on December 12, 2008
It was a chilly morning. The rain had stopped around sunrise the ground was glittering and water drops hung off the flowers. I got off the bus an stepped into a residential area. Looking around I wondered how could there be a zoo here. Only a few feet away was a clearing, a small gate and ticket booth marking the West entrance. The zoo opened at 9:30am and about 10 minutes to opening there was already a small line of families with excited tots. It became obvious that the three families were pass holders of some sort; already talking about what they were going to see and greeting the ticket taker by name.Woodland Park Zoo is not a city zoo by any sense of the phrase. There are no cages, no tiny habitats, and no lack of animals by any means. To the contrary the zoo covers a surprising 92 acres of land, offers a variety of 300 different species, and over 1,000 animals to enjoy. Walking though the park there is no indictions that a city existed outside the walks. In fact the zoo provides several botanical gardens hiding any fences or glimpses to the outside world. The zoo is also set up into various geographic zones including the temperate forest, the African Savanna, topical rainforest, tropical Asia, Australasia, and the northern trail. The layout is fairly simple, offering a main looped path with a few side trails off the beaten to explore. I find this is the best layout for any zoo since it allows for nothing to be missed. My journey started by the temperate forest. It was still early so I had expected to see many of the animals because most are typically active during the early hours of the day, retreat for shade in the afternoon, and liven up again in the early evening; what a life! Disappointment hit fast. Very few animals were out the red panda (the one exhibit I wanted to see) was missing and so were several of the birds not visible. I continued on the family farm area which included cows, sheep, and pigs; a very unusual addition, but that is coming from someone who grew up near several farms in the Pennsylvania countryside. The area was really cute and even the adults seemed to enjoy it. It seemed to make sense that this area was at the zoo after all how many city people get to see a cow everyday? The African Savanna was another great area. There seems to be a growing trend in zoos these days to add in some sort of tribute to Africa, and the Woodland Park Zoo was no exception. However they did it was a surprising twist; they added in a traditional school instead of the usual village. Inside the school there were various lessons written on the chalk board and a great view out of the back of the school over looking the savanna. As I walked through the area the ostriches, zebras, and gazelles were out, the hippos were lazily floating in their pool, but the lions and monkeys were nowhere in sight. Wondering around I happened to stumble by the giraffe barn, which is just that: a barn. The caretaker was trying to cox two very shy giraffes outside with a large stick and what looked like a treat for them on the top. It was funny to watch one come out and while he tried to get the other one out the first one would run back inside. I watched this humorous site for several minutes when I realized that I was the reason that they weren't coming out. One giraffe stood behind the barn door peeking out to look at me. Finally they realized my only intention was to photograph them so they came out to nuzzle one another.I wondered from there down to the Asian paths, where there are suppose to be elephants; again another missing animal, but the orangutans were active. This took my attention away from the mystery of the disappearing animals for a bit. I continued to the Northern trail. The highlight of this was the white and blue Arctic foxes. I had never seen these creatures before and they took advantage of that; running around and posing for my camera. They were quit the little entertainers. It really did seem like they wanted me to stay there all day to photograph them, but it was almost lunch time and my stomach was calling.I found food at the food pavilion. They had wide selection of food ranging from hamburgers and pizza to health food. This was the largest selection of food that I've ever seen offered at a zoo before. The prices were a bit high as expected; I got cheese fries and paid about $5 for them.Overall the zoo was great. It wasn't best zoo that I've been to, but it was one of my favorites. The missing animals was a bit of a concern, but a few not in their cage can be expected. Zoos can't force an animal to come out of their barn if they don't want to, and honestly I don't want to be at a zoo that does force any of their animals out. For more info on the Woodland Park Zoo visit their website at www.zoo.org.
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