Newt Gingrich is a huge fan of zoos.
The former House speaker dreamed as a child of becoming a zookeeper. He has visited about 100 zoos and wrote the introduction to the guidebook “America’s Best Zoos.”
Gingrich got his start in politics at an early age, when he tried to open up a zoo in Harrisburg, Pa.
“An 11-year-old is fighting City Hall here in an attempt to establish a zoo in the city’s Wildwood Park,” reads a 1954 report by the Associated Press. “Young Newton Gingrich told Mayor Claude Robins and four city Councilmen that he and a number of youthful buddies could round up enough animals to get the project started.”
Newt and his wife, Callista, visit zoos “everywhere they go,” according to Gingrich Productions, Gingrich’s multimedia company.
Their favorites include the San Diego Zoo, the Bronx Zoo and the Omaha Zoo, which Gingrich says is “one of the three best zoos in America.”
“When I was young, I wanted to be either a zoo director or a vertebrate paleontologist,” Gingrich said in an April video posted to YouTube by Gingrich Productions. (Watch the video below.)
“I just like to go and unwind and see how the local zoo does things and what kind of animals they have and have some time to, you know, watch the animals and relax,” he said. “I really get a tremendous amount of enjoyment out of getting a better feel for the natural world.”
The passion is so great that Gingrich has managed to work some zoo time into his schedule this year as he has campaigned for the Republican presidential nomination. In September, Gingrich hosted a fundraiser at the Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa Bay, Fla.
“This is a particular treat for me,” he told the St. Petersburg Times. “It’s a very, very good zoo.” firstname.lastname@example.org