Thursday, May 29, 2008

Zoo Tripping

St. Paul - Last Monday I asked my 4-year old son EN what he wanted to do? "How about going to the Como Zoo?" Why not? We packed up some lunch and headed over. The Como is one of only two free zoos in the country. Throughout our visit I kept thinking how incredible it is that everyone has free access.

It was a perfect overcast day that lead to rain. This meant, not too many people. Some of the exhibits were under construction, but that was good to see. The polar bears will have a new home in 2010 and Sparky the Sea Lion and friends will have a refurbished habitat pool in another month. The Orangutan and her baby were not on exhibit either. These are all good excuses to return sooner than later.

We spent more time at the Birds Exhibit than ever before. The Flamingos are truly dazzling. They are completely different looking than anything I see on a daily basis. The nesting Swan Goose and her drake were so tranquil and natural in color by comparison. They seemed more like a real Minnesota bird, but I learned that they're native to China, Mongolia and Russia.

The Lion den was active on this day too. The male and female were sleeping near each other by the front of the den and then daddy woke up! He looked like I usually feel in the morning. His mane was completely messy, his eyes tired and he stood in place and roared over and over. He then sauntered over to a spot in the back of his pen and urinated. Mama soon awakened with a big yawn or two and did some of the same - with much less drama and some female candor. The male continued to entertain us all as he mounted a log and grated his front claws on the bark for a few minutes. I heard others comment on how his eyes seemed to connect with theirs. "He's looking at me watch him." I noticed it too and I couldn't help but to think of the 2005 movie Madagascar, where Alex the Lion is the greatest ham of all (great movie for kids and adults).

The big surprise for me was the Tropical Encounters Exhibit. Tropical Encounters was my favorite part of the zoo and normally I'm not enamored with reptiles, insects or fish. This steamy rainforest was blooming with creatures from South America. For the first time, I took a liking to a Snake - the Anaconda. The Emerald Green Boa, brilliant green beyond any plant. Also on view, the Leaf Cutter Ant habitat and an extensive tank stocked with Stingrays and swimming Arrau River Turtles. This only covers a corner of what's living here -- and let's not forget the exotic plants. An interpreter was on staff to answer questions like, "Can a boa constrictor really swallow a human?" It felt exciting to meet the "live" version of all the critters EN and I had been reading about in children's books. I also realized the more I knew about the animals ahead of time, the more fun it was to see them.

EN l and I loved our time at the zoo and really appreciated everything we took in. I commend all zoos for their fundraising efforts to keep certain species alive. I thank them for sharing these beautiful plant and animal lives with all of us, everywhere. Donations for the Como Zoo are always welcome and suggested at $2 per adult, $1 per child. 

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