I am a fan of zoos. A zoo enthusiast. A large part of the reason I was interested in a graduate degree in physical anthropology was the dream that one day I would be at a zoo and they would page a primatologist. They would say “Doctor, thank God you are here, someone *must* feed this baby monkey with a bottle!” I would acquiesce, don my lab coat, and roll up my sleeves. Sometimes, in the dream, the baby monkey wears a bonnet.
At any rate, I love zoos. Especially foreign zoos. I don’t consider them places of cruelty, but places of conservation, of gentle and important research, of fun. I’d like to say that zoos give a view into how a society views and treats animals, a glimpse into the behavior of local school groups, families, and couples (as a zoo may be a tourist attraction, but is rarely touristy). But really, I just love animals. Especially apes and monkeys. And bears. And llamas. And elephants.
Some of my favorite zoos:
Opportunistic gibbons and obscene zebra in Santiago, Chile:
Ominousness in Dublin, Ireland:
Not forgetting the US, Philadelphia is pretty tops:
The stellar Memphis Zoo, one of the few which has my favorite primate, the hippy bonobo (as a pronunciation reminder, I say “Get to KNOW the boNObo!”):
San Diego may get all the attention with its flashy exhibits and plethora of animals, but my money is on Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo as my favorite in the US. With a top-notch monkey house, chimps and gorillas, and assorted other quality exhibits, it is best of all, free.
Tomorrow I leave for Berlin and Zurich, both of which have world-class zoos, and even though I hear that Knut the Polar Bear is not so young and cute anymore, I have learned that there is a brand-new baby gorilla at the Berlin Zoo. Maybe someone will need to give her a bottle.
*This is one of my favorite phrases in Italian, primarily for the pronunciation. It means “the zoo” but is pronounced “ts-oh” rather than “zoo.” It also uses the lesser-used “lo” article instead of the common “il” or “la,” making for a nice combination of halting vowels and affricate consonants. Try it, you’ll like it. Andiamo lo zoo!