This past week, I got the wonderful opportunity to take myself to my local zoo. It was definitely a much needed time away and people watching is always a blast. The day I went was actually the nicest day weather wise. Many moms took their children and the zoo was busier than I expected. I’m glad they were getting a lot of local support.
There’s a lot of controversy when it comes to zoos. A lot of people don’t like the animals in cages or the enclosures really need work. I, for one, support zoos. I used to work at one. I saw how deeply the keepers care for their animals. Yes, the zoo I worked at had enclosures that were screaming for help, but the keepers do their best to make improvements and every time you go to a zoo, pay for a ticket, buy food, or ride the tram, you’re helping to improve those enclosures and make the zoo a better place for the animals.
During my day at the zoo, I made a lot of observations about animals and people alike. My local zoo has a lot of signs talking about the animals: species, diet, origin, habitat, and more. They even have signs dedicated to conservation telling how many are left in the wild, where they are on the endangered list, what’s being done to help them, and what visitors could do to help them. I stopped and read a lot of the different signs. I don’t remember what all of them said, but I remember being heartbroken when I realized that most of the species I looked at were critically endangered. Efforts are being done to save them, but if you have a favorite species, I recommend contributing how you can.
One observation I had at the zoo this week was how little people read the signs my zoo had in place. There were families who passed by entire exhibits and animals without taking a glance. Families take their kids to the zoo for a learning experience, but from what I saw, people were only there to look and pass by. An “okay, we saw it. Now, let’s move on.” Yeah. A lot of zoos have a lot of ground to cover and you can’t appreciate all the animals in one day, but if you slow down and take the time to learn about what you’re seeing, you gain a new appreciation for for the wonders of the world. Taking a day to learn about a few animals makes them easier to remember. Then, you can go the next day to learn about more. I didn’t make it to every area of my zoo this week. I ended up picking out my favorite animals and hitting up the keeper chats about them. I thought I knew a lot my favorite species, but from those chats I learned a lot more.
I wish I could properly write everything that I learned. I wish I could print out this fantastic article that teaches you all about the different species at the zoo, but what better way to learn about the zoo than by going yourself? Hit up the keepers. They LOVE talking about their animals. Learn the names of the animals alongside their species. As questions deeper than just the typical: What’s its species? What does it eat? Where does it live? Ask about that animal’s story. Where was it born? What are the plans for it? Is it retired or is it still a part of a breeding program? What’s its favorite enrichment? Does it mimic any behaviors that its cousins in the wild perform? Pick your favorite species and get to know the animal alongside the species. You can read textbooks and know everything there is to know about a species, but that doesn’t compare to knowing the individual. That’s definitely one of my favorite things about animals. Each one has its own personality, likes, and dislikes just like people do.
I may not be able to convince you to go support your local zoo, but I can share some fun facts that I learned during my day at the zoo. I’ll end this cute little article with them:
Fun Facts from the Zoo
- The cheetah featured in this post is named Rhaegal. He’s seven years old and has a brother named Viserion. They’re waiting to be selected to breed with cheetahs across the nation.
- Cheetahs are my favorite animals and I could fill up the fun facts with awesome facts about them, but I won’t. By the way, they can jump from 0 mph to 40 mph in a few seconds. Their top speed can reach up to 70 miles an hour.
- With COVID going on, primate keepers had to limit their contact with the monkeys and apes they cared for. The chimpanzee keepers at my zoo are just now starting to be able to train them again; however, they have to be fully vaccinated, wear the latest masks, and wear face shields.
- The Amur Leopard is the rarest leopard in the world. It originates from Russia and there are only about 80 of them left.
- All zoos across the nation work together to care for different species. The Species Survival Plan helps to coordinate which animal breeding pairs would benefit the future of a species. The plan does not pull animals from the wild as they don’t know that animal’s history.
- The Scimitar Horned Oryx was actually extinct in the wild. However, zoo breeding programs were able to rebuild the population in captivity. A reservation in Africa was set up and some oryxes (all tagged with trackers) were released onto it. The population is slowly growing and becoming sustainable.
- Lions can go weeks without eating in the wild. As long as they gorge on a kill every once in a while, they’re good.
- Male lions only live to about 12 years in the wild. The manes they grow are based on their testosterone levels. The higher their testosterone, the thicker their mane. The mane acts like armor around their necks. Young lions in their prime will have thicker manes and fight older lions with thinning manes for control of their prides. The male lion serves as the protector of the pride with his much larger frame while the slimmer, lighter females do all the hunting. A male lion on his own will have about a 5% success rate while hunting. Some older, male lions will form coalitions in order to lengthen their survival.
- Chimpanzees are endangered due to habitat loss. The area in Africa in which they live is rich with a metal used in cell phones. Their habitats are being destroyed due to humans mining for that metal. You can help save the chimpanzees’ habitat by recycling your old cell phones. You can drop them off at your local zoo or return them to the store.
- Animals that pass away in zoos are studied for caused of death. Stem cells are collected from them for the future of the species.