Forty animatronic dinosaurs are calling the Bronx home for the next seven months as they star in what the Bronx Zoo says is the “biggest, most realistic dinosaur ride in America.”
Dinosaur Safari, which opens April 19, takes zoo visitors on a wagon ride through two acres of woods that have been transformed into a prehistoric habitat where 18 dinosaur species and one flying reptile (the azhdarchid pterosaur) are fighting to survive.
As you enter through the fence, pulled in a wooden wagon by a truck, music swells and you see your first dinosaur.
The narrated experience, which runs roughly 15 minutes, encourages riders to “think like a paleontologist” as they watch dinosaurs battle each other, care for their young and snack on plants.
All of the dinosaurs move, triggered by motion detectors, roar and often look right at the passersby.
“If you look at them closely, you try to figure out how they move and how they’re put together,” said Jim Breheny, the zoo’s director and the Wildlife Conservation Society’s executive vice president of Zoos and Aquarium. “But you can’t because they really look like they’re living animals.”
The zoo teamed up with a paleontologist and “Dino” Don Lessem, a dinosaur expert who has written science books and even served as an adviser on the original “Jurassic Park” film.
The zoo even made “tens of thousands” of plantings, from tropical greenery to more primordial-looking tree ferns and cycads to “create the illusion of dinosaur paradise,” Breheny said.
Dinosaurs might not be your first thought when you think of the Bronx Zoo, but there’s a mission at hand.
The narrator, who names and points out each species, describes what each one is doing and how their behavior or attributes are similar to modern-day animals, like how T. rexes fought each other like gorillas do — most likely for dominance, territory or mating rights.
In a field guide that each “paleontologist” gets, each dinosaur species is described and compared with a living animal, which you can visit in the zoo’s other exhibits.
But at the heart of the ride is the hope it will inspire people to care about the extinction of animals.
“When people think about zoos, they think about live animals, so when we were going to do this dinosaur exhibit, we thought about what the connection was between live animals we care for at the Bronx Zoo,” Breheny said. “If these magnificent dinosaurs that roamed the earth millions of years ago and they’re so powerful and so majestic and they look like they rule the earth — if animals and species like this were susceptible to extinction, we have to be doubly concerned about the animals that we have now. Some of them are nowhere near as formidable as the T-rex, but they’re still susceptible to the negative impacts of human activities around the world. That’s what the Bronx Zoo and WCS try to do to figure out a way people and animals can live together and share the earth.”
Once the ride ends, visitors, now seasoned paleontologists, will be able to go on a fossil dig and enjoy dinosaur-themed activities through the zoo, including “Birds in Flight,” a show where you meet birds with very dinosaur-like features.
And on June 1-2, the zoo will host Dinosaur Day, where visitors are encouraged to dress up as human dinos and more.
If you go: The ride will run through Nov. 3 and is included in the zoo’s "Total Experience" ticket that can be purchased online at bronxzoo.com for $39.95 and $29.95 for children.
How to get there: Take the BxM11, Bx9, Bx19 bus routes straight to the zoo or the Q44 to 180th Street and Boston Road (then take a right on Boston Road one block to the Bronx Zoo’s Asia gate entrance). Otherwise, take the 2 train to Pelham Parkway and head west to the Zoo’s Bronx River entrance.