“I saw an alligator. He was sleepytime and he did NOT say RAWR!”
Just one of the many snippets of conversation I overheard between my toddler and and a random woman sitting beside us on the tram. It all started when she asked him if he was having fun at the zoo…she then got a full dissertation on every animal we’d seen so far that day. I kept my mouth shut and just listened to his renditions of our experience, as his perspective is always fascinating. He informed her that the baboons had pink-bottoms, the elephants have dirty ears, and that he saw camels just like the Wise Men had. He told her about the zookeeper swimming around the fish tank feeding the fishies “salad.” His eyes got really big when he explained that Mommy had to hold him when we saw the tiger because it was “a little bit scary.” And I couldn’t help but smile when he announced that a giraffe says, “Neigh.” (Not sure where that one came from?!?)
In case you hadn’t figured it out, our family went to the zoo last weekend! Like most adventures in our household, it was somewhat spur of the moment – but it worked out great and fun times were had by all! Lucky for us we’ve got two very nice zoos within a day trip’s distance of us – the NC Zoo in Asheboro, NC, and the Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia, SC. Hubby and I had been to the NC Zoo about a million times growing up, but never to the one in Columbia. A friend of ours recommended it, saying that his kids enjoyed it more because although it was much smaller, there were less crowds and it was more interactive. The thought of a new place intrigued us, and after realizing Columbia was 30 minutes closer, we were sold.
Our day trip gave us a perfect opportunity to try out the new Chariot Chinook we recently received from Women’s Adventure Magazine for review, as well as the new Smashbox sent to us by Eco-vessel. (Both were hits, so stay tuned for upcoming reviews) We could not have asked for any better weather (sunny and 60?!?), and happily frolicked the day away with a bunch of furry friends. As a climber, my favorite part was watching the gibbons “brachiate” – in climbing terms, campusing through their habitat, in layman’s terms, swinging arm over arm through the trees. As a Mommy, my favorite moment was watching C’s excitement grow as we went from one exhibit to the next. There were several interactive exhibits throughout the park, our favorites being the Nectar-Feeding with the Lorikeets, and the “Salad”-Feeding with the Giraffes (it was actually lettuce, but try convincing C of that…). The reptile collection was very impressive, with everything from two giant anacondas to a green mamba, to a group of beautiful gaboon vipers. We ended up paying a couple of extra bucks for the “rides” – a carousel and a choo-choo train, but the nice thing was that parents rode for free with the younger kiddos. Throw in a giant bowl of Dippin’ Dots with 3 spoons, and we ended up with a wonderful family day together!
As a self-proclaimed “nature dork,” I have so many fond memories of going to the zoo as a child, but as an adult, I can understand the controversy. Wild animals were not designed to live their lives in a cage. Even in optimal conditions with plenty of funding, it can be very difficult to meet the needs of many zoo animals, especially larger ones (an elephant may roam up to 30 miles per day in the African grasslands). However, zoos do much to promote awareness of conservation issues, and sometimes provide homes to abandoned or orphaned animals that otherwise might not have a home. Not to mention that many zoo breeding programs deserve much credit for increasing populations of animals that were once on the brink of extinction. Obviously a lot of this is dependent on each particular zoo – certainly not all are created equal. That being said, what is YOUR take on zoos? Do you see them as an educational activity for your family to enjoy, or an exercise in cruelty that is far from what Mother Nature intended? It’s a slippery slope and I can see both sides, so I’d love to hear other opinions…