When is a zoo not a zoo? A zoo is not a zoo when it’s an animal sanctuary! Also sometimes called “animal conservations,” these are facilities in which captive wildlife are protected within a broad outdoor location that is as close as possible to their natural habitat.

Better yet, some of these sanctuaries afford opportunities for people to visit and get an up-close look at magnificent creatures, such as bears, chimpanzees, and wild horses.

Some of the top sanctuaries in the United States are:

The Wild Animal Sanctuary, Keenesburg, Colorado

This amazing conservation has more than 650 bears, lions, wolves, and tigers. Located about 30 miles from Denver, the Wild Animal Sanctuary features a wonderful 1.5-mile walkway that gets you close – but at a safe enough distance – from some of nature’s most ferocious predators. 

The facility sprawls across 750 acres. You can listen to an audio narration of this refuge on your smartphone while you walk through it.

Chimp Haven, Keithville, Louisiana

Chimp Haven is a short distance southwest of Shreveport, a conservation area where chimpanzees live happy lives in their natural environment. These chimps have been rescued from cruel research facilities. More than 300 chimps make up the population at Chimp Haven, which provides them with 200 acres. It is open to the public three times per year during “Chimpanzee Discovery Days.” Google the facilities website for further information.

Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary, Hot Springs, South Dakota

Wild horses once roamed free across American land. However, continued commercial land development by ranchers, urban sprawl, and other factors have pushed the natural habitat of horses to the brink.

That’s why this wide-open space for horses to run free was established by an Oregon rancher. He chose South Dakota because of the availability of thousands of open acres ideal for horses to thrive upon.

You can schedule a photo tour or a three-hour guided tour that ranges cross-country by appointment with the staff. Overnight stay facilities are available in the form of rustic cabins. Camping sites and hook-ups for RVs are also on hand.

Animal Place, Grass Valley, California

This northern California location of 600 acres features farm animals, such as pigs, cows, goats, and chickens. It’s a haven for once-neglected farm critters who can now be viewed happy and enjoy their retirement in a beautiful location. Two-hour guided tours are available.