Negative Zoo Experiences & The Concept of Zooworthiness

Focused, I stood sentinel with my camera staring face to up-on-a-ledge-behind-a-guard-rail-distant face with a sleepy, carnivorous lion! I waited quietly for any movement or activity that might trigger that one perfect shot. And then it happened. Sigh, why must negative zoo experiences rear their ugly head?On cue, the adjacent kid absolutely belted, “Hey lion! Look at me! What if I call you fat? HEY FAT LION!” Obviously, the lion’s logical response to a verbal barrage about his weight was to…not move whatsoever. That’ll teach that kid.

“Hey lion! Look at me! What if I call you fat? HEY FAT LION!” ~Some Kid at the Zoo

“….” ~The Mammal Formerly Known as Phat Lion

Zoos…Can Have Negative Experiences?

I’m a fairly patient person. I’m not a parent. I’ve taught high school students at church. I love kids. But this honestly stood out to me as an eye-rolling moment. I was fortunate enough to visit three zoos last year–the San Diego Zoo, Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo, and Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo. I have mixed feelings about zoos but know habitats are at risk in the world. This is often the best way to do a small part to preserve animal populations. What ruins the normally positive experience is the occasional disrespect people show toward animals. Thankfully, this was the lone standout moment at the Lincoln Park Zoo. And the Lowry Park Zoo was a fabulous, quiet stroll through a lot of amazing animal habitats. (Yes, quiet…it was really cold that early February day for Florida!) The San Diego Zoo, however? Plenty of negative zoo experiences to share. Let’s run down the list of sarcastically tongue-in-cheek things I learned:

  1. Animals having sex is hilarious.
  2. Children can feel free to run along flailing randomly and then slap a random girl’s purse (read: MY purse). As a side note, the child slapped the ton of bricks my purse carried and screamed in pain. I felt bad, but I didn’t feel bad at the same time. Travel tip: Your purse can also serve as an inadvertent weapon?
  3. Etching your initials into live bamboo is a perfectly acceptable activity.
  4. The fact that an animal is endangered is “cool.”
  5. Like those “fat lion” moments we so often have, if you are an adult and see a resting animal, scream at it repeatedly to prompt movement.
  6. “I’ll have a Bud Light.”
  7. Scream at pedestrians too. They are in the way.

And the cherry-on-top last bullet is probably why, in a moment of unbridled need to de-stress, I ended up later that night at a bar called Stoney’s with a middle-aged Mexican ship welder who was sweet on me, a South Beach diva intent on everybody grinding, and a quiet Iranian convenience store owner concerned for my safety. I’ll just leave that story hanging on a cliff for now.

Be Patient, Be Kind, Be Zoo-Worthy (And Sometimes Be Zoolander)

I write all this to express that we are privileged to have well-kept zoos with loving zookeepers and employees devoted to habitat and species preservation. Let’s have a great time at the zoo! But let’s also show a little respect. Not just for the animals and zoo employees but for ourselves and fellow zoo patrons. It’s a concept I like to call zooworthy. Not to be confused with Zoolander; but if you want to act like him, I’ll join you. Trust me, I have a mean Blue Steel to match up to your Le Tigre!

So minimize those negative zoo experiences and be zooworthy for everyone! It’ll make the zoo and world a little bit better. And we’ll still have our voices at the end of the day since we didn’t spent it screaming at the lions. And tigers. And peoples. Oh my!

Wait! So Are There Lincoln Park Zoo Tips?

So there you have it, and I’ll step off my soapbox 20 and get unbent. (See what I did there?! Second clever music reference for the win!) If you’re looking for Lincoln Park Zoo tips, here are three big ones:

  • The closest rail system stop is the Sedgwick Station on the Brown and Purple Chicago Transit Authority lines. You can reach the zoo by foot from that point, but be prepared for a 20 minute walk. If you choose to make that journey, you’ll see a very pretty part of Chicago including St. Michael’s Church which is just a 1-2 block detour away from your route to the zoo!
  • The Lincoln Park Zoo is absolutely free to enter which is fabulous. Compare that to the stunning San Diego Zoo which cost me a “discounted” $45.00 to enter last year! As a result of this operating model, two-thirds of the Lincoln Park Zoo’s revenue comes from food, souvenirs, and parking (with some fund-raising). Make sure you cherish that free entry; and, if you can afford to do so, please consider making a reasonable purchase or donation.
  • Note the lack of dialogue in my video this time? If you’re going to film any video whatsoever, bring a mic with a wind muffling cover. Those Lake Effect Winds are killer.

I’m really looking forward to the next blog where we’ll eat a bite of classic Chicago! But if you’re curious for a hint, make sure you click here for the start of my Chicago series. The video is one of my favs!

Oh, and that Mexican? I declined his offer to go to Mission Beach.

Thanks so much for reading! Make sure to comment below and share it if you love it!

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