Update: Thanks to a comment, it's been brought to my attention that the zoo actually does have penguins and that I missed them somehow in the aquarium. Thanks for the comment keeping me honest. They have king penguins and gentoo penguins, according to the website, in the PPG aquarium.
Now I'll have to go back.
I think they should force animals to audition before they let them into a zoo.
This way you weed out the lazy ones who want to stay in their caves or nap all day and get the ones who have bought in, who really want to be there, and will put on a show.
These are my conclusions from my Saturday afternoon at the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG aquarium. It's a nice place and you see a lot for $13.
I'm a zoo fan. I used to love to read the information plaques near the habitats -- "Wow! An elephant can run 25 miles per hour!" -- but now I really go just to look. And this is what I came away with:
- Tigers are MASSIVE
I was under the impression that tigers were about the size of a bicycle, three feet high and about five feet long, more in the puma neighborhood size-wise. Maybe Mike Tyson's tiger in The Hangover gave me this idea, I don't know. But tigers, at least this tiger, are big. This hoss of a jungle cat had to be about 10 feet long and five feet tall. His paws were the size of an iPad.
To prevent this behemoth from escaping his habitat, the zoo built a moat of sorts, with water at the bottom and a vertical brick wall about 15 feet high that the tiger theoretically can't climb. The problem: If the tiger wised up and realized that he didn't have to climb the wall but could jump across the moat from his habitat, which was about level with the viewing platform, he'd have a fighting chance at getting there. With how big this tiger looked I thought he could just causally step over the gap.
He was beautiful, though, and moved very gracefully. Very intimidating even from far away. I would have liked to see him in action, you know, drop a gazelle in there and see what happens, but it wasn't lunchtime when I was there.
- Rhinos are ornery
At least these two were. They squabbled the entire time I watched them and tried -- half-heartedly -- to shove their horns into each other's necks. They never accomplished anything. Finally one gave up, but the other refused to stop pestering him until he had to run away. These guys were big also, and I hadn't seen many rhinos at zoos before.
- Elephants are dangerous
The zoo seems to think so. The elephants have two habitats. One is outdoors and resembles their natural living area, a combination of desert and grasses with a watering hole. The other is indoors and looks like the elephant version of Guantanamo Bay prison: concrete floors, yellow walls, sliding metal gates, steel-reinforced fences. It was here that the elephants were confined when I was there, and they settled for walking around slowly and eating hay off the floor.
Maybe they were in there to eat, or get out of the sun, or something. But they're impressive to see in person. You can hear them step and breathe because they are so big.
- Seals are the best
Seals are my favorite animal there. They're always moving, interacting, doing something. These five particular seals seemed to be a family. Grandpa circled the pool slowly, the seal equivalent of walking with a cane. Three brothers chased each other everywhere and yelled obscenities at each other on the island in the middle, and the grandchild struggled to keep up.
One of the brothers seemed to have upset the other two and swam in laps to evade them, jumping out of the water from time to time. They chased him onto the feeding platform and engaged in shouting matches in that loud dog-like barking noise. The little one picked sides with the two brothers while grandpa continued his leisure walk.
- Winners: Seals, monkeys. The monkey found a way to avoid the slanted glass wall of his exhibit and climb using the metal frame on the side. This allowed him to get within inches of the spectators and scare the bejesus out of some little kids who weren't expecting him that close.
- Losers: Polar bear, African painted dogs. The polar bear walked back and forth from point A to point B, refusing to jump in the water and satisfy the hundreds of people watching him. His tank had a tunnel beneath it so you could watch him swim from below, but that didn't help on this day. And the African painted dogs were nowhere to be found, which led me to wonder, how long could you operate a zoo that had no animals at all? Open all the habitats, put up information, fences, etc., but don't put any animals in it. Instead, leave signs: "The lions have been taken to UPMC for flu shots." "The sea turtles are having flipper surgery." "The elephants have been temporarily removed for a colonoscopy." For the rest, make insanely large habitats so that the animals, for all the customers know, could be half a mile away under a tree. I'd say it lasts a week.
I loved the zoo and had a good time there, and I'm glad I got a chance to go while I was in Pittsurgh. Have any of you been to the zoo? What did you think?