One of my favorite places to photograph exotic animals is the St. Louis Zoo. Since I cannot remotely afford any type of African safari, I found the zoo the be an excellent challenge to try and get good photographs and not make them look like they were taken in a zoo. This really forces you to look for backgrounds and shooting angles that will give you a natural look. Luckily the St. Louis Zoo is a world class zoo with many modern and open exhibits. The above shot of this Western Lowland Gorilla was taken in an outdoor open air exhibit. We were seperated by a moat. The best part of shooting at the zoo is not needing a monster telephoto lens. Usually a lens in the 70-200mm range with an extender will cover most shooting situations.
The Grevy's Zebra photo I converted to a high contrast B&W in Photoshop. On the Grizzly Bear photo I used a fountain spraying water to create the background for that photo. The Amur Tiger below came to the edge of the moat and laid down giving me direct eye contact and a nice natural background. I continue to return to the zoo often to practice and find new animals to photograph. Here is a link to the zoo.