So, we visited the Los Angeles Zoo for the birthdays of Jenny and Matt, my oldest daughter, and my son-in-law, Jackie's husband. And it was lovely to be with their two little families. It was Cora's first visit to any zoo, and that was also a delight to be with her for that. However, having said all that...1) that we had a good time, 2) that we enjoyed being with our girls and their daughters and husbands, & 3) that it was a successful birthday all around...there's.a few things that I need to get off my chest.
C'mon LA Zoo -- it looked like you weren't even trying! Having just been to the San Diego Zoo, and having visited the LA Zoo in the distant past -- I have something to compare this to, and it just doesn't measure up. For a large, cosmopolitan metropolis like Los Angeles, I expected much more.
I know we are under water restrictions in Los Angeles, but the Zoo felt really dry, the exhibits looked dry and dusty, and the flora though mature, was brown in many places. Plus, many of the animals (except the fish) that required water had been relocated to other zoos, like the hippos, and the swans. And the the lovely lily pad fountain was without water, and dry and dusty as a bone.
The food. A real problem. Nothing but hot dogs and hamburgers, pizza and chicken tenders. No real sit down restaurant (like at San Diego). Super crowded at lunch. Long lines. Some concessions not even open.
The signage was very ineffective. It was unclear where the major attractions were, and unless you were an excellent map reader (I am not) you really didn't know which way to go. I was afraid that we would get stuck on the Back 40 in the extreme heat, and not be able to find shade for the babies.
Lots of the animals, in particular, the primates, chimpanzees etc. who were in smaller enclosures, were roped off from view. You could see them from a distance, but you couldn't get close to their habitat because of Covid. I get that, but still. We really didn't see any monkeys that the granddaughters could identify.
The Zoo Tram (which in San Diego is a slick, fun colorful ride) looked like it had been in multiple crashes, was in need of serious paint repair, and had definitely seen better days. That has to be easy to fix.
There just felt like there was so much possibility. Lots of land, lots of space between exhibits, but a very poor layout. When you entered, you didn't see any animals until you had walked almost 5 minutes -- of course, through the International Market Place.
All in all, I was mad that this is the state of the LA Zoo. I think it means that those in charge are not doing what is necessary to keep the Zoo at the top of its game. I know it's a heavy lift, and may worthy institutions are fighting for donor dollars but they need to find donors, do better marketing, get more members. Fast. Clearly San Diego has figured this out. It felt to me that it wasn't a case of disrepair because of neglect, but disrepair, because of lack of funding. Things weren't being replaced, redone, refurbished because there just isn't the money.
It's a privilege to see these gorgeous animals up close. Animals that I will certainly never see in their natural habitat. Yet, there is something in me that always wonders about the nature of zoos, and the ethics of housing animals in cages, and enclosures, no matter how natural they may seem.
I know Betty White was a big funder, and a big supporter of the Los Angeles Zoo. Good bless her. I hope someone steps up to take her place.