gorilla warfare


On the surface, a day at the zoo can appear fairly routine. At the Philadelphia Zoo on its birthday, kids ran their fingers over an empty tortoise shell that a volunteer held by that animals’ exhibit, and laid on the floor of the Bank of America Big Cat Falls’ theater to watch a film montage of tigers, lions, and cheetahs. Parents pushed strollers and bought Dippin’ Dots. I sat on the edge of Bird Lake and watched children in a paddle boat shaped like a swan try to hit Canada geese while an employee on the dock yelled, “Ride’s over!” But there were also multiple opportunities for contemplation of biology — a fact whose spirit would have pleased the zoo’s founders, if not its form. At an exhibit of two hornbills, for example, one of the birds hopped to the fence whenever a visitor came to it. It walked back and forth along the fence with a toy in its long, black beak: a cartoon cat with a stressed-out expression on its face. In the petting zoo, I saw a squirrel (one of the only truly wild animals at a zoo) eat almost an entire ice cream cone that someone had dropped. A few dozen peacocks invaded the dusty mountain of the prairie dog enclosure; three of the mammals sat at the end of clear plastic box placed out on the mound, eating peanuts while one of the birds poked its head in to eat some, too.

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