We’re goin’ to the zoo, zoo, zoo

We took a trip to the San Francisco Zoo this weekend. Zoos are always a nice family-friendly day out and they reward anyone who wants to carry camera gear around. Zoo photography is very similar to bird photography, documentary shots are somewhat easy to come by, interesting shots are much harder. Since this wasn’t primarily a photography trip, getting the shot of the Flamingo above counts as a great haul.

It had been a long time (over a dozen years) since I’ve been to any zoo and I can’t help approaching them now with the same kind of approach that I use with museums. I’ve come to realize that zoos are really weird.

Unlike most other cultural/educational enterprises, zoos are almost inherently non-local. There’s always an African section, a tropical South American section, and an Australian section. And you have the big predators (cats and bears) and the monkeys in their own groups. Visiting a zoo is about seeing how the same animals are presented by each zoo.

There’s very little, if any, local wildlife. Which sucks for kids since it would be nice to be able to see animals up close which they may only see (alive or dead) from the car. Or they have to go to one of the small, local wildlife museums which doesn’t have the proper space to show things like deer or mountain lions in the same way that a good zoo could.

I can’t help comparing zoos to aquariums in this department. I love visiting aquariums wherever I go because they’re always focused on the local waterlife. Zoos? They’re starting to feel like a quaint throwback to an older, simpler, time.
hungry hungry
3 gallon beak
oso hormiguero

Author: Nick Vossbrink

Blogging about Photography, Museums, Printing, and Baseball Cards from both Princeton New Jersey and the San Francisco Bay Area. On Twitter as @vossbrink, WordPress at njwv.wordpress.com, and the web at vossbrink.net

10 thoughts on “We’re goin’ to the zoo, zoo, zoo”

  1. 1. About exotica: Zoos are throwbacks to a time when folks were familiar with local “wildlife” but only saw exotic species in mags such as National Geographic, I agree it would be cool to see a bobcat or coyote, even deer and raccoons. Not to mention bears and cougars. 2. I find it interesting that zoo visitors can easily distinguish a horse from a donkey or zebra; or a dog from a fox or wolf. Yet they continue to call a wallaby a kangaroo. It’s partly a familiarity thing, but it’s also laziness (my opinion). 3. One thing about zoos – more than anything else, they encourage me to believe in god. I mean, some higher Being has a real sense of humor.

    1. 1. Agreed. Throwbacks to an older, larger world.
      2. Familiarity and usage I think. The more useful an animal is (or one particular member of the family), the more important it is to distinguish the different members.
      3. Either that or it’s an artist working through a bunch of prototypes.

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