I remember loving the zoo when I was growing up in California. My parents bought an annual family membership to the San Diego Zoo and we generally used it several times per year. Like many children, I was most fascinated by the large, exotic mammals: elephants, rhinos, giraffes, zebras, and lions. And pandas. Definitely pandas.
My parents thought it was important to take us to the zoo for the educational component. With each visit, my mother would ensure we saw the polar bears and the penguins. Then, she would instruct us to read those informational plaques about their respective habitats. She was very concerned that we might mistakenly believe that polar bears and penguins lived in the same habitat. You know, on account of those cheerful but misleading Coca-Cola commercials.
But then, he learned that the national zoo had a Komodo Dragon. He'd never seen a Komodo Dragon in person, and was excited by the prospect. Suddenly, the vacation didn't seem so boring. During the entire road trip from New Jersey to D.C., he learned as much as he could about the Komodo Dragon. By the time they arrived in D.C., he was a Komodo Dragon expert: he knew what they ate, where they lived, how large they could get, how long they lived, etc.
When his family visited the national zoo, they made a beeline for the Komodo Dragon enclosure. Mr. W. could barely contain his enthusiasm. But something was very wrong. The Komodo Dragon enclosure was...empty. Instead, there was a sign that read, "Komodo Dragon is currently on loan to another zoo. We apologize for the inconvenience."
Mr. W. was devastated. For all his tough-guy exterior, he's really a softie. He was heartbroken that he still wouldn't get to see the Komodo Dragon. As I'm sure you can imagine, the rest of the week in D.C. really was the Worst Vacation Ever.
Fast forward fifteen years.
On Saturday, Mr. W. and I went to the Turtle Back Zoo. As with the miniature golf course that I featured in last week's post, this zoo is county-owned. We had been to Turtle Back before, but were looking forward to some of the newly opened exhibits.
One of these new exhibits included a Komodo Dragon who was, thankfully, NOT on loan to another zoo.
I've been to a few regional zoos similar to Turtle Back. Here are some things that I like about these smaller-scale zoos:
- Very affordable ticket prices ($11 per adult at Turtle Back. By comparison, the San Diego Zoo currently charges $44. The national zoo is free)
- Many exhibits focus on North American animals.
- Smaller scale is perfect for families with young children since you can see the entire zoo in approximately two hours.
- Animals are less likely to be on loan to other zoos.
- No pandas. Or tigers. (but they have mountain lions and bears, oh my!)
- You can see the entire zoo in approximately two hours
PS. I saw this sign near the wolf enclosure.
I think this "Fun Fact" is intended to reassure guests that wolf attacks are uncommon. But the statement includes so many qualifications that any of the following could still be true without contradicting the "Fun Fact":
*In North America there have been human fatalities from provoked attacks by healthy wolves.
*In North America there have been human fatalities from unprovoked attacks by unhealthy wolves.
*In North America, there have been unprovoked, non-fatal attacks by healthy wolves.
*There have been human fatalities from unprovoked attacks by healthy wolves outside of North America.
P.P.S. I'm not a wolf expert, so I'm not saying that any of those things are true. I'm just saying that they could be true, based on the construction of the sentence.