Along a quiet road in Clayton, Delaware, just outside of Smyrna you can find 3 Palms Zoo and Education Center. The owners of 3 Palms Zoo originally began their journey as landscapers. About 10 years ago, they rescued a few animals in need. When people found out about their efforts, the phone continued to ring about animals in need of assistance. Matthew Shaffner, one of the owners, says, “we started asking for donations from visitors as a means to support the animals and provide advertising for our then landscaping business. As more and more people found out about us, the rescue calls escalated and the landscaping calls diminished. Before we knew it, taking care of the animals was a full time job.”
Despite owning a zoo, Matthew says the primary goal of 3 Palms is to get wild animals to a permitted Wildlife Rehabilitator and return them to the wild whenever possible. Those that aren’t able to return to the wild become zoo residents. Animal rescues come from a variety of sources ranging from domestic or exotic pets that were abandoned or escaped, wildlife that has been illegally kept as pets, people no longer able to care for their animals, or wildlife in need of medical assistance. All of the animals at the zoo are rescues of some kind with the exception of the few animals that were born on site.
One of our favorite 3 Palms Zoo residents is Woody, a groundhog with unique coloring due to Erythrism. Woody was found in the road by a good Samaritan after being struck by a car. Woody had neurological issues, partial blindness and was infested with mites. Woody received treatment and is now living happily at the zoo, unable to be released in the wild due to his partial blindness and unique coloring, making him easy prey.
At 3 Palms Zoo guests can enjoy hand feeding and petting select animals including llamas, alpaca, goats, ducks, sheep, donkey, pigs and more! Be sure to bring quarters for the feed distributors! The zoo also features Delaware’s only alligator. One thing we love about 3 Palms Zoo is the level of interaction you’re able to have with the animals. The ability to feed and and touch the animals is unlike any zoo we’ve visited, and we love getting to know each animal’s unique personality.
Fridays and Saturdays from November 25 – December 31 are particularly special because the zoo stays open late for their Zoo Lights and Christmas Nights event. From 6:00pm – 8:00pm the zoo will be lit with beautiful lights and exhibits will be dressed up for the holidays. Visit Santa, sing Christmas carols, roast marshmallows by the bonfire and get the rare opportunity to see nocturnal animals being active. This event is $10 for families up to 3 people, and $5 for each additional family member.
The zoo even hosts parties on-site. Alternatively, event planners can book their traveling zoo. The traveling zoo features various animals for hands-on fun and educational experiences. What a fun way to make a birthday party or fundraiser extra special!
3 Palms Zoo is open from 10:00am – 5:00pm daily, weather permitting. Admission is just $10 for a group of 5 or fewer. For larger groups, admission is $3 per person. Donations are always appreciated.
Visit their website for more information. If you see an animal that needs rescuing, please call 302-715-1326 and the staff at 3 Palms Zoo will be happy to help!
Thank you to 3 Palms Zoo for providing us the photos for this article.