Zoos can be fraught adventures. Yes, animals are awe-inspiring. But what about animal welfare? How do the animals feel about their captivity? And what is the intention behind a zoo’s core values?
We struggle with these questions. And we work hard to support zoos that prioritize animal welfare and conservation. We enjoy the Sacramento Zoo for the care and attention animals receive. The reality is that the world’s animals are dependent upon humans for their future. Humans will choose to save or destroy animal populations based on habitat loss and conservation. So we explore zoos with a mindful attention to how animals are cared for in that environment, alongside the messaging about how we are going to move forward as a planet together.
The Sacramento Zoo is an old school zoo. It was built a long time ago. And they’re reckoning with ongoing restorations and exhibits. We had a long chat with a volunteer that shared how they’re actively fundraising so they can buy a bigger piece of land for larger exhibits that center animals needing more territory. In fact, the resident tiger had recently been transferred to another zoo because they could tell that she needed more space.
So why not let all the animals go back to being wild and free? Why not close all of the zoos?
Well, for one, zoos help with animal welfare by giving homes to animals that are not suited to a life in the wild. As heartbreaking as it is, some folks try to raise wild animals in their backyards or homes. Then, when the animal grows bigger, and potentially more dangerous, those animals need homes. They may be confiscated by animal welfare or surrendered to authorities. The animal may be habituated to people. Or never learned to hunt.
And, as much as we romantisze life in the wild, injured animals would not survive long out in their home environments. Zoos give them safe harbor.
On the conversation side, zoos work together to strengthen genetic diversity in endangered animal populations. Where animals with large territory may only encounter one or two others of it’s species in the wild, zoos can work to diversity genetic pools. These next generations can be raised with skills to be returned to the wild one day.
One of our favorite moments was the baby snow leopard. Snow leopard are endangered, so seeing this little one is hope for the future. And his name is Coconut which is about the cutest thing ever.
We appreciate the education offered at zoos. I’ve told my kids many, many times to stay curious. And, as much as we see photos of giraffes and movies about giraffes, for some reason seeing a giraffe up close helped us notice a bump on their forehead. The Sacramento Zoo offers a giraffe feeding opportunity. Which is when giraffes can choose to come get healthy treats from visitors. We got to learn and ask questions while observing giraffes up close enjoying tasty treats. The bony protrusion on their forehead is fascinating to see up close. You can learn more about it at Giraffe World. Together with their “horns,” the bony growths are called Ossicones.
The next thing that made us all laugh was that one giraffe came up to the outpost just to spit out most of the treats offered to her. Then she chose a branch, which she then started to flip around with her long tongue.
We learned that giraffes can have issues with heartburn thanks to their long necks. So they munch on leaves to generate more saliva to soothe their digestive tract. This giraffe had a habit of choosing a leaf and munching on it for literally hours. She treated her favorite leaves like chewing gum.
What? How incredible is that?
We had to take a photo with the red pandas because Ian had a red panda on his shirt :)
And we discussed in the reptile house how it’s important to consider adult pets because some people get little snakes or lizards that are so so cute, then get overwhelmed when the animal grows and grows and grows.
The Sacramento Zoo is working hard to upgrade facilities and create healthy habitats for their animals. We could tell that a lot of caring people work hard to make the best possible life for animals in their care.
The kids had many memories of visiting the zoo when they were smaller. And now they’re getting involved with animal conservation. Being thoughtful stewards is a role we’re going to pass from generation to generation. May the future see these diverse species thrive in the wilds of the world.
And of course my favorite thing is making memories with Grandma!
We take photos with different attractions to remember the adventure.
As a visitor with limitations, I appreciate that the zoo is small. It’s just enough walking without major hills. It’s a great adventure with the kids. We all enjoy visiting the animals.
Finally, the kids found this hilarious- the stuffed frog in a reptile house exhibit while it underwent renovations. Ian thought it was the wildest wild creature of the day :) Here’s to adventures!
And the peace of the wild things.
Learn more about the Sacramento Zoo at their website: https://www.saczoo.org