Thursday, September 11, 2008

$9.75 zoo, expanded version

I posted some words about our recent zoo excursion on MBW's blog, and was encouraged to elaborate here. Read on for more ranting and fewer cutesy photos.

My toddler loves looking at the different animals in her books and can identify several of them, so I thought it was a good time to take her to the zoo to see some in real life. Only I forgot how rare it is to actually see live animals at the zoo. And even then, they are usually asleep, which to a toddler's eyes may as well be nonexistent.

Then there's the price. Madelyn's admission is free for a few more months, which is ironic because we go there primarily for her enjoyment, but pay only for our own tickets. I laughed out loud when I read on their website, "25 cents of the admission price helps fund regional conservation projects through the zoo's Future for Wildlife program." Wow, twenty-five cents out of nearly ten dollars, huh? An organization's touting of its benevolent contributions should relieve initial sticker shock. You know, the "Oh, I see, well if it's for a god cause..." I'm glad the Zoo is contributing to whatever cause it has deemed worthy. But I think they would have been better served by writing "Two and a half percent of Oregon Zoo's admission revenue helps fund..." A quarter just sounds so insignificant.

After nearly a half-hour at the zoo, our animal viewing consisted entirely of: creepy-looking salmon in murky water, several types of duck, one playful river otter (the highlight!) and a variety of other water foul. You can always count on fish and birds at the zoo!

In my opinion, the polar bears rank as one of the zoo's most entertaining exhibits. However, when we came by they weren't out to play. We watched a video about polar bears instead. My head is shaking in disgust.

My dear husband waited in line for probably 15 or 20 minutes for a dang elephant ear, but that was nothing compared to the line to get in to see the new baby elephant. We declined to stand in what looked to be a minimum 30-45 minute line (there are few things for which I'll wait in significant lines--a really good elephant ear among them), but the weird thing is there were roped-off zig-zags indicating that the line may well have extended as much as three times its current length! Who are these people? Clearly more elephant-calf-enthusiast than I. However, I did vote for the calf's name online, carefully choosing the least lame-sounding option: Samudra (yep, the other choices were worse).

It's not that we didn't see any cool animals. There were certainly a few. Such as bats, naked mole rats, and sleeping hippos (well, we could see their giant butts, anyway). The tiger was probably our most magnificent sighting, because s/he actually got up and walked around. This accentuated my belief that I've ever seen a wild cat awake at the zoo, because I found her movement mesmerizing.

Gary told me that there is a push for legislation to have tax dollars subsidizing the Oregon Zoo. On the one hand, I was appalled to hear this because the Zoo charges admission, operates an over-priced gift shop, restaurant, and several snack/souvenir kiosks. They are like any other business in our capitalistic society and should be supported by their patrons. On the other hand, in spite of any shortcomings, I think properly-maintained zoos with well cared-for animals offer a unique educational opportunity. I haven't the faintest clue what the operational costs might total, and if their admission/food/souvenir revenue doesn't cover it...I would hate to see the zoo become severely substandard, or disappear altogether. On a third hand (?), every business has to watch their bottom line and make adjustments accordingly. Perhaps if their revenue isn't paying the bills, they should explore some methods of decreasing expenses and/or increasing income. That is the way the rest of us do it, for Heaven's sake. Take a look at payroll and executive salaries, food and energy costs, expenditures relating to facility improvements whose necessity should be based upon funds available. A blank check from the government (aka my pocket) is NOT the answer (and it never is).

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