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Walking through the Louisville Zoo, guests see the things they expect. A gift shop, a few food vendors and maps outlining the various paths to different animals. As they turn a corner, they meet an animal they might not have expected: the Quetzalcoatlus.

The giant pterosaur — part of the family of animals that includes prehistoric flying reptiles like pterodactyls and pteranodon — towers over zoo guests. It roars and moves its wings for a crowd of children who stare, in awe.

The Quetzalcoatlus is one of 21 dinosaur animatronics residing at the Louisville Zoo as a part of Dino Quest. The travelling exhibit brings life-like thunder lizards to different locations world-wide.

In years past, similar dinosaur exhibits were kept in one area for zoo guests to walk through. Dino Quest departs from this by having the dinosaurs scattered throughout the zoo’s property. Patrons can see tigers and triceratopses without having to purchase a separate ticket. 

Children at the zoo are particularly impressed by the huge, thundering animatronics.

“Because dinosaurs are extinct, they could see how they looked like,” said Hannah Stracener, 10.

Hannah is a fan of dinosaurs. On Saturday, she got to see her favorite: Parasaurolophus, a duck-billed dinosaur from the Cretaceous period.

Looking wide-eyed at the exhibits, Hannah described her favorite things about dinosaurs; their sounds, the way they moved.

Being authentic is something that Dino Quest strives to do.

According to Kyle Shepherd, the media relations manager for the Louisville Zoo, Dino Quest is one of the largest, most life-like dinosaur robotics in the world. This is in part because the company that created Dino Quest is owned by Don Lessem, a dinosaur researcher. He even has a dino named after him — the Lessemsaurus.

The zoo hopes that dinosaurs will be a reminder to guests about conservation.

“Exhibits like this are important to show that we need to take care of our planet and we need to take care of those that inhabit it so we can see so we can not see other animals go extinct,” Shepherd said.

The dinosaur animatronics are considered as animal ambassadors, just like the zoo’s non-robotic residents. 

“We hope that any visit to the zoo is not only about building memories for your family, but it’s also about learning about our planet and learning about animals,” said Shepherd. 

Dino Quest will be on display at the Louisville Zoo until September 19.

Breya Jones is the Breaking News Reporter for WFPL.
John Boyle covers southern Indiana communities and health for WFPL News. He is a Report for America Corps member.