The mild winter allowed us a lot of outdoors time this season.
One of the things we did one sunny weekend in January was visit the NC Zoo in Asheboro.
This zoo is the largest walk-through natural habitat zoo in the world, and the first in the country. It is located on 1,500 acres of land in the Uwharrie Mountains. The animal enclosures "mimic their natural habitat to include trees, ponds, rocks, grass and dirt." The NC Zoo has long participated in wildlife conservation projects, and I understand that its international fieldwork "helps save the wild cousins of the animals enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of visitors to the zoo."
We walked around the different "habitats." We started at the North American exhibit and went through cypress swamp, marsh, rocky coast, stream side, prairie, Northwoods and desert habitats.
At the Sonoran Desert habitat, we saw among others, an endangered ocelot. The zoo is currently raising funds to improve its capacity to breed this critically endangered animal.
We also saw a red wolf at the Northwoods exhibit. I understand from here that red wolves were considered endangered in the 60s and were removed from the wild in 1973 for their protection and for breeding purposes. By 1980, there were no more red wolves in the wild. However, in 1987 they were "reintroduced to the wild, " and that was "the first attempt to reintroduce a carnivore declared extinct in the wild to a portion of its former range." It's heartening to know that there's now a free-ranging population of red wolves inhabiting lands in northeastern NC.
As for the African animals exhibit, it's a veritable safari.
This is the Watani Grasslands area.
Look at all that space.
Rhinos and antelope graze here.
In another area of the Watani Grasslands are the elephants. This is one of three elephants we saw. It was swaying from side-to-side at one point, almost dancing.
And then we came upon this clearing, which turns out to be the "Forest Edge" exhibit. This is where zebras, giraffes and ostriches are supposed to be. Yes, those three animals can coexist. We did not see any ostriches, but we saw these beautiful zebras and graceful giraffes.
And then walking further on, we came to this handsome lion's den.
Nearby, there is a spacious, glassed-off area surrounded by giant boulders. This is the home of four gorillas named Nkosi, Acacia, Jamani and Olympia.
This is Nkosi, the silverback gorilla, holding a bouquet of greens, which he munched on...
...before climbing up on those logs to get more grub stashed away, as you can see.
We spent about five hours in this zoo. And my daughter learned so much from viewing the animals in conditions that mimic their natural habitat.
Anyway, I am not an expert on this subject but I would like to know what you think of animals in zoos. I know there's still a raging debate between animal rights and animal welfare activists and so on. And I know there are many questions that are difficult to answer.
There are those who believe zoos, per se, are morally objectionable and that having animals in captivity as a means to achieve our own ends, like public entertainment, is something to be opposed.
Others believe it's only wrong if the animal suffers in the zoo compared to its life in the wild.
Moreover, there are those who think that the benefit of having animals in zoos for research and to aid in the conservation of entire species of animal in the wild justifies the captivity of the individual animals on display.
What are your thoughts on this dicey subject? Do you take your kids to the zoo?