Zoo Guilt

I LOVE going to the zoo.  As a child in Chicago, I was a big fan of Lincoln Park Zoo.  Brookfield Zoo was probably bigger, but as I remember it, there was a lot more concrete.  Lincoln Park was parky (duh).  It had lots of trees and plants and a fantastic baby animal nursery where you could see the newborns through glass like you would in a hospital.  Baby Animals = Little Girl Nirvana, in case you didn’t know.

My husband and I visited the Houston Zoo occasionally.  Good zoo but somehow we always seemed to visit on the hottest day on the planet.  When the kids came along in Austin, we visited the San Antonio Zoo and had some truly memorable encounters with meerkats and a 3 foot tall crested bird which decided to investigate our son’s stroller.  As it stood up on the front rail of his stroller, the entire room fell silent.  The excitement of the close encounter and the fear that this bird could at any moment lean down and remove some important bit from Russell, our one-year-old, took our collective breath away.  Russell, an outgoing fellow who never met a stranger,  displayed his blossoming intellect by keeping still as a statue and dead silent.  Good boy!  All bits are still intact to this day (knock wood).
Living in rural Tennessee, we are fortunate to have a wonderful zoo an hour away in Memphis.  My favorite thing to do with my class each year is our field trip.  Many of them have never been there before.  We preview our trip by looking at photos from previous trips and checking out the “panda cam” a few weeks before.
Once we arrive the “newbies” are absolutely overcome.  At first they stand wide-eyed and open-mouthed in the Cat Country exhibit.  Then they realize that there’s lots more to see and they start to zip back and forth between exhibits (God bless parent chaperons).  It’s a challenge to keep them moving together but give them enough time to have a good look.  The memories from this trip last all year.
Of course, as much as I like the zoo, I am still overcome with guilt.  Zoos have come a long way since the cement room and metal bar days, but the animals are still captive, safe, but captive.  While it’s important for my students to see animals up close and in person, maybe someday there will be a better way.  I suddenly feel the urge to collect zoo and webcam sites.  Actually, I’d like to go to the zoo, but it’s 9:00 p.m. and the lion sleeps tonight.  Weeeeee weee oh a wee mum mum  away.

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Published in: on May 31, 2009 at 2:07 am  Leave a Comment  
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