Cotton Candy Clouds against a Cerulean Sky: A Day at the Zoo

With a high of 80 degrees and cotton candy clouds set against a cerulean sky, it’s an absolutely perfect day to be outside, wandering the winding maze of paths that cut through the grounds of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.

Crowds of visitors are in line for ice cream, cheeseburgers, and (these days) locally sourced craft beer. It’s a late summer day, a Friday just before school starts, for many Columbus, OH residents – a last chance for parents to play hooky from the office so the family can have some summer fun.

Kiddos wave bubble wands (when did those become a thing?), beg for giant stuffed animals at the giftshop, and wear $15 sunblock because Dad forgot to toss this summer staple into Mom’s tote on the way out of the house to pile into the family SUV. I’m reminded of the 5 summers I worked at the Brookfield Zoo gift shop, in Chicagoland.

I don’t cringe at the memory; working at the zoo, especially in the upscale gift shop, was fun – a good time was had by most. That’s when I developed a real appreciation for the conservation being done by (the best) zoos AND I increased my affection for the furry butts housed there (if that’s possible). I also gained a large part of my work ethic under the management of another Kathleen, but that’s a story for another day.

Not to anthropomorphize, but the animals seem truly happy to see us – they are active, animated and entertaining. It’s as though someone told them they should put on a show because the number of daily visitors was about to drop dramatically, with the start of the school year.

The spotted cheetahs are sprinting, before resting and recovering, the mud-covered warthogs are wallowing, the “larger than life” bears are. . . well, doing their bear things, and the camels are definitely ruminating.

Although camels ruminate they are not true ruminants, as they lack the four well-defined stomachs of the ruminants; the rumen, reticulum, omasum and absomasum.”

FAO Production Yearbook

Well, in any case they look awfully cute, chewing. . . and chewing. . . and chewing, all whopper jawed. Some would say it’s a face only a mother could love.

As for the bears, they are taking every opportunity to lounge around and have a lazy day. With their bare necessities taken care of, by the attentive zoo staff, the grizzly bears are free to nap, entertaining visitors by sliding (not so gracefully) into their shallow pool, at the base of a small waterfall. Before relocating to this spot they had been demonstrating that rocks make pretty good pillows, if you snuggle and settle in just right.

The polar bear could be chasing trout in the deep tank that is a prominent feature in his enclosure – there is an underwater viewing area, because it’s so much fun to watch the massive creatures hunt – but instead he rests his chin, closes his eyes, and Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

The black bear is a different story, mugging for the camera. He’s not the tallest bear on the premises (the polar bear has earned that distinction) but he wants to show off the fact that he is still taller than any of the human visitors in the room — wait is that a 6’4″ basketball player standing in the back? We might have to stand them back-to-back with our bear friend, to settle bets about who’s taller.

Do try to get out to the zoo before the cold of an Ohio winter sets in; it’s a lovely experience in the crisp days of autumn. If you have the means to purchase a zoo membership – even better! Feel free to stay for just half the day, or even an hour!

If winter weather strikes before you have a chance to visit go anyway – many of the animals in indoor enclosures will welcome the occasional visitor. They must get a bit bored overwintering, though the zoo keepers work hard to provide enrichment. Don’t forget — Zoo Lights!

Join me on my next adventure,

~ Kat

Related links:

Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

The Bare Necessities (from The Jungle Book)

FAO Production Yearbook No 16 (1962) and No. 32 (1978)

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