Monday, July 18, 2011

The Brookfield Zoo

The following showed up in a box on my Google News page late last week. I read it and then read it again, to make sure I hadn't missed anything, such as why I would be remotely interested in participating.

Welcome to Google News Badges

Collect private badges for your favorite topics. The more you read, the more your badges level up: you can reach Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, and finally Ultimate. Keep your badges to yourself -- or show them off to your friends!

For example, if you keep reading articles about Politics, it will earn you a Bronze badge.

A bronze badge I can show to my friends? Maybe Google thinks I'm ten years old. But if so, why would I want to earn badges in politics? I deleted the box, muttering we don't need no...

We went to the Brookfield Zoo on Friday afternoon, just ahead of the heat wave that's settled over northern Illinois. I wasn't exactly sure the last time we went there, but it's been a few years. Around this time last year we started to go to the zoo, but became mired in a fierce traffic jam on Illinois 83 in DuPage County, and also discovered that our car's air conditioner had decided to break that very day. Things got a mite testy inside the car, so we only got as far as the Oakbook Center, shrugging off the zoo for a mall.

We had better luck this time, arriving in the early afternoon and returning home in time for dinner, thus avoiding overpriced zoo food. Not only that, we had free admission passes that we'd received as a gift a while ago. So for the price of parking ($9), we had access to the Brookfield Zoo, which is formally known as the Chicago Zoological Park but never called that, on 216 acres of Cook County Forest Preserve land in the western suburb of Brookfield.

Why are zoos considered children's attractions? They are, of course, good places to take your children, but a good zoo offers a lot to older visitors. I've been to North American, European and Asian zoos, and you won't persuade me, for instance, that the marvels of Night Safari in Singapore, which is a nocturnal zoo, are best reserved for kids. Even more modest zoos are usually worth a look.

As for the Brookfield Zoo, living relatively close by has made me blasé about it. I shouldn't be. It's one of the country's great zoos, expansive and park-like, full of well-designed exhibits that are home to a wide variety of animals. During our visit, we managed to see (among other animals), addax, African wild dogs, alligator snapping turtles, alligators, Amur leopards and tigers, an Andean condor, Bactrian camels, a bald eagle, bats, black-footed cats, a boa constrictor, buffalo, a cassowary, dolphins, giraffes, golden lion tamarin, a green moray eel, a grizzly bear, Humboldt penguins, ibex, klipspriners, meerkats, Mexican gray wolves, moon jellies, naked mole rats, North American river otters, polar bears, sea lions, sloth bears, wombats and zebras.

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