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A zoological expedition

Yesterday, MTG took the day off and we packed up the van for a day at the Fort Worth Zoo. It was homeschool day, which I didn’t realize until we got there. We got half price tickets AND no school field trips were there. SCORE!

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The Fort Worth Zoo is the zoo I went to as a child. Except my family always visited as part of a larger vacation, usually visiting my mom’s family, and generally in the middle of summer. So in addition to my fond memories of the zoo itself, I also associate the zoo with unbearable heat. Yesterday went a long way to break that association. Have I mentioned that I love spring in Texas? Because I do so love spring in Texas. It was in the low 70s, beautiful blue skies, and no wind to speak of.

Greta Garbo orangutan spent several minutes arranging her covering before waltzing to a cleft in the wall.
One of the interesting things was the total lack of the “homeschool uniform.” I saw not a single denim jumper. The homeschoolers were not discernable from the population at large, except for perhaps showing less skin. I did see one Amish or Mennonite family (I think) and one lady wearing 4” stilleto boots and a fancy dress. The young woman with her, a nanny perhaps, was wearing 3” platform sandals, and the toddler in their care was wearing a very nice “church dress.” I was tempted to take a picture, but I resisted.
In addition to the traditional exotic animals, the Fort Worth Zoo has a large section called “Texas Wild,” a very well done exhibit displaying the wildlife of the various Texas regions. I was impressed with the space allocated and the exhibits themselves, although I do wish they gave the big cats larger enclosures. The cheetahs in the “African Savannah” section had a spacious enclosure. The trade-off was that we couldn’t see them when we were there around one. The jaguar, cougar, and other Texas cats had much smaller areas. They were beautiful and inspiring to see, but you couldn’t help but feel sad at seeing these powerful creatures confined to such a small space. (I have mixed feelings about zoos. I know that they play an important role in fostering interest in animals and their survival, but I think we have a responsibility to the individual animals as well as to the species. If we are unable to display an animal in a manner that respects its nature and native environment, we shouldn’t display it at all. Yes, I realize this would severely limit what animals are exhibited and how much we would be able to see the animals, as well as increase the cost of zoos. I think I’m okay with that.)
One of the most interesting aspects was the obligatory “take care of the environment” show in the Texas Hall of Wonders. This was the most practical, people friendly conservation display I’ve seen. The focus was on good land management, rather than gloom and doom. Some key points were that while wildlife had been greatly harmed in the past, species were rebounding and doing better than they have in a long time. According to the presentation, 97% of Texas land is privately owned, only 3% is owned by government; so the emphasis was on good land management by private owners and the importance that individuals, including sportsmen (read hunters and fishers) play in taking care of the land. I appreciated that it was pro-people as well as pro-environment.

I do think they could have done a better job with pointing out that humans were responsible for the decimation of wildlife, not just instruments of its recovery. It is mentioned, but only briefly and in passing. I also wish the “better urban development” received more attention. Some of these city planners act like they’re on Charlie Sheen. (I’m looking at you, Frisco! “First, let’s build several hundred houses. Hey, maybe this little two-lane, no shoulder little country road isn’t sufficient.” Ya think?)  Overall, I really appreciate the optimistic, hopeful approach taken. Because honestly, the “people are evil and all the animals will die unless you sell your car and never buy anything (and by the way, visit our giftshop!)” approach is irritating.

Of course, the downside of taking a day off for a field trip is that life doesn’t stop just because you do. The cost of going to the zoo: no clean pants. Ah, it was worth it.

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