I love watching animals, which is why I’ve always been thrilled by a trip to the zoo. Because I grew up in Washington, DC, my first memories are of the National Zoo. But even back then, I wondered why the poor bears were in such small cages.
In recent years, there have been major improvements in zoo management. One recent trend is for zoos to have fewer species while providing better habitats for the ones they have. On a recent trip to the National Zoo, I found that—wait for it—the only animals in the elephant house are elephants. Previously there were also pigmy hippos and giraffes. Those have been sent to other zoos, and the building has been expanded so that the elephants have a much bigger indoor area and a fabulous outdoor playground complete with a pool.
The best example of zoo management I’ve seen recently is the Bronx Zoo, which we visited with friends after the Thrillerfest Conference last month. I wanted to see it because of “The Zoo” on Animal Planet which is filmed there.
It’s amazing to find this large space in the middle of New York City. If you’re planning to go, get tickets online beforehand, and be sure to include the package of special attractions so you don’t have to pay for them on an individual basis. And be prepared for a lot of walking. If you don’t want to hoof it, you can rent an electric cart as our friends did, but you will get to places where there are a lot of stairs, and you will have to backtrack and circle around. We loved the bears, seals, gorillas and baboons, especially the young baboons who were having a wonderful time playing.
There are many great animal enclosures, but some are obscured by shrubbery which limits your viewing opportunities. There are a number of things that we wished they’d handled better for the human visitors. For example, we decided to have lunch at the Asia area where there are plenty of outside tables (some with umbrellas) but no real roof. Unfortunately, it was raining off and on, and we got pretty wet while we ate. Luckily it was a very warm day, and we did dry out. Definitely take the monorail through Asia, where you will see an elephant and mostly hoofed animals. (Yes, there’s a tiger, but he was hiding.) We also walked to Tiger Mountain, where we saw only one tiger lying in the grass behind a tree. As my friend said, next time we’ll try to see the big cats early before they take their afternoon naps. The zoo is big, and you probably can’t see everything in one day, so use the map and make a plan. If I’d known there wasn’t much to see on Tiger Mountain, I would have skipped it and visited the petting zoo instead. Yeah, I’m a sucker for petting cuddly animals.
Do you like zoos? Why or why not?
NY Times & USA Today best-seller, Rebecca York, is the author of over 150 books. She has written paranormal romantic thrillers for Berkley and romantic thrillers for Harlequin Intrigue. Her new romantic-suspense series, Decorah Security, is set at a detective agency where agents have paranormal powers or work paranormal cases. She also writes an Off-World series where each story is a science fiction romance taking place on a distant planet in the far future.