Making the Best of the Zoo

Do you like zoos?

My husband wanted to go somewhere. My daughter wanted to go: first to the beach. Then to an amusement park. Then to a zoo. I liked the beach idea; I started thinking about Ocean Grove. Well, somehow we ended up at the zoo. Turtle Back Zoo in Essex County. I did suggest Popcorn Zoo, which saves animals. At least at that zoo there is a reason for the animals being behind cages. But my husband argued that it’s a longer drive. And Turtle Back does have the train and carousel.

Do you have mixed feelings about gawking at a bunch of animals in a cage?

First, we have to wait in line. So then my husband thinks out loud about how if we had gone to Popcorn Zoo, maybe we wouldn’t have had to wait in line?
Waiting at Turtleback Zoo

Finally, we are in the zoo. After looking at a little fountain, finding the restrooms, buying my daughter a Chex mix snack in a vending machine, we then look at some animals.

Here’s one. I think it’s a bison (according to Victor, see comments, this is Highland Cattle):
bison at Turtleback Zoo

We stop looking at animals for a bit, because we’ve come upon: the CAROUSEL! Much more fun to ride on a large plastic leopard that goes up and down:
carousel at Turtleback Zoo

As my husband and daughter examine a few more animals behind bars, I examine people:
people at the zoo
walking people

Here are two Central New Jersey moms:
two women

I spot a cute guy. He deserves his own photo:

Here’s how my daughter lets us know that she’s had enough looking at bears from the Ural Mountains and chickens and would like to go on the train:

We find the area for the train, and what do we need to do but wait. I people watch:
waiting for the train

Finally, we are on the train. My husband figures if we had to pay for the train, like we did for the carousel (the carousel costs $2/ride), the line would have been shorter. The train takes us on a short ride through the woods, and we see: A lake. Some trees.

After our train ride we gawk at some orange fish:

After examining some endangered amphibians of New Jersey and enjoying the company of some otters, I spot a zoo person holding 2 dead rabbits. “Ew,” I say, “what are those for?” They’re going to feed them to the alligator, my husband tells me. And sure enough, there are all these people standing around the alligator cage watching the alligator chomping away. My husband and I agree this is a bit of a tacky activity.


At left is the baby alligator we saw moments later.


My daughter agreed to go on a pony ride, so that was the next activity. We also saw a cage that supposedly held a groundhog. I couldn’t see the groundhog, but the hole under the little hut in the cage looked suspiciously like the hole under our garage.

Oh, by the way, our neighbors down the block have now caught 11 groundhogs (some were babies) and let them go in Johnson Park.

The zoo has sculptures all around, mostly of animals, but this one is of a boy and a girl:
My daughter took that photo herself. Aren’t digital cameras great for teaching kids?

The best part was photographing the bear.

And this is by far the longest photo essay I’ve ever written.

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16 thoughts on “Making the Best of the Zoo

  • Beautiful pictures. I don’t know that I agree with you about the rabbits; that’s part of life too. Have you read the Life of Pi? Among other things, it defends zoos. Pi is the son of zookeepers, who ends up alone on a boat with a tiger. Highly recommended.

  • Life of Pi? Sounds like it’s worth a look. Never heard of it. Might help me get over my ambivalence about zoos.

    Thank you both, mom in Israel and ID, for reading.

  • I loved zoos as a kid and now have the sort of reservations you mention. However maybe the two are linked. If you love the animals in a zoo when you are little, you realize how painful it must be for them to be behind bars when you are a grown-up. If in the end zoos bring people to cherish nature, I’d say they are not that bad.

  • Ilana-Davita, I don’t know if I ever liked zoos much. I remember enjoying taking my niece to zoos. At the time I paid much more attention to her than to the animals. What you say about yourself empathizing with the animals makes a lot of sense.

  • Hey, Alyssa! OK, nice to get a comment from someone who is across the street (my other two commenters on this post are from Israel and France respectively…isn’t blogging cool?)

    I’ll be over soon.

  • Wanna talk zoos. I once went to the zoo in Venezuela with my husband (it’s where he was raised). I was sickened at how the animals were so neglected, and we left early because I couldn’t take it anymore.

    At least most of the zoos I’ve been to in America (and the one in Jerusalem that we have visited) treat the animals as humanely as possible. Many of these zoos are involved in decreasing the extinction of many species, in the protection of their natural habitats around the world, and in educating their visitors about these issues. Modern zoos try to mimic these habitats so their animals are as comfortable as possible.

    But I know what you mean about seeing them behind cages.

  • Lion of Zion, maybe Akismet is eating your comments because you won’t let me comment on your Jr. and “nefesh” post (it’s not fair; you can comment anywhere you want, but because you are studying we can’t comment on a short, short post of yours?)

    This was a good line of yours:
    “…I had not been to Staten Islandโ€™s kosher pizza shop in a long time and I did not feel like searching for it. Imagine, an entire borough with just one kosher pizzeria. Now that is galus.”

    Baila, thanks for sharing. Venezuela sounds interesting. Sounds like you could have some good blog material from your trip. Even if it was a while back.

  • I’m very mixed on zoos myself now that I’m older. I always feel bad for caged animals, same with ones that are trained to do tricks for our amusement. On the other hand, if I had young kids at home I’d probably take them to the zoo. Love all the pics – looks like a good time!

  • JHS, thanks for including me in your blog carnival. I’ll link to it soon.
    Rosie, I’m going to read this Life of Pi book and see what it has to say about zoos.

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