I am a proud member of the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Assn.! Do I sound
like one of the KCET fund-raisers? I am so thrilled with the improvements
they have made over the past few years that I want to tell everyone to go
and see. And when they have seen, I want them to join, because they are
as excited as I am about the zoo’s exciting renewal process.
In that frame of mind, I took a friend to a very special morning
designed by GLAZA to thank members for their support. It’s worth the
price of membership to be allowed to be present on these annual
“Members, Keepers & Creatures” mornings, when they open their doors at 8
a.m. for members only.
This is a wonderful opportunity to see the animals when they are at
their most active in their beautiful habitats. Keepers who care for them
were at each of the exhibits to explain and answer questions about the
animals and to conduct behavioral enrichment demonstrations.
We learned that animals are taught particular behaviors that zoo
visitors find entertaining for the purpose of facilitating medical
procedures. Teaching an elephant to lift a foot on command allows a
keeper to inspect the foot for injury. Teaching it to raise its trunk
makes inspection of the mouth possible. Imagine how you might make these
inspections if the animal were not trained to cooperate. You’d probably
have to anesthetize it for such examinations, which could be very
dangerous. No, “Up, Jumbo,” is much safer to the keeper and the animal.
We were thrilled with the Red Ape Rain Forest. I had seen it before,
but this time I was waiting when the orangutans rushed out into the
habitat, looking for the orange slices that the keepers had hidden among
the fruit trees and giant bamboo. A few of the primates climbed the ropes
and swung over the temple-like structure to descend on the other side,
playing with hanging sheets of paper, logs and baskets. Bruno, Eloise,
Kalim and Rosie showed spectators how happy they are in their arboreal
home. It was great!
The Chimps of Mahale Mountain has been one of my favorite exhibits
since it opened, and I couldn’t wait to share it with my friend. Rolling
hills, trees, a beautiful waterfall, logs and plenty of rocks for
climbing make it a wonderful place to watch these creatures playing,
oblivious of the spectators who watch, intrigued at the sight.
The gorillas were great. One sat almost like he was posing for a
portrait. He played with a red flower, then looked up at us as though he
wanted to say, “Snap it now!” Another ambled quietly around the habitat,
then quickly ripped out two patches of grass and threw them at its
audience. I suspected he was telling us to go away, and we did.
The river otters chased sardines frozen in ice like Popsicles, and the
sea lions jumped, rolled over and nudged the keepers with their flippers
to ask for the fish that they knew were in the red buckets they carried.
Work on revamping the sea lion habitat will begin in about four months.
You can see that a great deal of serious thought has gone into providing
safety and stimulation for the animals in the construction of all the new
habitats. I can’t wait to see what this new one will look like.
We saw the black bears and the spectacled bears, who played with balls
and hanging toys, then posed for pictures. At least, that’s what it
looked like to us. The armor-plated rhinoceros, the gerenuks and the
beautiful zebras, like all of the animals we saw, were in wonderful
The Sumatran tiger was a delight to my photographer friend. Big cats
make wonderful subjects for pictures, but they are usually sleepy when we
see them. This day was a wonderful exception: The tiger played with a
stick, wandered around Tiger Island pawing through foliage, and
eventually found a rabbit carcass, which excited it to run around,
tossing it ahead of him and then laying out in full view of my
picture-taking friend. He was ecstatic!
Staff members and docents were in great spirits as they welcomed
members to the park. One happy fellow greeted us with, “They’re feeding
the fossa!” When we responded with puzzled looks, he said, “You’re
supposed to say, ‘What’s a fossa?’ ” When we did, he conducted us to the
enclosure to see it for ourselves. It looks like a cross between a dog
and a cat, with a few other animals thrown in for good measure -- like a
short, stocky puma with a long tail. At one time, naturalists believed it
might be a primitive cat, but DNA studies have confirmed that it is
actually more closely related to the mongoose.
We visited the golden lion tamarins, who seemed to love the camera.
These tiny monkeys are found only in a small, fragmented section of
forest in the lowland region of the state of Rio de Janeiro. The Los
Angeles zoo is participating in a reintroduction program that has
released many of its tamarins and their offspring into the wild in
The 43 staff members and 1,000 volunteers are justifiably proud of the
job they are doing in trying to make the Los Angeles Zoo the best it can
possibly be. Go see what they have done. If you haven’t been there for a
few years, you are in for a big, beautiful surprise.