New encounters available at Virginia Safari Park

Updated: May. 10, 2021 at 6:35 PM EDT
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ROCKBRIDGE COUNTY, Va. (WDBJ) - Usually, a trip to the Virginia Safari Park involves a pleasant drive through herds of friendly llamas and antelope.

It’s an encounter that brings one closer than at a zoo, but now they are offering a chance to get closer yet.

“It really helps when people see it and experience it and get to touch it. It really ties in that desire to help protect them in the wild,” Park Director Sarah Friedel said as a llama walked up and nuzzled her from behind. “Hi, Peso. And that’s actually one of the big things for our encounters, a portion of all the proceeds from it does go to the conservation work that we do.”

Those would be encounters not with the occasionally overly-friendly llama, but with rhinos, sloths and penguins.

“The animals are there in your face,” Friedel said. “You don’t see them from a distance, they’re right there at you. And some of the llamas don’t give you a choice.”

But surprisingly, the rhinos like the attention too.

“And these guys, they love the encounters, especially our newest baby, Krampus,” she said, pointing at a baby rhino. “He was just born in December and he is one of our biggest hits at the encounters.”

And the penguins, given the choice of staying in their hut, will generally come out to play.

“It’s amazing to see the number of penguins that want to interact with other people and not just us,” said Friedel.

The encounters are a separate ticket from standard admission, but if you come at the right time, you can see the cheetahs run on a new lure trail.

“And it’s really, really cool to watch,” Friedel said.

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