Sunday, January 7, 2018

Free Animals Looking at Contained Animals

In other words, we went to the zoo.

Yesterday we were headed over to western Iowa to celebrate the 90th birthday of Derek's grandmother.  We decided that since we were already making the drive, we'd introduce the family to the Omaha zoo.  None of us had ever been there, and everyone raves about it, so it was time.

When we left home, the outside temp was still below zero, but Omaha's forecast promised to reach TWENTY WHOLE DEGREES above zero.  It was glorious.

Knowing that this was the expected weather for the day, I'd asked around as to whether or not a winter trip to this zoo was worthwhile; although we are hardy Iowans, both Derek and I start to chafe at dragging frozen younglings around for more than an hour.  I was assured that there are plenty of indoor areas for exploration.  There were.  More glory.

That place is vast.  I'm sometimes bothered when visiting zoos, as I hate to see big animals cooped up and pacing back in forth in small pens.  We did see a bit of this- I mean, it is a zoo- but each holding area for the animals was quite large, and the employees we spoke with repeatedly mentioned "enrichment;"  that ball is for enrichment, that fabric is for enrichment, the scents they spray on those poles are for enrichment.  So the animals aren't just shuffling around listlessly in tight circles.

Those same employees also encouraged questions be asked of them, which our kids never ever ever have a problem with.  They were grilling the young lady in the "elephant family quarters" when one of our children asked where the elephants came from.  She pointed to two and said they were from Africa.  The third one there at the time was from the wilds of  Toledo.  Someone asked how they got the elephants from Africa, and she replied, "Well, we made a deal with them:  there was a drought there, so we sent water and food, and in return we got two elephants."

Caedmon waited a beat and then asked in a bewildered voice, "How do you make a deal with elephants?"

We all learned a lot, is what I am saying.

Because it was cold out, many buildings were nearly deserted, like the cat house.  I watched the big cats slink around and marveled at how awkward and weird humans are.  Then I was overcome with gratitude at these brains of ours, because we are not exactly stunning physical specimens, are we?  I had no idea the zoo would cause so much introspection.

The gorillas were definitely one of my favorites.  Their area was sizable, but several of the gorillas hung out right next to the glass.  (Plastic?  Plexiglass?  I don't know what it is.  Something blessedly strong.)  Adelaide and I lingered a while to watch this mama and her baby sleep, which is super creepy now that I write it down.  Well, it seemed sweet at the time. 

We did other things there, too, like visit the aquarium and the jungle and the desert dome, but please don't worry, there is no tedious play-by-play imminent here.  I'll just say that Derek had fun scaring everyone in the desert dome, Adelaide is afraid of bats, Atticus is afraid of the American alligator's mating call, and  those gators are huge, especially when you're viewing them in a man-made swamp meant to echo the bayou and those gators are in open water on the other side of a net.  I'm sure it was all very safe, but the effect was eerie.  Well done, Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium (OHDZA, for short, as I'm sure exactly no one calls it).

Also I now do my best to always stand uphill from Adelaide in photos with the kids.  Why do these children insist on getting taller?

The desert dome, where we all felt properly warm for the first time in months.


  1. I think Derek's sweater deserves at least a paragraph of this blog entry.

  2. I was at the Omaha zoo once. Coach went to Creighton. We checked out the zoo once when I visited him. That was in 1994! Wow I'm old. It IS a great zoo. We are frequent visitors of Brookfield zoo suburbs of Chicago. My kids have learned much from grilling docents.

  3. That's it. I'm leaving our 0 degree weather and coming to live in the Desert Dome in the Omaha Zoo.

    I laughed out loud at the part about the elephant deal.

    Alligators have a mating call? Alligators are scary enough, without a mating call.

    A post on Derek's sweater -yes, please. I can't tell exactly what that figure is doing, but it looks slightly like me in 4th grade cringing when someone was throwing a ball in my general direction. But that just CAN'T be what it is.


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