On a recent trip to the zoo with my kids, I wondered, are there any unmediated experiences left?

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Bert Perry's picture

I am reminded of going to the Brookfield Zoo with my kids, and noticing that most of the cages were empty, but there were plenty of signs and screens telling kids what to believe.  The simple wonder of wandering into the Pachyderm house and seeing Ziggy the bull elephant, along with the rhinos and such, was completely lost.  

Now that's not an entirely bad thing, as my dad (who grew up a mile away and whose first job was cleaning cages at the Zoo) remembered seeing a lot of those animals chained in their cages (the San Diego Zoo is rightfully a trend-setter because of how they treat animals), but it's still pretty sad to see what was once a great zoo almost entirely devoid of animals.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Aaron Blumer's picture


There must be a way to create habitats that optimize the experience for the animals and yet also maximize humans' ability to see them... Maybe it's just too expensive?

Bert Perry's picture

Aaron, what you do to see what's done is to compare the layout of the Brookfield Zoo--it's basically on a quarter section of land--with the Minnesota Zoo or the San Diego Zoo & Animal Park.  Google Maps will show you enough.  More or less, it's an order of magnitude or more in terms of the land you need, so you've got a price in terms of land cost and maintenance, and you've also got a cost in terms of persuading people to walk a lot further to see those animals.  Compared to Brookfield--which in its day was a leader in good treatment of animals, by the way--it's a workout.  Not the easiest "sell" to Americans with Old Country Cafe-tuned physiques!

(or to keep it local, compare Como Zoo with the Minnesota Zoo)

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Ben Howard's picture

San Diego Zoo is a great example of doing this in the best way possible, and the Safari Park that belongs to the San Diego Zoo system where I used to live in Escondido is even better than the zoo. You can feel like you are right with the animals in many ways. But, the Singapore zoo definitely took it to the furthest extreme, and that's why I say that it seems to take tons of money. Everything about the Singapore Zoo was well, very Singaporean - clean, state of the art, big, and they probably did not have as much land as the San Diego Zoo, but it was obvious they had money. They had strategically built impassible ditches and hidden barriers that kept the lions from being able to get to you, but it felt incredibly like there was nothing between you and the lion looking at you from 20 feet away. Very impressive and cool!