I can’t believe we’re at the end and I can’t believe I managed to post every week, but here we are at letter Z. There was no doubt in my mind that I’d be sharing about the wonderful St. Louis Zoo. It’s ranked one of the top zoos in the nation and it’s FREE! That’s not to say there aren’t attractions within the zoo that you must pay for, like the train or the opportunity to pet stingrays (the stingrays and the Children’s zoo are free during the first hour of the day). There is a fee to park in the zoo’s lots, but you can park in Forest Park for free and walk in. (While you’re in the park, you can check out the Art Museum, the Science Center, and the Muny).
The zoo really has it’s roots in the 1904 World’s Fair (ever see Meet Me in St. Louis with Judy Garland?). The Smithsonian Institution commissioned a large flight cage for visitors to walk through and see rare birds. The city purchased the cage when the fair closed and within a decade more than 70 acres around the cage were designated for zoo land.
My memories of the zoo began in the 70’s when big changes were occurring at the zoo—up to this point the animals had been housed in cages and the elephants and chimpanzees performed in shows. Now cages were being replaced with large pens with moats and most of the animals weren’t expected to perform (they recently added back the sea lion show). Here’s a great example with a glass window allowing us to see the hippos above and below the water surface. Yes, there are fish in the water—a sign nearby explains the symbiotic relationship. Let’s just say the water would be a lot murkier if the fish weren’t doing their jobs and leave it at that.
As a young Earth, creation-believing family zoos can be tricky places—there’s always a concern that the signage will reference evolution and millions of years. I noticed most of the animals simply had their common name on the enclosures (see below).
That’s not to say they aren’t learning opportunities. In good weather there are several stations to touch fur or study a skull, etc. There are also several permanent displays like the jungle classroom with its chalkboard of a cheetah….
The zoo realizes that while moms would like to focus on the educational aspect of the zoo, kids just want to have fun (and get some wiggle out of their systems). You can find several sculptures around to climb on or crawl through.
Last year’s new exhibit was a tunnel through the sea lion pool. Here’s Schnickelfritz seeing if he can hold is breath as long as these pinnipeds. He’s turning red, don’t ya think?
This last shot was taken inside that flight cage that started the zoo so many years ago. It’s still standing strong.
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