After spending the day visiting and photographing animals at the Bronx Zoo, I realized something about myself I’d never realized before. I come before you, my friend, to confess this new-found flaw in my character! I am a zoo snob! Yes, that’s right. A bonafide snob of the zoo and its creatures!
It started in Madagascar. One of the first lemur species was the beautiful Coquerel’s Sifaka. As I was taking photos of the two Sifaka’s within view, I heard several excited children call the creatures “monkeys" with no one correcting them. What was worse was parents who said to their children, “Look at the monkeys!” This same scenario replayed before the ring-tailed and the red-ruffed lemurs. The Bronx Zoo has detailed signage at every exhibit with the name of each animal, their species and class, their natural habitat, and many important facts about them. When adults stand right in front of that information and still get it wrong with their kids, I roll my eyes like a snob!
And it wasn’t just the misnaming of the animals. There were the millennials who seriously had never been to a zoo, watched the nature channel, or read a book about nature. (Bet you any amount of money they could tell you every fact about each Kardashian, though!) There was the young woman who looked at the river otters with a grimace and loudly exclaimed, “EW! What are those things? They’re disgusting!” Really? The adorable river otters? And at exhibit after exhibit, there were pretty young ladies who had no idea what the animal they were looking at was, even as they leaned on the information about it. I had to tell myself to just keep shooting with my camera, but my zoo snobbery was in full force!
I don’t know how many times I smiled and spoke to parents and children who happened to be right next to me to either tell them what the animal was or show them where the animal was “hiding.” Then there were the two women at the Himalayan exhibit who oooh’d and ahhh’d over the cute red panda but had no idea what it was, even though the informative sign was directly to their right. Because I was next to them, I kindly told them it was a red panda. They had no idea. They thought it was a species of lemur. In the Himalayas. (Did you see that snobbery right there?)
The best was at the snow leopard exhibit. These incredible, stunningly beautiful creatures are in grave danger of disappearing from the planet, and having them in the zoo, although sad because of their lack of freedom, is the only way most of us will ever have the privilege of seeing them with our own eyes. One woman actually said they’d make a great coat. I have no words for her and her thoughts. Then someone behind me called the snow leopard another big cat that I don’t recall. It could have been a cougar, a tiger, a panther. I think I heard them all today! There was a family with two children standing next to me enjoying the growling and activity of the snow leopards. To the person who called the snow leopard by another name, Daniel, the four-year old little boy said with great certainty, “It’s a snow leopard!” I smiled. Out loud!!!
Daniel and his sister, Sofia, saved the day! They tamed the zoo snob in me, and made me realize that some children are actually being taught correctly about the creatures of our world, and will help save them from extinction because they’re learning to care. Good job, Daniel and Sofia! You two are awesome! In the meanwhile, I’ll continue to help the ones who happen to stand next to me with their questions and try not to roll my snobby eyes when others don’t happen to know everything there is to know about wildlife! At the very least, they were supporting the zoo and all it does to make our world a safe place for all its creatures! (Oh, and you may ask why I don’t get a job at the zoo. I really have considered it, but I don’t think they hire zoo snobs!)