09 March 2007

The Zoo

One of the advantages to moving around "all the time" is getting to see so many different things. We get to see the differences within the American culture, and actually experience them. Maybe our government officials should be required to do this... then they might be able to understand why people in different parts of the country feel the way they do!
But I digress....
One of the disadvantages of moving around is that you never know what to expect. You try to gather information from advertising and local opinions to decide on what to go do.

Well, we heard about a free day at the zoo, and we were really excited about it! We talked to people about the zoo, and they were as excited about the free day as we were. We looked up the zoo online, and found that they had a website, and devoured all the information on it. We became really excited after that! They are a nationally accredited zoo by the AZA(Association of Zoos and Aquariums). That sounds really impressive! They participate in conservation programs, have classes to teach locals about the animals in their zoo, conservation, indigenous animals, and so much more. They had a wide range of animals including our favorites...elephants, penguins, lions, bears... We were delighted, as the zoo in Las Vegas, NV was a miserable, small zoo where the animals seemed to sit lethargically and cry at the people walking past them.

Zoo day came, we got up early, and found our way to the zoo. People were coming and going, we headed in and stopped at the water fountain just inside the entrance to get our bearings. We planned out our route on the zoo map, making sure that we would visit all our favorite animals first, and quibbled over the order of things.

Our first disappointment was that the zoo train was not running. I promised the kids that we would ride the train the next time we came to the zoo. So, we decided to check out the "Duck Pond" instead. And here we find our second disappointment, one of the birds was frozen to the pond. We stood there for a few minutes listening to the pitiful cry of the bird with its foot frozen in the pond, and the cries of its mate circling it trying to encourage it.... Maybe we should have left then.

First on our list to visit was the elephants, and a quick trip through the butterfly house on the way to them. Since it was cold, we were looking forward to the trip through the Butterfly house! Next disappointment. The Butterfly house was closed, and peering through the greenhouse windows, we did not see any fluttering.... Oh well. On to the elephants! We love elephants! When we went to see the Ringling Bros. circus last year (twice) we had to go sit by the elephants in their housing area and watch them for the whole time allowed! So on to the zoo elephants we go... no time limits! YEAH! And no elephants! Another disappointment. No lions, no bears, two zebras in a space smaller than our back yard, and then we came to the penguins.

Well, the penguin pool was empty (and pitifully small to our thinking), but we walked around the building and found a small window that we could peer into were we actually found PENGUINS! They had a bucket to get wet in, and their "pen" looked like it hadn't been cleaned out in weeks and was full of muck. They were sad, sorry things that hardly moved. They looked like they had given up; they were worse than lethargic. We started to cry, and had to move on.

We thought about giving up and going home at this point, but surely there were some animals somewhere in the zoo! And hopefully they were the ones being treated well! (I promised my youngest we would go see the penguins in the Flamingo casino in Las Vegas, NV again soon. We had a great time at that exhibit! I have some great , and not so great, pictures from there too! We would plan a weekend trip and go see some of our favorite things within a couple of months.) And then we moved on...

The giraffes were inside, and in individual pens hardly big enough for them to turn around in...and the smell! Well, we left there quickly, and went on to the Asian Highlands!

We had higher hopes for this exhibit! Asian Highlands is the brand new showcase exhibit that was just opening. But, they had only one tiger, and once again I was concerned by the size of the pen...(But, then I remembered my Mom saying to me, "Remember, you have seen some of the best museums, zoo, and aquarium in the world. You are not going to see the same quality in other places in the country." I grew up in Chicago. Brookfield Zoo is what I think of when I think "zoo".) So, I kept my concerns to myself, and the kids and I talked about all the positive things about the exhibit... and then the boys brought up how small the exhibit was. Who knew that a 4 and 6 yo would know these things!... So, we talked about how on Zoo Tycoon the animals were so much happier with a larger exhibit, but they would survive in a quite small one. But the motto in our house is "thrive, not survive"...and they were left with a distasteful feeling about the zoo planners.

Next we went into "Grandma's Cottage", which turned out to be decorated in an Asian highlands style, and provided a viewing place for the Amur Leopards. (I'm pretty sure that is what they were... no plaques letting us know for sure!) But there was a zookeeper there telling people about the cats... they had three babies, no adults, so there was lots of "oohh, awwww, they're so cute!" Well the zookeeper was telling the people that normally males will not live together, but since these were cubs, they were hoping that they would be able to house them together still when they got older.... well, anyone with any brains who knows anything about animals and their social structures.... I will leave that rant for another day! Then he was telling people that they were pretty sure that the three brothers were establishing a pecking order, and they thought that the one he pointed to was the top cat. The boys snickered... well, I guess they have grown up around cats, and we do often seems to take in strays, help them regain their health and friendliness before finding them new homes...so they do have a bit of experience with cats establishing a pecking order... the pecking order of the leopards was obvious to us! We started to explore the "cottage", and the kids started to question things and point out faults in the decor almost immediately! (We had been studying a bit about China for the Chinese New Year.) We talked with the zookeeper about the decor, but we were more knowledgeable than he about the decor indigenous to that region. He did allow us to take down the singing bowls and showed us how to play them. That was the highlight of the day!

Well, we did continue around the rest of the zoo in hopes of finding animals (there were so few animals in the exhibits, that our joke of the day was about whether the zoo had any animals!), and perhaps seeing some of their conservation programs in action. But alas, we did not find any happy animals, we did not see any conservation efforts, and we left disappointed and with a bad taste in our mouths, mourning the poor creatures who had been left to "survive" in this zoo. We all agreed that the zoo we had visited back in the Phoenix area, The World Wildlife Zoo (which is privately owned), is still the best zoo we have seen. (The kids have not been to Brookfield yet, but I am resolved that they will after this experience!) Although I have to admit that the casinos in Las Vegas come in second for animal presentation and care! Such thought and planning went into those exhibits! And who would ever have thought that animal care and conservation would be more important to the casinos in Las Vegas, than the people in Utah! How Strange! Life is full of surprises!

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