The last time I went to a zoo was probably when I was between eleven and thirteen. It was the Nashville Zoo and I vaguely remember seeing the red pandas and some birds. This was also before the Nashville Zoo moved to its current location, so I have no idea how it looks now. And after that, going to a zoo had never been on the forefront of my mind for some reason.
I suppose one could argue that with my training as a microbiologist and molecular biologist, my view on biology had always been too small. With zoos, I would have to think bigger, way bigger. (Although my inner microbiologist was sometimes exasperated. On the bus tour, the guide mentioned that the koalas required bacteria to help them digest the poisonous eucalyptus leaves. And I thought, “You can’t leave it at that! What kind of bacteria is it?” The answer, after a brief search on Google Scholar, is that one of the bacterial species aiding in koala digestion is a special strain of Streptococcus bovis which the animal probably got after eating its mother’s feces*.)
Anyways, I would highly recommend coming to the San Diego Zoo if you have at least an entire day to spend there. Heck, I was there the entirety of its opening hours today and I still didn’t see everything. I guess it’s a good thing I got a membership so I could see the place whenever I want to for an entire year.
Besides the animals, which everyone already knows are awesome, the zoo is a great place to people watch and observe family and relationship dynamics. The month of October is also Free Kids Month which means kids get to go to the zoo for free in October. Of course, when I went there, the zoo was overrun with children, many of them seemingly even more wild than the wild animals and more devilish than the Tasmanian devils. (The animals seemed to have eaten their meals in the morning and then passed out or hid in their holes for the rest of the day.)
I’ve noticed, in general, that the younger kids tended to fall into two camps. One group still had energy in the afternoon to be excited about stuff. The other group got tired in the afternoon and either went to sleep (which was fortunate for their parents) or threw huge tantrums. Most zoos are large. The San Diego Zoo is especially large. There will be lots of walking unless you pay the $600 or so for the VIP treatment and get chauffeured around. I kind of wish that parents were more cognizant of whether their kids are the types who get tired fast and have the personality to scream in public without any qualms.
Anyways, my own annoyances are short-lived because I can always walk away from it. Parents, not so much. On the upside, the kids seem more enthusiastic. It’s the parents who keep tugging their fascinated offspring away from the exhibits claiming that there’s more to see up ahead. I guess they (the parents) feel that they should get their money’s worth by “seeing” as many things as possible.
Osawa, R. “Formation of a clear zone on tannin-treated brain heart infusion agar by a Streptococcus sp. isolated from feces of koalas.” Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 1990, 56: 829-831.
Osawa, R., Blanshard, W.H., Ocallaghan, P.G. “Microbiological Studies of the Intestinal Microflora of the Koala, Phascolarctos-Cinereus .2. Pap, a Special Maternal Feces Consumed by Juvenile Koalas.” Australian Journal of Zoology. 1993, 41: 611-620.
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