I love going to the zoo with my kids. There are people who think we’re a little nuts for how often we go to the zoo. It’s not always the same zoo, at least not anymore, but we are still at the zoo at least once every couple of months. Many times when we travel for vacation we will visit the local zoo, but not always. We did hit up the zoo in Edinburgh recently, but we skipped zoos in Amsterdam, London, and almost everywhere we’ve been in Germany. Not sure why.
Last weekend we made another trip to a zoo, driving two and a half hours to see Burgers Zoo in the Netherlands. (If you’re counting, yes that makes two zoos this month.) Between the zoo and homework I got a little behind posting, but the trip was definitely worth it.
1) The animal variation can be fun.
I’ll be honest, I don’t even remember what this guy is. We saw him at a zoo near Eindhoven in the Netherlands, and he made me happy. There was a cool structure of logs that allowed him to climb from his pen area across a walkway to a tree and another pen space. He just looked so relaxed up there.
Every zoo has a different mix of animals. Most of the zoos I have visited in the USA have the same animals; lion, tiger, giraffe, zebra, and a variety of monkeys and birds. It’s not that there aren’t ever any other animals, it’s just usually within the same range, depending on the size of the zoo. Zoos in other countries have animals that almost seem normal to me. In Okinawa we saw deer and horses. In several of the European zoos we have seen raccoons. None of these seem like ‘zoo’ animals to me, but it is fun to think of how different the world is. Animals that seem common place to me are actually exotic in other areas of the world.
2) There are still some animals I have never seen.
This little guy came from the Edinburgh zoo. I had never seen a koala before. I know koalas can be a little vicious when provoked, but they look so cute and cuddly. It was amazing to see them being cared for. A few weeks earlier I had seen a sloth for the first time in Antwerp, and fell in love with him.
I was a bit disappointed to discover that while Edinburgh had panda bears, they were by appointment only and we were not able to see them. I technically understood; as a couple they were attempting to breed, it is understandable that they would want to keep them from being too harassed. I realized, while I have seen many pandas in photographs, I’m not sure I have ever seen one in real life. It can be shocking how familiar I am with something I have never encountered.
3) Zoos almost always have sunshine, shade, and a little bit of a relaxing walk.
While at Burgers zoo, we happened to be there just in time to see them letting these guys inside to get some shade and cool air. We had just gone around the corner from spotting a gorilla munching on leaves and arrived at the larger viewing area. There were four or five Mama’s with babies clinging to either the front or back, all walking towards the door (another cool thing I had never seen before). As they walked in, the big silverback stood guard. He watched them go in, looked around as though checking to see if anyone was missing, and then went in himself.
A little while later we made it just in time to see reindeer running over to eat. Last year we happened upon a mama deer giving birth in the zoo (which freaked out Little One, as she was afraid for a few minutes she might poop out a baby one day). Walking around the zoo, you get to relax, see fun moments of animal life you might not have been expecting.
4) Some zoos are depressing.
No, there is no picture for this. It’s not that I haven’t been to small, depressing zoos because I have. I’ve seen the pens where the animals can hardly move. I’ve seen animals that simply lay there, as though they don’t have the will to even try to go anywhere. These zoos break my heart because this is not how animals are meant to live. When I go to the zoo, I want to see a small slice of how their life might be in the wild, not see creatures in small cages. No one wants to see those pictures.
I’m not an animal rights activist, but there are some zoos that I don’t go to. I know some need the money more than others. Some of these zoos would get more space if they were able. But some zoos just don’t care for their animals as they should. They don’t give them the space and freedom they need or they kill off surplus animals. I might not be able to change that, but I also will not support them.
5) Many zoos also serve as animal rescue centers.
Many zoos keep a wide variety of animals that need a little help for survival. Edinburgh has a large number of endangered animals, kept in nice pens where they can be protected, studied, and possibly breed. A wonderful zoo near Eindhoven has a large bear rescue center, where bears are nursed back to health and cared for. Some of these bears come from abusive performance acts, such as the circus.
Most of the time, the bad aspects of the zoo make the news, such as small cages and limited movement. It is no where near often enough that the zoos that are charging a viewing fee to help fund animal rescue efforts get the spotlight. It is important to remember, that not all zoos are created equal and boycotting all places that keep animals away from the wild can at times interfere with necessary animal preservation efforts. A little research, and a person can have a fun day with the family, and help out animals at the same time.