Just returned from by far the best zoo we have ever visited. Let me say that I am on the fence about zoos. After using zoos as an example for a persuasive essay with my sixth graders as to whether they are good or bad, I became persuaded that they weren’t such a good idea. I also read the book Zoo Story: Life in the Garden of Captives by Thomas French, which turned out to be more about one specific zoo than the debate, but it gave me some more strong feelings against zoos. I dislike going to zoos and seeing the animals in small enclosures that look nothing like their habitat. However, I am so torn because I absolutely love animals. Now that I have a child, I want her to love animals too. So debate aside, I have gone back to enjoying zoos because I get to see her face when she sees the animals.
On our way home from the Netherlands, we decided to take advantage of a rare sunny day (more on that in another How to be German post) and stop at a zoo we heard about near our home called ZOOM in Gelsenkirchen. The parking lot was tiny and didn’t give us a ticket to pay, so we figured it must be free and small. Think again! Nothing so far in Germany is free, including water. I could write another whole post on that as well. Getting back to the zoo, we did have to pay 17.50 Euros each plus 3.50 for parking. Not cheap, but the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago isn’t either and actually costs $10.00 to park.
Of course, as soon as we got there we had to use the bathrooms, feed the baby, and eat, so we didn’t get far. But it looked small. There was one sign that had arrows pointing for Alaska, Africa, and Asia to three entrances. I actually said out loud, “Is this it?” Boy, was I in for a surprise. We ended up only seeing one exhibit because it was so huge.
Unlike the zoo at home, the zoo is separate into 3 habitats. You have to walk through the entire exhibit. You can’t just buzz over to one particular animal that you want to see. That is the only downside. There are so many upsides though. The enclosures were huge and seemed so much closer to their real habitats than anything I had ever seen. Another plus was that there were multiple viewing spots for each animals and many got you extremely close to the animal.
It took us over an hour to walk through Alaska. I’ve never been, but I felt like we could have been in Alaska. The animals were all out and awake this afternoon. We thought it was cute that there were raccoon and skunk enclosures. We are so used to catching them wander through our neighborhoods, that it seemed strange to see them in the zoo.
The best part was the seals. We were so close to them we could almost touch them. It was feeding time so they were all going wild and jumping up catching fish. There were also three little baby seals right next to where people could stand. We got to hear two of them call for their mothers. Their mothers called back then swam over, hopped up and fed them.
We loved it so much we couldn’t wait to see the other two habitats, Asia and Africa, but we were so tired and not sure how much longer the baby could take. We quickly headed into Asia, after hitting up the candy shop at the entrance where we could fill a bag with an assortment of awesome gummies. Cherry coke and Schluempfe (smurf) were two of my favorites. The first animals we saw were tigers and they were so close and playful chasing each other. Again, we were awed by how close we could get to the animals.
We had to leave though, but will return soon. As we saw the map on the way out (we didn’t have a paper map because they weren’t free), we saw the Africa section is twice the size of Alaska and includes a safari ride. We can’t wait to go back and check it out.
So I have found a zoo I really love. I must say I didn’t feel conflicted while there. Is that wrong?