I’ve been a member of the Wildlife Conservation Society (New York City Zoos and Aquarium) for twenty-one years now—I’m lucky enough that I live just about an hour away.
In my earliest days of being a member, it was because I was heavily involved volunteering for two aquariums, and there were volunteer opportunities at the zoo—such as decorating for the Holiday Lights—that were offered to members, so I joined. I was also dating a guy at the time who was, like me, an aquarium volunteer and loved animals. Most of our dates involved, if not the Bronx Zoo or New York Aquarium, some other zoo or aquarium.
The guy turned out to be a class-A jerk, but I’m grateful, because it was the zoo that became a true love.
Over the years, the zoo has been a place to escape for a few hours, an inspiration for several short stories, and a place where magical memories are made. Nathan and I have been the busiest we’ve ever been since the beginning of 2020—and recently, I’ve had so much on my plate I’m basically working through nights and weekends. There has been very little time to see each other, let alone hang out. So when Nathan suggested I take the weekend off and go with him to the zoo—well, that sounded great!
Our usual course is have a couple of beers and lunch, see two or three exhibits, and hit the gift shop. Because the zoo is so big and can never really be completely done in one day, this is a great system. Every visit is different, and we can key experiences based on conditions (the last few times, we have stuck to outdoor or large indoor exhibits, like World of Birds, due to the pandemic, or if it’s pouring rain, we stick to a small area and do the larger indoor exhibits at the bottom half of the zoo, like Wild Asia, which has Jungle World and isn’t too far from Congo Gorilla Forest. In the winter, we do all the warmer things in the center of the zoo and jump from Mouse House to Reptile House to Madagascar).
We can also base them on other factors. World of Birds was on my list last June because of one particular bird I wanted to see—a bleeding heart dove, for a story idea (which is still germinating, but will eventually come to pass). Sometimes, it’s just to go do a big-ticket exhibit like Dinosaur Safari, or participate in a particular event, like Holiday Lights (which we spent mostly just boozing at the ice bar) or Boo at the Zoo (which we mostly spent at the extinct animal cemetery and photographing an informational wall of extinct animals). Sometimes I want to Christmas shop or just pick up the annual Members-only t-shirt. And regardless of what we do there, we love to bird. We always do a bird count!
We ended up picking a 95 degree day, but because we’re members, we never feel like we have to push ourselves, so we agreed we’d go see just a couple of favorites.
First stop was lunch! We couldn’t sit at the usual outdoor patio across from the Dancing Crane Café because there was an event, but we found a nice little table away from the action. My favorite is always chicken fingers. I can’t drink a lot of beer, so Nathan always gets a giant one and I get to have some.
Then we went down to see the lions, because that’s Nathan’s favorite, and passed a bunch of sunning turtles on the way.
On the way back up to the Dancing Crane area, we took a rest (that’s actually quite a hill to climb in the heat) at the Somba Village, which is a souvenir/snack stand area Nathan’s never been to (Jerk and I used to hang there because it was near World of Darkness, our favorite exhibit, which has long since closed). Nathan, who grew up on a farm and used to raise goats, of course still loves them. He was thrilled to get an ice cold beer and watch all the goats that were in the baboon exhibit. It was really fun to take him to an exhibit he’d never been to (and we have been many times, so I was surprised there was still something he hadn’t seen!)
Also, Somba Village seemed to be peacock haven. Peacocks sort of run freely throughout the zoo, but there were three or four in this tiny spot. There were lots of kids around, though, and they were clearly annoying—I mean, that’s okay, tiny kids see this big pretty moving thing and scream and laugh and chase them. That’s what kids do; no matter how hard you try to wrangle them, it’s going to happen. So I soon figured out the reason the peacocks liked it there was because there were elevated patches of brush they could duck into to get out of the fray. Several did. Smart birds!
We stopped to visit the brown bears, who were keeping cool in the water in their exhibit.
The heat was mighty, so we took Read the rest of this entry