Oakland: It’s a zoo

Posted: February 16, 2013 by Jollymore in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

It was twenty maybe twenty-five years ago that the Oakland Zoo refurbished its tiger exhibit. The zoo moved from a “viewer” friendly  to an “animal” friendly arrangement. It seemed like a big deal at the time and the philosophy was, if not cutting edge, at least modern and moving in a good direction. It is difficult for a small zoo like Oakland’s to keep up with better funded brethren like San Diego, for instance.

I saw the exhibit back then. It was hard to spot the tigers. The zoo hadn’t hidden them but had made it possible for them to shelter themselves from the sun and the hordes of humans if that is what they wanted to do.  Often times if was. So, you went to the zoo to see if you could see the tigers, not to see them.  In some way, it was more fun.  And it felt “humane” if that word can be rightly applied to human “treatment” of animals. (Heaven forbid we should really treat wild animals like we do humans, or that we should treat more humans as we do domesticated stock – something we do all too frequently). In any case, the changes back then at the Oakland zoo seemed to bode well.

I could hardly be call a big supporter of the Oakland zoo.  Going there every quarter century does not bring in enough revenue to grease a turnstile. Nevertheless, one need not be a supporter to be a critic.

On the positive side, the place is much more fun to visit than it ever was before. It abounds in chances for kids to play, adults to sit and rest and for all sorts of critters to do their thing in ever roomier quarters. Even the New Guinea Walking Stick had a roomy exhibit.  The philosophy that underpinned the tiger exhibit so long ago, influenced renovations in other spaces too, the African Veldt and the world Down Under with its Wallaroos, are just two examples. The lions had plenty of room, though one maney male seemed to prefer lying directly under the sky-ride to listen to the humans roar at him as they passed over. I can imagine what the lion was thinking. “Humans. Who could guess.”

I was immensely bothered by the “non-native” paraphernalia that I saw in many of the exhibits. One was the Chimpanzee area which had cardboard strewn around here and there, entertained the chimps with shredded paper balls to tear and toss about,  and hosted a variety of brightly colored plastic toys to what? Keep the chimps interested in living? The floating bone-toys and corrugated culvert material meant as toys were all any of us saw in the large river otter area. Not seeing the otters was okay, but spare me the plastic. If we are trying to provide a natural habitat for the animals, human toys, recycling and construction materials should be kept out and be replaced by that which would be found in nature.

Still, the zoo is representative of the citizenry it hosts, many faceted, a little funky and fighting hard to stay alive.




  1. Amy says:

    While I haven’t visited the San Francisco Zoo in three years, I’m eager to compare the two — I like the manageable size of the Oakland Zoo and also how green with vegetation it is. Plus…the views!


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