June 7, 2011

Day Trip: the Philadelphia Zoo

As a child I remember skipping in the zoo, holding my elephant-shaped "storybook key." The key was my mothers from when she was little. You inserted the key into "storybook boxes" around the zoo and the box would play a recording which told information and fun facts about the animal it was in front of. As a child it was a big deal to be able to turn the key for a group of people, especially if they didn't have a key of their own. 

I used to love the elephants, the otters and the peacocks that wandered freely. The large foreign plants seemed gargantuan, their leaves being feet above my head, but it didn't stop me from trying to touch them. There was a man-made "tree house", that is a tree with a pathway through it, where children would race their siblings and relish in the labyrinth of pathways and secret nooks.

We went to the Philadelphia Zoo yesterday and it was much different than I remembered it as a child and growing up had little to do with it. The elephants had been sent to other zoos and the "storybook" boxes removed. Many of the exhibit had been updated such as the big cat exhibit which, thankfully, no longer involves lions in barred cages.       

The Philadelphia Zoo was founded in 1859  and is the oldest zoo in the United States. Due to the Civil War, the zoo was not finished until 1874. The land is home to John Penn Jr.'s "Solitude." John Penn Jr. was the grandson of Pennsylvania's founder, William Penn. 

His home "The Solitude" was erected in 1785 on the banks of the Schuylkill River. The house is one of the first neoclassical homes in America. John Penn was the son of Thomas Penn, one of the men involved in the infamous "Walking Purchase." He was known for being a quiet man who liked to write poetry  and stroll through his gardens which later became the land for the zoo. For those of you that like the show, "the Solitude" and surrounding buildings was featured on Ghost Hunters.

The zoo holds more than 1,300 animals including many endangered species. It includes an aviary where the birds fly freely. 

 I have yet to go on the newer balloon ride. It has always been closed when I went before. This time it was open but Andy is very afraid of heights so we didn't go on. :(

Many people do not like zoos as they take animals out of their natural habitats and keeping animals in zoos really does not improve their endangered situation. I do like zoos because they showcase animals that I would never get to see otherwise. I hate that the animals are out of their natural habitats but I think the animals in captivity do a lot to educate and interest people in preserving the natural habitats of the animals. 

It is apparent that the zoo is trying to fix many problems in the exhibits by combining animals, giving the animals more space to roam while surrounding them with animals that they would encounter in their natural habitats. The elephants were recently sent to other zoos as the zoo did not have enough space to care for them properly and in 1995, the zoo had a fire and 23 animals died from carbon monoxide poisoning.  So zoos aren’t perfect but they do give animal lovers a chance to see many rare animals and are good educational tools.

We had a lot of fun and really enjoyed seeing the animals. Our favorites this time were a new family of orangutans. The mother was covered in a blanket, cuddling her new baby, who didn't want to lay still. The mother looked exhausted as if she hadn't slept in days and the father took a nap on the floor. It was such a cute little family.



  1. Very beautiful pictures. I am planning for my birthday to take a day trip to Philly with a little group.

  2. So jealous! My husband & I want to go one weekend. We were going to go memorial day weekend but we thought it might be too crowded.

  3. I enjoyed the post and pictures! I've always enjoyed going to the zoo but I'm thankful that many zoos now keep the animals in a more "natural" habitat with lots more space and not the old steel cages - I wouldn't have enjoyed seeing them kept in those.
    The baby orangutan must be very cute. :)
    God bless.

  4. I went to the zoo this weekend with Rhys. It was such a good time. I agree; I like zoos as a showcase for animals. They aren't perfect but natural habitat isn't perfect either for some animals which are endangered but continue to be hunted. Zoos also have animal experts who try to make the animals lives as natural and as entertaining as they would be in the wild. So I feel glad that they exist. You definitely have to take the ballon ride someday :)


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