Saturday, November 15, 2003

Polar Bears and More

After flipping by the clinic for a blood draw and quick ultrasound (about 25 follicles too small to measure; another seven or so with a mean diameter of 10 mm or greater; E2 levels rising at a desirable rate), Evelin and I took a trip up to the Baltimore Zoo.

It's the third oldest zoo in the country, and the first few cages (and they are cages, not enclosures) are a bit depressing, but they did have a good deal of vegetation and enrichments in them and the animals seemed well adapted. As you get deeper into the zoo, however, things brighten up a bit.

The new Polar Bear Watch exhibit is only partially open -- they need to finish the arctic fox and snowy owl exhibits and repair a glass panel in the underwater part of the exhibit before it can be filled and used -- but it is a significant improvement from the old polar bear enclosure. The Africa section had some cool giraffes, and the chimpanzee forest was well done, as was the watering hole. The children's zoo section was also neat, including a walk through the various environments of Maryland, including a piedmont forest and a mountain cave. There were lots of little side things for kids here, and it ended up in a farm with a petting zoo.

Sidenote: If you haven't ever seen a giraffe running, it really is cool. They move pretty quickly, but because of the length of their legs and the way their neck moves when running, it looks like it's happening in slow motion.

The sad thing is that the zoo is having financial problems (Baltimore Sun story), which are forcing them to look to cut 20 staff members and to loan out their two breeding-age elephant cows and other animals. The news that the zoo would lose its elephants has helped draw in a number of new donations (98 Rock had a DJ in a cage to help raise $40,000 from listeners), as well as promises of aid from the state, but it remains to be seen whether or not more people come to the zoo and become members.

Ironically, the zoo has been able to get funds for new exhibits, like the Polar Bear Watch, but those funds are dedicated and don't end up helping covering the costs of staffing, maintenance, or repairs after things like Hurricane Isabel. Hopefully, things will turn a corner, the state will kick in some funds, and some companies will see the benefit of contributing to the general fund, instead of just wanting to have their name on a specific exhibit, animal, or enclosure.

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