Where I grew up there is a zoo, and it’s free. While that sounds nice, like many zoos it’s a holdover from a time when there wasn’t much thought given to how much space animals need. Without the freedom to roam, socialize, and otherwise behave as they would in the wild, animals in my hometown zoo engaged in activities primarily related to lying around. They’re wild animals, true, and many of them would be at my neck with their teeth given the chance. But isolated in a small enclosure with nothing to look forward to but feeding time, they looked more like depression cases. (Years ago, an orangutan at the Omaha Zoo named Fu Manchu would conceal in his mouth a piece of metal wiring he’d found, then use it to pick the lock to his cage at night so he and his buddies could play in the trees outside his enclosure. Which can only mean that an orangutan is probably cleverer than I am.)
There’s no lock-picking at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Who’d wanna break out? Many animals are given wide latitude to roam its 1,800 acres in Escondido, near San Diego. (The original San Diego Zoo is located in the city proper.) Of course they can’t all intermingle – many have their own section – but you can see giraffes, gazelle, and rhinoceroses, among other beasts, hanging out together in one large enclosure. I’m not even sure “enclosure” is the right word in this case; the area looked vast enough, and secluded enough, to house the M*A*S*H 4077th. The park offers a variety of safari options, including the Africa tram (which is the most basic at $44 for adults / $34 for children 3-11), camping, ziplining, and even a Segway safari. Prices may seem high for a zoo, but then this is no ordinary zoo. And as a non profit, the zoo puts the money back into animal and habitat conservation efforts.
Here are a few more animal photos to pique your interest. If you can’t make it to Tanzania this year, try San Diego.