Dinosaurs take center stage at Brownsville zoo

Gladys Porter Zoo prepares to open their Dawn of the Dinosaurs Saturday, Mar. 9, 2019, in Brownsville. (Miguel Roberts | The Brownsville Herald)

“Dawn of the Dinosaurs,” a limited-run exhibit featuring some of the largest and most breathtaking animatronic dinosaurs the zoo has ever hosted, is now on display.

The exhibit features two T-Rex dinosaurs, one of which people — even whole families — can ride on and take pictures. The other T-Rex stands and moves realistically and calls out ferociously. It is big, but its size is in proportion to the other dinosaurs in the exhibit, which continues through July 7.

Assistant zoo director Colette Adams predicted the exhibit will be a main attraction.

Adams said, to her, the most interesting creature in the exhibit is the Deinonychrus, a bird-like dinosaur that gave birth to the now generally accepted theory that dinosaurs were warm blooded and eventually evolved into birds.

“Up until the 1960s everyone thought dinosaurs were cold-blooded,” she said. “The discovery of this animal made them realize they were much more complicated and couldn’t be cold-blooded.”

The plaque in front of the animal says, “Deinonychrus is believed to have had feathers and possibly incubated its eggs in a nest.”

Nearby stands an Edmontonia, 12 feet long in the replica but 18 feet long in real life and weighing 3 tons. It is notable for forward-pointing spikes in its armor. A plant-eating dinosaur, the spikes are thought to have been used to fend off attackers.

At the other end of the exhibit stands a bare-bones Stegosaurus, or in this case bare metal and electronics, so that visitors can see for themselves how animatronic dinosaurs work. A series of buttons allow visitors to activate the animal’s head, jaws, backbone fins and tail.

“The kids should like this one,” zoo marketing director Cynthia Garza-Galvan said. “They’re studying robotics so much in school. Now they can see how it works.”

Exhibits like this one have been to the zoo before. A previous dinosaur exhibit resulted in a record 500,000 visits. Garza-Galvan said the zoo is hoping to break that record.

To help, a new outdoor environment for the zoo’s colony of Colobus monkeys is opening soon, and it’s just a short walk away from the special events where the dinosaur exhibit is housed.

Entrance to Dawn of the Dinosaurs costs $3 per person in addition to zoo admission and payable at the gate or the exhibit.