Z is for Zoo

I never visited the Philadelphia Zoo, lodged on a Victorian 42 acre site as the first U.S. Zoo, but I made countless trips to the Lincoln Park Zoo — one of the nation’s oldest, including a July birthday celebration in which a goat nibbled a hole in my mother’s hand sewn lettuce green dress. And there are old family stories about the brown bears, and how I’d cry ever time I was taken away because I never wanted to leave them.

Years since I often wonder what it’s like to have an office overlooking a primates’ rocky island and a sea lions’ cool pool in the middle of the world’s third largest city. Surely there are days when wildlife, akin to the urban jungle, gets just a little bit crazy. So agrees my uncle Jack, an Assistant NYC Parks Commissioner and Senior Counselor, who works in the Arsenal. Since the renovation of Central Park Zoo in 1985, there have been occasional, but amazing stories of snow monkeys acting out, polar bears getting sick, and penguins fighting over mates.

“Connecting people to nature,” Central Park Zoo is home to many fine species of mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians. When we visit we learn about living things through the eyes of the Wildlife Conservation Society, and we delight in seeing our favorites: April and Scooter,  the sea lions recently joined by pup Bruiser; Gus and Ida, the endearing polar bears; Goodwin, a shy red panda and his mate; Chocolate, Zoe, and Bo, the newly introduced, but usually elusive snow leopards; three kinds of tamarind monkeys; and the never failing “slobbery cow”, who outranks the other hand-fed Tisch farm animals in leaving her wet trail on your hand.

I hear how, on a recent school field trip, a four foot, gray and white, black spotted snow leopard leapt boldly at the glass wall, purring and meowing at the small excited children, my daughter among them.  I envisage the cat’s green eyes sparkling like emeralds in the sun, and I draw parallels with our pet, Sky, a Siamese blue, known to pounce mischievously into games and laughter.

Indeed zoo creatures are prized members of the metropolitan community, and it would be hard to imagine the city without them.

Referencing Our News Exhibit: The First U.S. Zoo Opens, Thursday, 7/1, in the Everett Cafe