Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Las Vegas Zoo

You've heard of The Happiest Place on Earth, but perhaps you haven't heard of its antithesis, The Most Miserable Place in Town.  Okay, that might be an exaggeration, but the Southern Nevada Zoo is no place to go when you need the warm fuzzies.  C had never been to a zoo, so a few weeks ago we took him to the LV zoo, knowing it was small and probably well-suited to a first-timer, age 15 months.  Not so.  Not so.  This is one instance where you can accurately judge the book by the cover. 

On display, many birds you might otherwise see in a pet store, such as a cockatoo, etc., two ostriches, an emu, one sad and lonely lion, one sad and lonely chimpanzee in a tiny room, one seemingly depressed lynx, fossas, one alligator, a pair of otters, some goats, peacocks and peahens, a family of Barbary apes (the last in America per the sign), wallabies, etc.  The enclosures were for the most part extremely minimal and devoid of interest, entertainment, or natural-like surroundings for the animals.  Some birds were basically in a wire cage with a few bare branches. 

We exited through the building, which smelled of cigarette smoke.  That's no way to entice me to buy my kid a stuffed toy.  If I want a smokey stuffed toy, I can always get one from the crane machine at a bar or from a carnie. 

I've long felt that zoos can be horrible places for the animals, but can be done well and thoughtfully, too.  They can bring awareness to the plight of animals on the verge of extinction, be used as a platform for animal rights, and can be used for research and breeding.  This zoo did none of the above, and I was left wondering about their mission.  Perhaps in this situation, the humane choice would be to close the zoo and gift the animals to better equipped zoos.  It's not that we expected a world-class zoo here in the desert, but the facilities were inadequate, the enclosures were at times scrapped together (in one instance rocks were piled on the bottom of a fence to keep the turtles from escaping), and even desert-dwelling animals were underrepresented. 

the entrance, in all its glory

the poster monkey for depression

I'm torn between feeling the need to donate to the zoo to try to help them out and feeling that I shouldn't support a zoo in that condition, thus helping it hobble along longer than it should.  We shook off the experience the best we could and look forward to going to the San Diego Zoo or the Henry Doorly Zoo.

**UPDATE 07/09/2011**
I found out some additional information on the zoo from the Las Vegas Sun that fills in the gaps.... 

"Informally known as the Las Vegas Zoo, the 3-acre park and garden features more than 150 animals, including a variety of endangered cats as well as the last family of Barbary apes in the United States. Privately owned, the zoo started as a pet store more than 20 years ago by a retired North Las Vegas homicide detective, who has since turned it into a nonprofit corporation. Animals are lent from other zoos.
The park is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Tickets cost $9 for adults, $7 for children and seniors."

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