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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.
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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.
But back to our zoo day. The first exhibit we visited was the Harbor Seals. 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.
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Then we visited the Meerkats who resembled flashers as they warmed their bodies in the morning sun.
Did you know flamingos are born grey and white? I didn’t either. They turn pink from eating shrimp and carrots.
They also lay conical-shaped eggs so they don’t roll out of the nest.
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…..
There’s only so much my five and seven-year-olds can take since they’re not picturing bathtubs and catastrophes with runaway animals….so we got to the gorillas just in time.
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!)
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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 of 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.
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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.
When You Go
Check your traffic app, because, you know. LA!
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