“You Belong in a Zoo” is pretty much Kongo’s mantra in life and the monkey has rarely visited a Zoo he didn’t love. Yesterday was one of those rare days. The featured image chosen for this blog depicts a lonely, sad-looking kangaroo up against a nondescript wall. This could be the theme for the LA Zoo: sad, lonely animals in boring enclosures. You would think that a major, world-class city like Los Angeles would have a decent zoo. Maybe not as wowie-zowie as the San Diego Zoo because, well it’s the best there is, but at least you expect a zoo with some animals in it. That’s right, LA. Newsflash. Zoos need animals!
So, yeah there were a few animals at this zoo. The meerkat shown above lives there. There were also some flamingos (yawn), a single harbor seal (deep sigh), the poor kangaroo, and a dystopian smattering of a few other zombie animals.
Were there tigers? No. Bears? No. Monkeys? (yes, but … keep reading). Koalas? No. Elephants? No. Cool Birds? No. Gorillas? No. You get the idea. Apparently some of these animals are alleged to be at this zoo…they just don’t make an appearance. Kind of like a 404 error-the animal you’re looking for can’t be found.
Those few species actually on exhibit were caged in metal mesh enclosures that made them difficult to see and just about impossible to photograph. Occasionally, animals (like the chimpanzees and other monkeys) could be dimly recognized through filthy, smeared glass that hadn’t been cleaned in a long time. It made the images all come out fuzzy.
Kongo arrived at the Zoo early. He was one of the first visitors through the entrance gates. So, give the zoo the benefit of the doubt, maybe he was too early. Like, perhaps Saturday was sleep-in days and animals slept in way past 10 o’clock. Kongo heard an elephant once, he just never saw one. He did see some elephant statues. Now, by 10 AM it was already close to 90 degrees and the misters were running overtime so maybe these L.A. Zoo animals decided to take a personal day off and skip the show, but come on…gimme some animals!
To be fair, Kongo gets that zoo staffs have been hit by the same personnel shortages as other venues in our post-pandemic world. Not only were more than half of the animals not there, more than half of the concessions were closed as well. There were souvenir shops open selling cheesy, stuffed animals that weren’t actually in this zoo, and the Dippin’ Dot carts were doing big business. And the monkey will admit that the churro he purchased for $7 (keep the change…) and ate in two minutes was the highlight of his zoo visit. It was the best churro ever. Really. Give the LA Zoo credit where it’s due…they make a mean churro.
There were some fish. Kongo can’t recall seeing a red-bellied piranha before so that was interesting … for a minute or so. Fish are not always the most popular attraction for a zoo, but hey, at least they made the effort. There was also one really weird freshwater stingray in the “Rainforests of the Americas” exhibit. It’s a polka dot stingray (Potamotrygon leopoldi) and happens to be venomous so it’s likely a good neighbor for the piranha. The single ray in the aquarium seemed stuck to the glass so it presented an interesting view of the underside of one of these fishes.
There was also this single, sanguine Tadjik Markhor (which, interestingly enough means “snake eater” in ancient Persian). It’s got impressive, corkscrew horns and its natural habitat is the Himalayan mountains so a hot day in LA may be one reason he seems a bit lethargic.
There was one cutie giraffe who made eye contact with the monkey for a long time. Well, it seemed like a long time to Kongo. But really, we were locked in this staring contest for a couple of minutes. People standing nearby actually started commenting on it. It felt like this tall lovely was sending Kongo telepathic messages over and over–GET ME OUT OF HERE….PLEASE! Anyway, the monkey broke eye contact first and moved on. He still feels bad about it but like, how the heck to you break a giraffe out of a zoo and take in home in the back of a BMW X1 SUV?
So, after two hours of looking at mostly closed and empty enclosures the monkey gave it up and headed for the exits. There were still people streaming in. Kongo wanted to shout, “Go back, save yourself” but maybe they were coming for the churros.
He took the long way back to the freeway and snapped a few images of Griffith Observatory and downtown LA from the heights.
If you’re thinking about visiting the LA Zoo, you may wish to compare the time it would take you to drive down the coast to the San Diego Zoo or up the coast to the Santa Barbara Zoo. Both of these parks happen to be real zoos with real animals. Granted, the San Diego Zoo is going to be more expensive to get into and with the price of gas north of $6 here in SOCAL it is going to be a longer, more expensive day but at least you will see some animals.
You can learn more about the Los Angeles Zoo by visiting its website. Tickets should be purchased online. For old monkeys like Kongo the price is $19. Regular admission is $22, children 2-13 is $17. Infants are free. Ample free parking provides easy access to the entrance and the zoo is easy to get to in centrally located Griffith Park.
And the churros are great.
Travel safe. Have fun.