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.
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!