I got the T-shirt. And so much more.

Daddy’s takin’ us to the zoo tomorrow,
Zoo tomorrow, zoo tomorrow
Daddy’s takin’ us to the zoo tomorrow
And we can stay all day!

— Peter, Paul & Mary

There are only two things I’ve wanted to do before I leave the area.

(two, that is, afforded by a meager budget.)

One: Seattle’s underground tour — the red-light district that was before it was ravished by the Great Seattle Fire of 1889 and eventually served as a foundation for present-day Pioneer Square.

Two: Point Defiance Zoo, here in Tacoma.

I’m not a zoo person. I avoid them. It pains me to see wild animals confined and further put on display for the amusement and entertainment of lesser humans.

Point Defiance Zoo isn’t your typical zoo. It’s highly-regarded and renowned facility in the Pacific Northwest that is deeply involved in research, breeding and protection programs, education and animal care.

The grounds and facilities reflect the care and respect and highest regard given to the animals. Think a drive-through animal reserve on a much smaller scale for pedestrians. I was impressed and for me that’s no small achievement.

The photos I got before the batteries died are nothing special. Some photos I was unable due to challenging conditions — thick glass or distance or the quick movements of the swimming polar bear whose face appeared inches from mine and the white-quilled crested porcupine who appeared inches away just on the other side of the glass before his search for food led him onward.

These are the personal and profound moments I remember that aren’t captured on film or with words save that I had the privilege and honor of meeting these wild animals up close and personal.

Here are some of what I did get:

A collection of starfish, including one very big white one (photo blurred by moving water):

Graham, the red wolf. For years, the zoo has proactively participated in bringing the breed back from the brink of extinction and Graham is one major success story. For now, he’s flying solo as they seek a compatible mate. I had the pleasure of spotting Graham from a distance (as well as hearing the informative talk from his caretaker); the images here are photos of photos in the exhibit:

The Rocky Shores exhibit features water mammals, including one mother walrus named ET (for the other movie star of the same name).

You don’t mess with ET — all 3,400 pounds of him! He was found as a stray pup by Alaskan oil workers in 1982 and is doing very well, his feathers unruffled by the attentive crowds and feeding on gallons of food and on this day enjoying a swim beneath rare bright sunny skies. He’s accompanied by two female walruses in ongoing breeding efforts.

Did you know that walruses have incredible sucking power? To demonstrate, they filled an empty 5-gallon water bottle (the sort seen in offices) with small fish and tossed it into the water, where ET promptly wedged its bottom against a boulder and fed like a little baby sucking from a bottle!

Mama Sumatran tiger Jaya birthed cubs just last month, bringing to 74 the total of Sumatran tigers in North American zoos. Fewer than 330 live in the wild. I happened to catch them when they’d just emerged for their afternoon lounge and play under the alert supervision of mama.

Sumatran cub

Mama Jaya keeping an eye on her babies

On to another cat:

This white-cheeked gibbon has the “right attitude.” I may just may go consult him as the Zen monk on the mountain!

These are but a fraction of the aquatic creatures and mammals I met. The exhibits are so educational and enriching and well done and the grounds pleasing, well-designed and -maintained.

A day at Point Defiance Zoo is money well spent — and IMHO a far better deal than a ride to the top of the nearby, and more expensive, Seattle Space Needle. After visiting, I can absolutely understand why the zoo receives the kudos it does and draws a loyal and passionate paid membership. (I myself wouldn’t hesitate, even across many miles, if I had the means.)

And ohh yeah, I got the T-shirt!


6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Karyn @ kloppenmum
    Jun 07, 2011 @ 14:57:24

    Pleased you managed to get to the zoo – sounds like a really fabulous place. I think I’ll be consulting that gibbon about life and the universe too!


    • allycatadventures
      Jun 08, 2011 @ 12:22:41

      @Klopp – The monkeys were a hoot, with their seemingly 10-foot long arms swinging along the roped enclosure and staring at the visitors through the panes, prob’ly mocking us! The white-cheeked gibbon acted the Chill Dude. And, as evidenced from the photo, highly enlightened. 😉


  2. Erin Michel
    Jun 07, 2011 @ 19:41:16

    Point Defiance sounds like a great organization and is also something I’d be happy to support. Like you, I have a really hard time with zoos.


    • allycatadventures
      Jun 08, 2011 @ 12:27:32

      @Erin – Yeah, the zoo’s commitment to and involvement in animal care, protection and resurrection from pending extinction are commendable and clear. Knowing that proceeds from your ticket are going to their cause takes the sting out of the high cost (what I found to be high anyhow).


  3. Invictus
    Jun 07, 2011 @ 21:17:39

    Haven’t done the zoo (last one I visited was so depressing I’ve never felt the need to go to another), but the underground tour is very cool. The missus and I did it the last time we were in Seattle; it’s well-worth the money.


    • allycatadventures
      Jun 08, 2011 @ 12:36:06

      @Brandon – Thanks for the thumb’s up on the Seattle tour. Sounds fascinating, an activity right up my alley {cough, cough}. While I do avoid zoos like the plague, for years I kept hearing how great the zoo is, so I decided to chance it and boy, no regrets. Point Defiance zoo and (huge) park are the best that Tacoma has to offer, imho. BTW, you ever visit the Boise zoo? More “cagey” than Point Defiance’s but way better than the standard zoo and offered the momentous occasion of seeing the elusive snow leopard, which I shan’t ever forget.


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