An Interactive Animal Experience Comes to DTLV

This city is full of animals—from the party types to the ones at habitats and sanctuaries. And this month, a new set of creatures descends upon the town. Danielle Hill, a native Australian who grew up on a farm taking care of animals, is transforming the former Learning Village next to Downtown Container Park into an interactive and educational zoo. With animals including reptiles and birds, Friends of the Wild’s mission is to raise awareness about reconsidering the types of pets people own.

“One of our main educational goals is why you shouldn’t own an exotic pet,” Hill says. “There are so many exotic pets being looked after in a way they should not be.”

Photos by Krystal Ramirez

Hill previously worked at Roos-N-More in Moapa, Nevada, until the zoo closed its doors last December. But that didn’t stop Hill from pursuing her dreams of starting a rescue facility for animals and providing education to the community. “I’m taking what enriched [Roos-N-More] and adding improvements,” Hill says.

Friends of the Wild is an indoor and outdoor space, providing living accommodations for each animal’s needs. The animals are given adopted Las Vegas–themed names, such as two desert tortoises who go by Donny and Marie, two tenrecs (think hedgehog) named after Penn and Teller and a colorful Macaw parrot named Stardust. Hill is bringing in more animals from rescues across town. The facility plans to remain small, currently housing 10 animals, with space for 25.

Photo by Krystal Ramirez

“When we get new rescued animals in, we make sure we have an experienced caregiver for that animal, making sure the animal is happy, healthy and interactive,” Hill says. Friends of the Wild relies on a large team of volunteers to assist its small staff.

The nonprofit has already begun off-site assemblies at local schools and aims to open its brick-and-mortar location at the end of July. Group tours will be available Friday through Monday.

To book a visit or to learn more about volunteer opportunities, visit

Vegas Seven