Colin Patrick paces back and forth, moving so close to the fence around his outdoor exhibit that he scratches his face on the wire. The hybrid panther hisses at an electrician working nearby. Employees at the Palm Beach Zoo at Dreher Park are perplexed. This mighty cat, born and raised at the zoo but still capable of confounding the human species, is known to greet visitors by walking up to the viewing window. But not today. "Something set him off. We don't know if it was anxiety, anger or defense," says Dr. Salvatore Zeitlin, the zoo's executive director and longtime veterinarian. "He doesn't normally behave this way." It is the kind of up-close and personal scene one can witness at the Palm Beach Zoo, a small, intimate park where many of the 400 animals reside just a few feet from the main walking trail. Nestled on 23 acres in West Palm Beach, the zoo is shady, easy to walk in a few hours and offers children in strollers an unobstructed view of most of the exhibits. (By comparison, Miami-Dade's Metrozoo, the only other zoo in South Florida, sprawls across 740 acres.) -- Kathleen Kernicky, Sun-Sentinel Getting there: Take the Forest Hill Boulevard exit off I-95 and go east to Parker Ave. Make a left and go north to Summit Blvd. Turn left again, and the entrace to the zoo through Dreher Park is on your right. On the web, go to www.palmbeachzoo.org.
SUN-SENTINEL PHOTO BY MARK RANDALL
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