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Needs Improvement: The Los Angeles Zoo

I'm working the Your Turn Challenge and today is Day 3. Here is my post to answer the question: Tell us about something that you think should be improved.

Last Sunday, Harper (my three year old) and I went to the LA Zoo. It was not a great experience, mainly because Harper just doesn’t seem to be into looking at animals. We took her about eight months ago and it was the same then, but I thought/hoped that she might be more interested now at her advanced age. I was incorrect. She was just as interested in pushing buttons on “interactive exhibits”, looking at the trash cans and turning the crank on the “make a souvenir penny” machine. The animals were the least interesting thing there. Of course, none of that is the Zoo’s fault and she might be the same at any zoo.

I, however, like going to the zoo. Kurt and I had been a few times just for fun before Harper came along. But I realized on Sunday that the LA Zoo is designed really poorly. My biggest issues:
—The LA Zoo needs modernization. They have updated the Chimpaneze, Orangutan, Gorilla and Elephant exhibits in the last 10-15 years, but the rest of the zoo is very much an artifact of the 60’s (it opened in 1966).
—It takes a long time before you see any animals. (see the map here) Oh there are sea animals (sea lions, I think) in a small tank just as you come in the gate and after a short walk you can veer off to the goats/sheep petting area to the right, but the first 10-15 minutes is a hike through security, food places and gift shops before you get to the meerkats and flamingos and then more hike to get to anything else.
—It’s uphill all the way to get to “significant” animals. When you have a three year old who loves the movie Madagascar, seeing lions, zebras, giraffes and hippos is important and getting there quickly is helpful. Look, I admit I need to be in better shape so a good walk is not a bad thing for me. But hiking through a zoo with an impatient child is not a “good walk.” The LA Zoo went through a massive remake of it’s elephant area after much outcry in the city over the handling of the elephants. I’m glad they did. But I’ve been to the zoo twice in the last year and have never seen an elephant. Apparently there is an 11am Elephant Training Demonstration but we’ve not ever been there on time for that. So yes, that is my problem, not the zoo’s, I know that. But how do you see elephants during the rest of the day? I guess I missed that part chasing after Harper. (Again, my problem, not the zoo’s.)

Good things about the LA Zoo are: Free Parking and it’s mostly shady.

Overhauling a zoo is not small feat. Knowing nothing about zoos, even I can see that it would take a massive civic undertaking, a LOT of money and possibly even finding a whole new location to really modernize. I just wish that when you walked in the first things you saw were animals, not gift shops and restaurants.

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