Since we had the first really nice weather of the year last weekend, we and a few thousand of our closest friends went to the zoo on Saturday.
I got a few “cute” pictures of Bao Bao, the baby panda; overall I found the whole trip was mildly depressing. The zoo itself is in pretty bad shape. Yes, it is the start of spring, after a pretty long and rough winter but the facilities and exhibits are just worn down and sad.
Having grown up with the San Diego zoo the comparison was very stark. The animals and exhibits there look much more vibrant and healthy. As an example, the big cats at the National zoo are kept in a circular exhibit area. You should be able to see Lions and Tigers and, well more lions and tigers—bears are elsewhere in the zoo.
Nope, only one tiger family exhibit is open. Now the mother tiger is impressive and we watched as she and her cub played around. The other 2/3 of the exhibit was fenced off and empty.
Currently there are no giraffes, hippopotami, or even a smiling camel in residence. If you know my house, then you realize the lack of giraffes is a serious problem. They do have a couple Asian hefelumps.
The small mammal house had many vacant exhibits as well. At least we got to see mole-rats—woo hoo. There are also wild box turtles in the ponds—double woo hoo.
The line for the pandas was fairly long, and unlike a Disney line, the waiting process was pretty bleak. It is pretty amazing to think that this started off no bigger than a stick of butter.
Part of the good thing about the zoo is that it is free just like other Smithsonian facilities. Unfortunately this means that it is dependent upon Congress to properly fund them. They don’t and it shows. Perhaps it is time to rethink what “free” really means when it comes to the care and display of the creatures at our National Zoo. Helping people understand and preserve endangered and rare species is important and worth a better effort.
They don’t forget and we shouldn't either. As a nation, we can do better than this.