April 20, 2007 by Marj Hatzell
Back in my vegan/WWF/Save the World Days (no, not World Wrestling Federation, World WILDLIFE FUND) I would never dream of going to the zoo. My parents would take all nine thousand of us (kidding, just nine) and I would pout and dream of going to Kenya to build natural boundaries for the wildlife parks there. At the time I was completely obsessed with Elephants, knew everything there was to know about them and even sponsored one at the zoo. Although, on my teenaged babysitting salary, I was able to buy one skin wrinkle for three months.
It’s all about the elephants.
The zoo is sad to me. Yes, I know, it is America’s oldest zoo. I know that they work diligently on preservation. I know they participate in worldwide efforts to stop animal poaching and participate in animal husbandry to thwart our best human efforts to destroy the planet. Because, after all, if the bees start to die, so will we.
Off the soapbox we go…
Anywho, today is the kindergarten zoo trip. This unit they have been learning about the differences between reptiles, amphibians, fish, birds and mammals. They have learned about how animals reproduce (in five and six-year-old terms, that is). And now, the culmination of that lesson, the dreaded take-two-hundred-kindergarteners-to-the-zoo-for-three-whopping-hours-and-make-sure-you-hit-the-petting-zoo-for-your-healthy-dose-of-e.coli-on-the-way-out.
Some kids love the zoo. Bug Boy cannot get enough. His favorite show on the planet is Zaboomafoo and he truly understands about conservation efforts and why animals belong in their natural habitat. Bugaboo, on the other hand, HATES the zoo. Since he has limited eye contact to begin with and has difficulty with parts of his vision, he does not see what we see. To him, the zoo is a huge sensory mess, complete with loud noises, wind blowing the hair on his arm, colors running together, ants on leaves on trees a mile away and being strapped into a stroller so as not to climb into the Hippo exhibit. Again.
I promise to bite my tongue and not get on my soapbox at the zoo. I promise not to get into a discussion about how I feel with another mother. And, scouts honor, I will not lose children, pity the animals or tell the kids how I really feel. Someday they will be able to make up their own minds about Gorillas behind glass on a monkey bar (no pun intended) and perhaps they will come to the same conclusion I did. Or they will think I am a total loony, either one.
And the elephants? As sad as it is to see them in their tiny enclosure, the good news is that the Philadelphia Zoo is shipping the elephants out in May. Two (the African ones)will go to a wildlife and elephant rescue in Tennessee and one (the Asian one, the smaller of the three) will go to a large exhibit in Maryland. Our zoo tried to rebuild their habitat here but it is too expensive to keep elephants. Even if they are the main attraction here. I am sad to see them go (because I could sit and watch them all day) but happy that they are going places that are better for them.
Don’t get me started on the circus being in town this week…