The Chattanooga Zoo is now participating in the national Blue Star Museums program. They are joining the Hunter Museum of American Art which was already involved.

Military personnel and up to five family members may visit the zoo for free this summer through Labor Day in September.

The Blue Stars Museums program is a collaboration among the National Endowment for the Arts, Blue Star Families, and the Department of Defense to offer free admission.

The Chattanooga Zoo already had a military discount available, but they wanted to say thank you in an even bigger way to military members.

"Free admission for someone who falls into that category of veteran, active duty, and for this one National Guard and Reserve, so we reached out and included that and five family members. So, that is a really generous discount," said Darde Long, CEO & President of the Chattanooga Zoo.

The zoo is proud to join this national program.

Long said it holds special significance to participate during the summer months after the terror attack in Chattanooga in July 2015 which killed 5 service members.

"It's kind of a nice thing to do, and we're really proud. I'm proud of the zoo crew for taking that on. It's really not hard to do at all, just a little bit less revenue," Long thoughtfully stated.

The zoo is participating in order to say thank you.

"This great promotion is actually going to last through September 2nd, so we want to encourage all of our military and Reserve families to come out and enjoy the zoo and see some of the wonderful things going on. Share the progress that is going on with the giraffe exhibit, and just enjoy seeing some of the animals soaking up the warm sun," encouraged Long.

To join in the zoo fun, it is easy to take advantage of the free admission.

"If you want to qualify for it, just like with most places, you just bring your military ID and present that at the ticket booth, and they'll take care of it from there," Long said.         

The zoo has a wide selection of animal species from around the world. A few animals, especially those native to colder climates, do struggle in the summer heat.

"Sometimes it is harder to get a glimpse of our snow leopards or red pandas. The red pandas have an indoor exhibit area, so you can usually catch them. But, if it is hot, like really hitting 90s, we open up the access door, so the snow leopards can go into an air-conditioned building," Long explained about keeping the animals cool.         

Even for animals native to North America, you may find them hiding in the shade.

Fans and misters are used for cooling, and many animals have access to pools or rocks cooled by water, too.

The Chattanooga Zoo is open daily from 9AM to 5PM. Visit their website for a schedule of all their events.