Monday, December 07, 2009

DC Day 2: National Zoological Park

Today we went to the National Zoo. Having worn ourselves out the previous day we paced ourselves a lot better, despite a lot farther to walk (and most of it up and down hills); however, I didn't think to wear long pants (only brought one pair and was saving it for... I don't know what, I suppose a day with worse weather, rather than a day spent mostly outside) so towards the end of the day I was pretty cold. Of course, that's partially because in addition to the zoo we did a few hours of walking around the area around it.

Some of the park was closed for renovations or for the "Zoolights" exhibition, and we weren't really adequately warned about it. Looking at the map we tried to find a "loop" route that would let us see everything without backtracking, and there isn't one -- the design just doesn't allow for it, though one little path would have made it possible. The guy at the information booth, when asked about it, noted we would have to go back through Lemur Island, but he didn't mention (despite the obvious lead-in) that the whole area around that was closed. So we ended up doubling back on almost every step we took at least once.

Despite that, and the fact that we skipped the Bird House and the Invertebrates hall, the zoo was a lot of fun. With the cold weather a bunch of animals were hiding, but most of the ones who were out were in fine fettle and some were in their thick winter coats. We saw the pandas (how could you not?) plus all the big cats which are my favorite. The apes were unusually interesting (usually I don't find them that interesting) and the small mammal house (though half-closed) was lots of fun (the meerkats were particularly active). They had an especially broad lizard and amphibian collection. The kid's farm had a giant pizza which was cute, showing kids where all the parts of their pizzas come from (and thus subtly bringing home the idea of the biota as a flow of nutrients and energy, in a way a five-year-old can appreciate).

I always feel a little guilty in zoos because I feel like I have to ask myself if I'm being exploitative of nature. And then I reassure myself that modern zoos take excellent care of the animals, and are a potent force for protecting animals in many ways (educating the public about them is only the most obvious), and that in both the sum and the details, zoos are entirely a force for good for animals and nature. But I still have to ask myself each time and I get a little nervous and have to reassure myself, particularly if any of the animals seem at all uncomfortable, or out of place.

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