, and they did have feathers,” Macek explained. “So I like the fact that we have at least two of the units, including the Utahraptor, that had feathers.”

The zoo is limiting capacity for the exhibit for good social distancing. Tickets are for timed entry, but after that, people can stay as long as they like. Tickets are $5.95 per person for ages 2 and up and are available at the entrance to the exhibit.  

Zoo members can get in for free. Members may pick up their timed tickets at Zoo entrances or any attraction ticket booth.

Because of social distancing limits, the zoo requires people to make free reservations in advance for general admission. They may visit stlzoo.org/zooreservations to make a reservation up to seven days before they want to go. 

Jim Merkel

southsidemerkel@gmail.com Born and raised in the St. Louis area, Jim Merkel covered communities throughout the area from 1991 to 2013 for the old Suburban Journals of Greater St. Louis. He is the author of five books about the Gateway City published by Reedy Press. The latest is Growing Up St. Louis: Looking Back Through the Decades. He and his wife, Lorraine, live in the Bevo Mill neighborhood of south St. Louis with Miss Jenny the Cat. For more about Jim, visit www.jimmerkelthewriter.com.

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