(This arti­cle may or may not con­tain affil­i­ate links. What does that mean?)

I’m not real­ly a zoo per­son. I want to get excit­ed about the ani­mals and the obscure, rare ana­con­das crawl­ing around the oth­er creepy bugs ~ but I know if I actu­al­ly encoun­tered those things in the wild, I’d prob­a­bly step on them. Or throw some­thing at them since I’d prob­a­bly be too busy scream­ing to get close enough to do that. Plus, in the back of my mind, I’m think­ing about those under­cov­er expose’s of how these poor cap­tive ani­mals get abused. Or maybe that’s the cir­cus but regard­less, now I have kids and for them, I’ll pre­tend to be excit­ed. I want them to be excit­ed about nature and wildlife. I want them to grow up and feel a sense of respon­si­bil­i­ty to pro­tect and pre­serve as much of that nat­ur­al life as pos­si­ble so the cor­po­ra­tions don’t take them all away. So when I got an invi­ta­tion from LA Par­ent to attend a pri­vate show­case of some exhibits accom­pa­nied with behind the scenes zookeep­er tours, I real­ly did get excit­ed. Excit­ed enough to dri­ve from Agoura Hills to the LA Zoo on a Sat­ur­day morn­ing to be there by 8:30. But they were kind enough to feed us break­fast first so that was one thing I could cross off the morn­ing to-do list.



muffins for break­fast!? woohoo! 



why are you tak­ing a pic­ture of me eating?


We start­ed with intro­duc­tions from the zoo pres­i­dent, Karen B. Win­nick, and zoo direc­tor, John R. Lewis that talked about the pro­grams we could expect in the near future. San­ta and his rein­deer came in Decem­ber, of course, for a Rein­deer Romp. It’s actu­al­ly a good oppor­tu­ni­ty to use your kid’s inter­est in Christ­mas to learn tid­bits about the real ani­mals who will be vis­it­ing the zoo start­ing Decem­ber. We’ll have to keep it in mind for next year. There will also be a promis­ing sound­ing night­time event called LA Zoo lights in Decem­ber. I’m sure we’ll be schlep­ping back there for that too because ani­mals at night sur­round­ed by lasers and light shows sounds too good to pass up.



they fed us so we listened


But what is com­ing up soon is the Big Bun­ny Spring Fling from March 25th to March 27th 10am-4pm. All Bun­ny activ­i­ties are free with paid zoo admis­sion, except for Bun­ny pho­tos, of course, but they promise those will be afford­able. But back to our zoo day. The first exhib­it we vis­it­ed was the Har­bor Seals. I guess these are the guys you see around the ports swim­ming around the big car­go ships. Appar­ent­ly, many of them are blind because they get cataracts in the wild…maybe from all the ocean pollution?.…and the ones that get injured or are obvi­ous­ly impaired, get brought to zoos and live in the lap of lux­u­ry sur­round­ed by admir­ing chil­dren and fed a dai­ly diet of sar­dines and fried cala­mari. No. Prob­a­bly not fried but it sounds yum­my to this Russ­ian girl! Not so much to her Amer­i­can hub­by. Jes­si­ca, the keep­er who takes care of these guys said, Alfred the cur­rent occu­pant is blind but uses his whiskers like fin­gers to “see” what’s around him. Alfred’s off­spring were also born with vision prob­lems but because they were lucky enough to have access to the great vets at the zoo, their vision was restored after cataracts surgery. Jes­si­ca thinks of these guys as her babies since she does­n’t have any babies of her own. At least she’s not get­ting up in the mid­dle of the night to change dia­pers or nurse them, but that’s sweet that she’s so fond of them.



you can kin­da see the sea lions behind these hand­some guys if you squint


Then we vis­it­ed the Meerkats who resem­bled flash­ers as they warmed their bod­ies in the morn­ing sun.



watch out! it’s the police!


Did you know flamin­gos are born grey and white? I did­n’t either. They turn pink from eat­ing shrimp and carrots.



put anoth­er shrimp on the bar­bie dahling!


They also lay con­i­cal-shaped eggs so they don’t roll out of the nest.



yep, that’s an egg


That seems so prac­ti­cal. I won­der why the oth­er birds don’t do that? Oh wait…… Tomis­tomas are in the croc­o­dile fam­i­ly so no one is cud­dling up with them. I thought the most inter­est­ing thing about them is they grow their entire lives. They may not be the per­fect pet but I feel the sprin­kles of a good chil­dren’s sto­ry here….maybe some­thing to do with a bathtub…..



I am very big and scary


There’s only so much my five and sev­en year old can take since they’re not pic­tur­ing bath­tubs and cat­a­stro­phes with run­away animals….so we got to the goril­las just in time.



Goril­las! Cool!


Turns out goril­las are veg­e­tar­i­ans. We arrived at feed­ing time and got to see their healthy array of leafy greens, fen­nel, and onion being thrown over the wall to them. They walked around clutch­ing their prizes and sat in the shade to devour their good­ies. Their bul­bous bel­lies leave plen­ty of room for all the gas that is pro­duced by their diet. Mom­ma would be proud of their healthy choic­es (though she might not be able to sit in the same room for too long!)



Not much hunt­ing going on here



no, you can­not have any!


One cutie pie walked around with his blanky cov­er­ing his back. He would stop every so often and cud­dle with it like a typ­i­cal tod­dler. Such a sweet, lit­tle 400 pound marshmallow! 




Final­ly, we vis­it­ed what promised to be the Ele­phant Enrich­ment Cen­ter. Now, when I think of ele­phants, zoos and cir­cus­es, I think abuse. Maybe it’s the over sen­sa­tion­al­ized main­stream media look­ing for sto­ries — but I don’t think so. I think through­out his­to­ry, those flop­py eared pachy­derms have got­ten pret­ty worked by those tak­ing advan­tage of their sweet natures. Read Water for Ele­phants if you don’t believe me. But this expe­ri­ence promised to be dif­fer­ent. We joined a crowd of peo­ple mute­ly watch­ing what appeared to be an ele­phant in the midst of get­ting a pedicure.




Well. I wait­ed and watched and lis­tened to the keep­er telling us about how impor­tant it was to get the mud out from between the ele­phan­t’s hoofs and how the keep­ers metic­u­lous­ly washed the bot­toms of their legs and scrubbed them clean and it remind­ed me that I had­n’t had a pedi­cure in quite some time and I put that on my list of things to do in the near future.




These ele­phants did­n’t look like they were being abused so I left feel­ing reas­sured and long­ing for a foot rub. Next, we vis­it­ed the lions because you can’t go to the zoo and not see the lions.


You might also enjoy: 7 Ways to Sur­vive Trav­el­ing With Kids 




Since we were on our own at this point (the tour had end­ed with the goril­las) there was­n’t any­one telling us any nifty facts about the lions so I tried to read the signs attached to the enclo­sures to edu­cate my chil­dren, who at this point were more con­cerned with the water guns being sold by the ven­dors lin­ing the paths around the zoo. Come on! I was try­ing to make up in vol­ume what they lacked in enthu­si­asm for lion triv­ia.  I final­ly had to use the water pis­tols as lever­age to main­tain calm until my wild ani­mals reached the exit. Every­one made it out alive and they want­ed to come back. I call that success.



they only look tame


When You Go

Check your traf­fic app, because, you know. LA!



The Los Angeles Zoo is an unexpectedly enriching place to bring your kids on a Los Angeles day trip with your kids. Tons of docents lead you through what the animal's lives look like in the wild.