A Shirt On Sunday: Back In the New York Zoos - 2011-12
New York City has fours zoos and an aquarium. In our time in living there, Janet & I visited all of them. From the polar bears and penguins in Central Park, to the wolves of Queens, to the jellyfish of Coney Island, to the red pandas of Prospect Park, these are all well-kept small zoos, but the finest is the Bronx Zoo, where the cats live.
Bronx Zoo was opened in 1899, seventy years after London Zoo and the influence is clear in the older buildings. It is however eight times the size of the Regents Park site, or half the size of Whipsnade. It was one of the few outside Australia to show thylacine (Tasmanian tigers) and the first zoo in the world to have a veterinary hospital on site.
Our first trip to Bronx Zoo was February morning with snow on the ground and the promise of more. From Manhattan you take the #2 train to Pelham Parkway, where the subway is now the elevated line and you walk down the metal skeleton to street level and across the road to the Asia gate. There weren’t many visitors – just dog walkers and child walkers and few people like us enjoying the peace and quiet.
Our first stop was the Asian jungle enclosure, which had the advantage of being indoors and warm. Langurs and lemurs and other rooftop beasties huddled together and tried to ignore the tourists.
Then up the hill to the big cats. The lions were out and the cubs wanted to play. The adult male did NOT want to play, and nor did he try to ignore the tourists. He kept an eye on us in case we felt like being second breakfast. As we watched the cubs play it started to snow, but they ignored it.
The tigers weren’t to be seen that day – they’d been kept indoors, but we saw them a year later when we returned on a March day that was brisk, but snow-free. They too took the approach that we were to be observed and our behaviour noted, just in case.
The grizzlys were also having fun in the snow – swimming, wrestling and batting a ball around, unlike the polar bear, who just walked around the edge of his enclosure as if hoping for an iceberg.
The gorilla enclosure was one of the areas that hadn’t been modernised and was fairly depressing. A gorilla hunched against the wall as small children stared through a window a couple of feet away.
We left the zoo as the sun set, with the impression that the animals were mostly as happy as they could be in captivity. I had expected an amusement park with animals, but gladly that was not the case and for two years we were members of the New York Wildlife Conservation Society. Our various guests used the admission cards as much as we did. Janet got the free members t-shirt, so I got this one.