Nothing may be cuter than koala bears licking eucalyptus, or giraffes hugging. The zoo has all this cuteness and more. See a hippo swim, a rhino skip, an elephant spout water from his trunk. My girlfriend and I were vacationing in San Diego, and the zoo was calling to us like the wild does for Tarzan. Not even the loin-clothed vine swinger gets to see this many animals in one day.
But controversy often follows these animal amusement parks. We’re keeping animals in cages. We’re drastically manipulating their ecosystems. It could be argued that humans are an arrogant race that interrupt nature’s course for their own gains. We already farm milk and eggs, hunt meat and hides, kill to test hair gels and toothpaste. While altering the lives of animals may be justified for sustenance and safety, it becomes something rather different when done for mere entertainment. No surprise, some would say zoos are crossing the line.
For example, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) have a big problem with it. They say that animals make up this world too, and it’s our responsibility to make sure that we share it responsibly.
But when am I ever going to see a camel, a panda, and a lion in one day along a pathway called Easy Street? Never. Unless, of course, I pay someone who cages them and puts them on display. Well then…Hellooo Zooo!
So I was standing in line with my sweetheart. She stood in front, wielding our tickets, so I could lean away, as if to say to any naysayers, Hey buddy, I’m only doing it for the lady. Which is a great cover. Blame the girl.
We entered the gate, passing the lively band and headed to the “Skylift,” an open gondola car that carried us above all of the zoo. From its peak, we watched the sun fade from a pacific yonder. While a comforting, lazy warmth came over us we still had to move fast before losing all the sunlight. So we rushed, and during those dusky hours, I learned a few things about the zoo.
An anteater is the strangest looking creature with a pulse. I want to hug an elephant and saddle a hippo. A polar bear could knock me over with his pinky. A rhino is the coolest animal to walk this earth. More than the animals though, the zoo manages trails that meander through manicured forests of lush greenery, old-growth trees, and gushing streams. Darkness eventually did take over, but lights glowed along Fern Canyon Trail like a candlelit dinner, making our evening stroll a romantic thrill. We even dipped into the dark corners to make out.
The San Diego Zoo has a dozen places to eat and shop, live music shows and educational skits. Of course there’s a magician. It is so large that we got lost twice until a uniformed guide pointed us this way and that, up the second escalator between Asian Passage and Elephant Odyssey, past the Ice-Age 4D Theater to reach The Northern Frontier where Kalluk, the 1200lb Polar Bear lounged on his back, legs agape and boasting his genitalia, proving that he has not a worry in the world.
After hours of rushing to see all of the zoo, we ended disappointed though. I bet we only saw half.
Every inch of this place was well-orchestrated—the powerful lights, the way-finding signage, the espresso huts. Seeing hundreds of animals from diverse ecosystems, I understood the tremendous effort required to keep them alive. While the zoo is a production of Disney-caliber, its attractions are living and breathing, which requires far more maintenance than a ferris wheel or roller coaster. The San Diego Zoo is not only handling these basic humanitarian requirements, they also claim to have saved orphaned animals and kept species from extinction. But this doesn’t mean PETA will be buying the cotton candy and skipping down Orangutang Trail any time soon.
“In general, zoos and wildlife parks preclude or severely restrict natural behavior, such as flying, swimming, running, hunting, climbing, scavenging, foraging, digging, exploring, and selecting a partner.” ¹
This makes sense to me. While I believe that some animals would give up scavenging and digging any day, none of them would give up flying or finding a partner, AKA getting laid. While nature may have cursed the young ugly duckling’s chances for action, I don’t think man should interfere any further. It’s like zoos are manufacturing chastity belts, and those who visit encourage celibacy.
So shame on you zoo goer. You are like the anti-Chuck Woolery and a Match.com virus to the animal kingdom. You are keeping animals from getting some loving, and I have a big problem with that. Now I’m going to feel extra guilty when I return to San Diego and see all those other animals I missed.