There is a lot to like about a zoo. You see animals that you could never see in the wild. You get outside to enjoy the sunshine for an afternoon. You might sample the cotton candy, make sure they are still making it up to par.
But there sure is a lot to dislike as well. For one, you are probably going to have feces thrown at you. That is a real turnoff in my book. In fact, I’d venture to say that I’d probably never return to a place that had that on the menu so it’s a wonder the zoo even survives in the first place. It’s a miracle I actually dig deeper and find another reason to stop going to zoos.
The real reason I don’t go to the zoo as much is slightly more highbrow. Doesn’t it seem like the actual point of the zoo is lost on the audience that its designed for. Bear with me. The point of the zoo, any zoo, is to educate people (mostly children) on the wide diversity and unique qualities of the animals of the world in hopes of creating awareness surrounding the conservation and preservation of said diversity. Hmmmm… there is probably a simpler way I could have written that. The point of the zoo is to ogle all the different freaky animals.
But everytime I’m there, it becomes clear that the altruism in the mission of the zoo is completely lost on the clientele. For instance, say the zoo staff has taken great lengths to rescue, feed, and raise an endangered Mountain Gorilla, of which there are less than 400 still left in the wild. A remarkable specimen to see, with its massive body and hairless face, enjoying a nap in the tree. So how come every single person that walks up to the glass to gaze at its wonder shouts out, as plain as day, “Look at the big monkey!” No one is employed to stand there and correct them. No signs are posted that say “Primate Yes, Monkey No.” The rare and wonderful Mountain Gorilla could very well have been a giant monkey sock puppet or stuffed animal. It would garner the same reaction 82% of the time.
I find its mostly parents who zoom past the information signs, instead imparting their very generic and limited knowledge of animals onto their children. It becomes the tiresome game of “What’s that?” Children must enthusiastically scream, holler, or yell the answer back (Giraffe!!!!) in order to “get it right” in this game. It’s kinda like the stipulation on Jeopardy where you can say the right answer but if its not in the form of the question, you don’t win. Except in this version if the child isn’t red-faced, tears welling up, tearing their baby-fresh vocal cords while call and response-ing, the parent REPEATS THE FRICKIN’ QUESTION! They don’t seem to like it when I, embracing my alter ego Johnny Sarcastic, play along. Suddenly it’s so childish when I try to show a little excitement by yelling “Baboon!!!!” at the top of my lungs.
Don’t even get me started on Aquariums. Although, part one would basically be a search and replace on the word ‘zoo’ in this piece with the word ‘aquarium.’ Of course, I would obligated to throw in the one paragraph at the end about how I wish zoos would adopt the “animal enrichment” program that the aquariums have where you can watch someone pretend to jet ski on the back of two dolphins. I would love to see zoo staffers strap onto the back of two baby panda bears and pretend to 4-wheel.