Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Philadelphia Zoo

Last Saturday, I made the 4.5 hour drive to Philadelphia, my home town, for my high school class reunion. Since I had the afternoon free before the party that night, I decided to go to America's first zoo in the City of Brotherly Love. I had not been there in probably 25 years, and was amazed how much it has changed. I've always been fascinated with animals, and a trip to the zoo as a child was always a favorite treat. But looking back, the animals were in cramped concrete pens for the most part. Now, there are fewer animals, but they have more space and more natural and interesting settings. No more do big cats nervously pace in their 15 foot square cages. No more do bears live at the bottom of concrete pits. I know that zoos are controversial, but when you hear young girls looking at a huge silverback gorilla and saying "he's so awesome," you realize that this is the only chance some people will ever get to connect with different animals. What we don't know about, we don't care about. I think that zoos, good zoos, are vital in the often losing battle of wildlife conservation.

Here are a few photos from my afternoon.

This land tortoise is massive.

Two female hippos relax in their pool.

My favorite exhibit was Big Cat Falls. It is beautifully designed. These are Amur tigers. Not long ago, only 50 survived in the wild, but now there are 400. This is an improvement, but still incredibly precarious. In my lifetime, at least two subspecies of tiger has gone extinct, and every other tiger subspecies is severely endangered.

This perhaps the world's rarest cat. Only 30 Amur leopards currently exist in the wild.

The world's fastest mammal is the cheetah. They are so sleek.

Giraffes are simply amazing. I would love to go to Africa and see them in the wild. What a beautiful creature they are!

The birds in the bird house are so fascinating. This is a pair of African hornbills. They are magnificant!

Proud as a peacock!

The Asian black bear is similar to our black bear, but with a much different face. The last time I was here, the bears lived in pits. Now they have spacious and naturalistic looking habitats.

The aardvark has to be first on the list when the roll is called. They are much bigger than I realized.


  1. Nice photos! I haven't been to the zoo in ages, I remember the cat cages and the ape cages. Glad to know they have a nicer environment now.

  2. Zoos have certainly come a very long way. I always felt so sorry for the animals in the cages and have never much cared for zoos. Now a days at least the animals can live in a more natural habitat and without zoos a lot of us would never see these wonderful animals at all.
    Giraffes are one of my favorite animals and I too would love to see them in the wild!!
    Hope you had a good time at your reunion.

  3. Thanks, Anne. Oh, I had forgotten about the ape cages. Those were really depressing. This zoo has come a long way. Art

  4. I think that is one of the really important points, Karen - that without zoos a lot of people woul not even be aware that such life forms exist. But as a kid I always felt sorry for an animal in its small cage. But now that the conditions are better, they do serve an important purpose. Of course if we start thinking like "well they are going extinct in the wild but they still live in a zoo", then that is not good either.

    Yep, the reunion was fun.