Saturday, September 03, 2005

Zoo Ramble

I had my interview for the aquarium a bit over a week ago. One of the questions that was asked was how do I feel about Zoos? Well, within reason I certainly can appreciate them, within reason. I like a well maintained zoo with the animals in enclosures that closely relate to their natural environment and plenty of room to move, especially run.

I got the opportunity to visit the San Diego Wildlife park. THAT is a fantastic environment. True, as a tourist you can't get too close to the animals. Although, with planning you can take what they call their photo safari and go straight through one of the enclosures. They'll feed the animals, you can take your pictures up close. I didn't get the chance to do this one as the kids have to be at least 8 years old to go.

I've also visited the Knoxville Zoo. I'm not as impressed with this one. I know they've done a lot of improvements and they're still working on it. I'll give them the credit for that. But to have a pair of condors in a cage that does not allow them to fully extend their wings, that's just wrong (even if technically they could, it didn't look like it to me). Their cat enclosures need work as well. It's nice being able to get a little closer to them, but the enclosures themselves are small and little to enrich the cats there.

A bit closer to home, there's what my kids call the "small zoo", which is the Yellow River Game Ranch. This place does a lot of rescues of local animals (deer, rabbit, and such) and do a good job. However, I really don't like ANY of their enclosures except what they have for the deer.. most of the does wander the park free. They have an "old time" bear pit, concrete, with a cage attached for the bears to move in to. Not a lot of space in any of them. People can throw apples and such down to the bears and watch them eat. The bobcat cage is 5 times taller than it is wide in diagonal (it's a circle). The poor cats in there can't run, just climb somewhat. I'll admit this group does the best it can with what it has, but it's still not enough in my opinion.

Having grown up in Atlanta, I remember Zoo Atlanta when it had the concrete bear enclosures. I'd watch the bears scratch their backs on a concrete corner. Since then the Zoo has done MAJOR improvements on their setup. The concrete bear area is long gone, replaced by an educational center and green space. The gorillas are no longer in little rooms, they have their natural areas to wander in. I'd love to see them increase the size of the tiger and lion enclosures, but the area they created for the pandas is great. See my post here for Zoo Atlanta pics.

So I guess my opinion of zoos is mixed. I love seeing the animals I'd never get the chance to see otherwise, but I'd really like to see them taken care of as best we can. They didn't ask to be put on display, but for some of them it's the only way to ensure their survival.

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