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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Friday, February 23

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matty / January 5, 2006 10:56 AM

boo you just changed it after my awesome top 10 list.

FlowFeel / January 5, 2006 11:03 AM

Fav zoo animal - DA BEARS!!

MikeH / January 5, 2006 11:04 AM

I am really fascinated by ALL animals, but whenever I go to the zoo, it's the gorillas that I look most forward to seeing...

jen / January 5, 2006 11:13 AM

without a doubt, the penguins. and this was long before the march of the penguins madness. i can, and have, watched them for hours at the shedd.

Carrie / January 5, 2006 11:13 AM

I love all the animals, too, but elephants are my favorites. I love elephants. They're some of the smartest animals. Did you all hear that the Hawthorne elephants in one of our suburbs finally let the elephants they kept chained to the wall go to the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee? It's pretty great. Check out It's one of the best sites. You can see the girls try on their elephant shoes or you can feed an elephant for a day for only $30. Ok, that's it. I'm done. Clearly, elephants are my favorites.

van Moxie / January 5, 2006 11:15 AM

Sea Otters. They just frolic. So playful and stress-reducing. Let's go see some otters! Elephants are my favorite animal by far, but I hate seeing them in zoos.

slb / January 5, 2006 11:17 AM

elephants and octopuses (no, it's *not* octopi... it's derived from greek, not latin). both of them are way more intelligent than people give them credit for being. and fascinating to watch, if you stop and really look. but monkeys are great too, and meerkats, and otters... i love the zoo.
though i'd like to go on record as saying that lincoln park zoo shouldn't have elephants anymore - not enough space.

Dan / January 5, 2006 11:24 AM


Andrew / January 5, 2006 11:24 AM

Sorry matty. It's not like your list was deleted, though: it's right here :)

appopt / January 5, 2006 11:25 AM

I'm always fascinated by the wild squirrels and birds that hang out at the zoo. I wonder if they mock all the locked-up animals. "Nyeah, nyeah, nyeah, I can go wherever I want," the baby squirrel says right before running across the street and getting squashed by an SUV.

Brenda / January 5, 2006 11:25 AM

Tai Shan rules!

Baltimore / January 5, 2006 11:31 AM

That huge 500 pound or so Aligator Snapping Turtle with the green moss all over its shell- if its still there- is sexy!

leah / January 5, 2006 11:45 AM

pandas. though I have only ever seen them via the panda cam.

I have teh pandamonium. for sure.

matty / January 5, 2006 12:03 PM

Tyranasarus Rex

Steve / January 5, 2006 12:12 PM

Wombats, of course. They were worth saving then, and they're worth saving now.

katie / January 5, 2006 12:12 PM

favorite zoo animals of all time: the two llamas at Cosley Zoo in Wheaton. they just seem so happy and mellow. and yeah, like someone else said, I like a lot of other animals. . . just not in zoos.

sky / January 5, 2006 12:17 PM

I Love seeing all the animals, but ulitimately, after being in the zoo, I'm depressed.

Naz / January 5, 2006 12:20 PM

I appreciate zoos for the most part, if they're the kind of zoo that has large acreage.

The Lincoln Park Zoo (from all the zoos I've been to in the world) is the poorest I have ever been to. I was pretty shocked at the tight quarters that animals had there.

I've been there a few times since and while I like the idea of a mini-zoo in the city, it's really unkind to the animals. The big cats area depresses me the most -- as others have noted, any of the big animal areas are sort of sad. They lack the space, the cats look depressed as hell and there's just nowhere to get some running and bounding in.

Counter that with the London Zoo. I'm not sure if they still have it this way but as a kid, my parents took me a few times and you could never get out of your car, as the animals were more or less loose and free to roam within fenced off (but not caged) areas that allowed them to roam and run if they wished too. Therefore, no getting out of your car. You drove around and checked out the animals and rolled down your window to take a photo.

Zoos should be more like nature preserves rather than "large pet cages".

Sorry for the rant. I always want to like the zoo and then get depressed after going there.

How's Brookfield anyone?

Marc / January 5, 2006 12:20 PM

The impossibly depressed leopard that spends all day, every day pacing a circle in his cage, wearing his pads bloody in the process.

Marc / January 5, 2006 12:20 PM

Or any of the other impossibly depressed big cats that pace back and forth with dead eyes.

Marc / January 5, 2006 12:22 PM

Ha ha ha, what Naz said. I used to stop by LPZ on the way back from work pretty much every day... a quick reminder of what cunts we all are.

I used the chimpanzees as an excuse to go in late all last Summer. If I rode my back past *after* 9:00 then they were generally outside, swinging around their cage or sitting in the branches of that bare tree in there.

e_five / January 5, 2006 12:30 PM

Hyenas, rats, snakes, and insects. That way I don't ever feel bad about them being in captivity.

hench / January 5, 2006 12:34 PM

the fruitbats at brookfield zoo are great.

eep / January 5, 2006 12:38 PM

Naked mole rats!

Angus Bangus / January 5, 2006 12:40 PM

one big hyena vs. one razorback boar

Carrie / January 5, 2006 12:41 PM

Oh I agree, the LPZ or really any zoo shouldn't have elephants anymore, or the big cats or really any animals that requires a large amount of space. Zoos make me sad, so I never go. That's another reason I like to visit the sanctuary site- the girls have all sorts of room to roam and knock trees over. If you get lucky, you can see them on the elecam. Anyway, knowing that the girls have lots of space and are happy always *cheesily* makes me smile.

Oketo / January 5, 2006 1:34 PM

Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! Ok seriously, flamingos! Standing on one leg freaks... fly away!

slb / January 5, 2006 1:47 PM

yeah, when i said i love zoos i guess i meant i love animals... the polar bear at LPZ depresses me the most because he seems so f*ed up, pacing and swimming frantically... Carrie - I'm *so* excited to see the elephant sanctuary, i will even go to tennessee on purpose!!

Shayna / January 5, 2006 2:09 PM

River otters!

MikeH / January 5, 2006 2:09 PM

I have mixed feelings about zoos. I'm initially elated at being in such close proximity to these animals, but then find myself becoming depressed on their behalf. When you see the big cats pacing back and forth, that's not a sign of boredom--that's a classic sign of STRESS...

On the other hand, the narrator in The Life of Pi presents a fairly convincing argument on why zoos aren't cruel...

There are two sides to every coin, I guess. But like others who've posted here, I agree that there are certain animals that should never be in zoos (i.e. elephants, big cats, polar bears, etc.)

dan / January 5, 2006 2:14 PM

The LPZ is the second oldest zoo in the country, it should be noted. Much of the reason the cages (or "habitats") are so small is because of the unenlightened views towards animals circa 1870 (when the zoo started).

Plus, there is a big reason many of the animals there don't look so hot >> they're old. In the whole "passing around of animals" that the American Zoo and Aquatic Association does, the LPZ frequently gets older animals that used to be at other zoos.

I'm not defending the LPZoo in any way though. I'm just stating what I know. They have been responsible for some major screw-ups lately >> the deaths of those 5 monkeys due to poisonous shrubs being one of them.

If it were up to me, I'd raze the whole place, put in fewer animals in much larger habitats, and try to showcase species indigenous to the Midwest. That will never happen though :(

Oh, and my favorite animals are the river otters in the new Childrens Zoo.

Roni / January 5, 2006 2:22 PM


At the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo (talk about depressing) you can feed the giraffes granola bars or something like it.

While it makes LPZ look like heaven, I have to say that being able to feed one of your favorite animals does make it one place I love to visit - every 15 years or so.

Marc / January 5, 2006 2:36 PM

I was really keen on the camels that we had at the Ross Park Zoo in Bighamton, NY where I grew up.

A. / January 5, 2006 2:57 PM


Andy / January 5, 2006 2:58 PM

I agree with everyone who's been dissing the Lincoln Park Zoo. I find most zoos rather depressing. That said, I love the penguins at the LPZ. I think it's because, unlike a lot of the other animals, they actually look like they're having a good time.

gouache / January 5, 2006 4:46 PM

ANTEATERS (giant, of course)

spence / January 5, 2006 4:59 PM

I can't believe there is no love for monkeys. They're easily the most entertaining animal ever invented by God.

printdude / January 5, 2006 5:19 PM

My favorite is the Tiger.
My favorite tigers are the white ones in the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans - They have a beautiful habitat and seem awfully comfortable. While there alone on a weekday one January (I saw one other visitor that day), one of the tigers was stalking me, then playing along as I ran and hid numerous times. This went on for about an hour. Best zoo experience EVAH!

Steve / January 5, 2006 5:51 PM

My second-fave are the red-assed monkeys on the big mountain at Brookfield Zoo. It's like watching a pack of Scott Skileses and Larry Bowas run around.

bensch / January 5, 2006 6:48 PM

Lemurs and otters.

bran / January 5, 2006 8:00 PM

Is GB getting desperate for fuel for Fuel? Zoo animals? Ice cream next week? Favorite car? Color? Celebrity? High School Teacher? Pet Rock? Favorite Monkee? Beatle? Stroke? Oy! ;)

Okay, done being snide. Onto the meat: While Lincoln Park Zoo may be cramped, honestly the facilities are still better for their occupants than zoos in most other communities in this country, especially smaller communities - like the Henry Vilas Zoo in Madison, WI - which has to bethe WORST zoo I've ever been to. Tiny concrete cubicles for every animal - poorly simulated "terrain" and definitely not enough territory for healthy roaming. It's cruel and, frankly,I don't think that zoo should remain open. The other zoo I've been disgusted with was Atlanta's - but it's been 15 years, so there's a good chance that zoo has improved.

Frankly, with the internet and cable television channels, I think zoos are antiquated holdovers from the Victorian era whose time has come. They're cruel and unnatural, and I really don't think they add as much to their communities as their proponents would like us to think (honestly, I think the educational value of the media cited at the beginning of this program is far greater). They're extremely expensive to maintain. And I really think that, at this stage in the game, we can really develop better conservation facilities than zoos.

bran / January 5, 2006 8:02 PM

Okay: quick correction: I'm not exactly sure that zoos are officially Victorian. They seem like they'd have been Victorian, but I don't know that for a fact. So, I retract the whole Victorian thing.

Baltimore / January 5, 2006 8:15 PM

Screaming red faced runny nosed kids and their parents (Saimiri sciureus)- in the turbo strollers from their natural habitat- and their yuppie parents(Papio hamadryas)

Brandy / January 5, 2006 10:43 PM

I wanted to be a zoologist when I was a kid. I love animals. I love zoos. I'm not saying they are perfect or that can't be improved, but I *do* think they perform an importance service to expose people to animals they wouldn't normally see and teach and add to a body of knowledge.

My favorite zoo animals are polar bears and tapirs.

Go tapirs!

They completely freaked me out when I first saw them, b/c I first saw them live, not in a book and they make no sense as an animal.

Oh, and my favorite Monkee is Mike Nesmith.

frank / January 5, 2006 11:00 PM

the animals that are not dead. what's wrong with lincoln zoo?

steven / January 6, 2006 6:54 AM


holden / January 6, 2006 7:43 AM


And the Henry Doorley Zoo in Omaha is a great zoo. Walk thru aquarium, Ape House, Rain Forest, Desert Dome. Pretty nice. I great way to spend an afternoon.

Stephen / January 6, 2006 7:52 AM

I am not a fan of any zoo, really, so I don't go to them.

But if I did, I'd like the freaky insects the most. I remember seeing those as a kid and they were the coolest. Especially because it was hilarious to see my sister pee her pants in fear.

m / January 6, 2006 9:15 AM

While I'm sure most animals would be happiest in the wild (except for maybe the ones that end up as food?), I think many of the social animals like the primates and the penguins fare better at the zoo than some of the hunters/meat eaters. I always feel sorry for the big cats but the primates always seem to be pretty happy. As far as zoos go, LPZ is a very nice zoo for its size. And the most "born free" zoo environment I've seen is the San Diego Zoo's Wild Animal Park ... except for the Southern California desert canyon backdrop, you'd almost think you were in Africa ... only the cheetahs are of course separated from the gazelles.

wild animal park

I was in Yellowstone recently and learned a lot about wolves. They're very interesting. The Chicago Police should study and classify gangbangers the way scientists study wolves ... they're very similar in the way they socialize, represent territory, hunt and kill ... only wolves are actually more intelligent and have a longer lifespan, proportionally.

jk1 / January 6, 2006 10:48 AM

My sympathies are with any free ranging animals kept in a confined space, such as the big cats and various hooved animals are at LPZ. Bears would generally be included as well. It's really disheartening, for example, to see the mountain lions pacing back and forth in front of the fenced enclosure as throngs of boisterous children screech and their ignorant parents encourage them.

As much as I try to rationalize that the animals on display are sort of martyrs that help to create a sense of empathy for nature amongst the general public, I can't help but think that Animal Planet doesn't do the same thing without traumatizing scores of animals (Although Steve Irwin has certainly inflicted his fair share, but at least it's usually fleeting...). Hopefully, a lot of research can be done in their honor that will benefit their brethren in the wild. If we're lucky, the money we spend on admissions, overpriced hot dogs, toys and such is helping to expand and protect preserves around the world.

The exception is the San Diego Wild Animal Park, mentioned above. As a former resident of San Diego, I can definitely attest to how great it is to see animals in something resembling a natural environment.

Another negative side effect surrounding zoos is that I wonder if by placing the emphasis on flora and fauna in far off lands, people aren't actually distanced from nature. If we would look to the nature around us, even literally in our own backyards (or alleys), maybe we'd all better appreciate it as a whole and be more likely to actively protect it.

It's interesting that someone brought up the animals, like birds, squirrels and rabbits, that freely roam LPZ. They really are fascinating to watch, I think in part because they are free. They may be common. In the case of squirrels, they may be occasionally annoying. Still, I love going to the park, just to watch them. Especially at north pond, where you can catch them interacting with migratory birds, butterflys, giant beetles, and turtles. Along the water, on the east side of north pond, it's easy to forget you're in the city. It's the wild animal park, only on a more personal scale. Really, I'd trade a guaranteed view of a sad tiger at LPZ for a random glimpse of a fox any day.

All that said, I guess I most like some of the offbeat animals when I visit a zoo. Aardvarks, porcupines, badgers, and lemurs are fascinating, and otters, sea lions and penguins are always fun. Even though they are, by nature, not terribly exciting to watch, I LOVE sloths, whom I think people could learn from.

paul / January 6, 2006 10:58 AM

Penguins! Lemurs are cool too, they always seem so surprised.

LPZ has undergone some amazing transformations since I first went in 1990. Most everything is new since then. Gone is the small mammal house, where animals where kept in small dark boxes, and the old concrete and bar lion house. The concrete large animal house transformed into the "Regenstein African Journey" and the once state of the art ape house was razed to give them much larger outdoor space, which to me doesn't make much sense with Chicago's winters.

m / January 6, 2006 11:40 AM

The squirrels at LPZ are my favorite to watch too because they walk right up and practically introduce themselves they're so tame ... hence their hefty girth compared to other squirrels in the city.

"If we would look to the nature around us, even literally in our own backyards (or alleys), maybe we'd all better appreciate it as a whole and be more likely to actively protect it." - jkl

I completely agree. jkl and anyone who agrees should check out the Nature Museum just north of the Zoo ... it's great for this. It's quite kid-oriented, but the butterfly haven alone is worth the $7 admission.

julie atomic / January 6, 2006 12:44 PM

the sand cats break my heart every time, they're so unhappy in the zoo.

p / January 6, 2006 1:16 PM

i dig the wax animals you can press up in the machines and take home.

donna / January 6, 2006 1:42 PM

meerkats! i want one.

eep / January 6, 2006 1:44 PM

p, I totally agree on the Mold-A-Rama! How could I forget? There's nothing like an orange walrus or a green giraffe getting spit out of those machines. There needs to be more Mold-A-Rama.

MikeH / January 6, 2006 1:46 PM

That would be those magical Mold-A-Rama machines! Just the mere smell of molten wax evokes fond childhood memories of school field trips...

I have both from the Lincoln Park Zoo (lion, cow)...all four from The Museum of Science & Industry (space shuttle, locomotive, John Deere tractor and U-505 sub)...and one from the Field Museum of Natural History (triceratops--I still need the other three or four). Sadly, the Shedd Aquarium got rid of their Mold-A-Ramas years ago...

Until this past year, they were still only $1 like they were when we were kids, but on a recent trip to the MSI, I noticed they had gone up to $1.50...

Thurston / January 6, 2006 4:12 PM

duck billed platypus - the only mammal that lays eggs.

d4ve / January 6, 2006 4:18 PM

i don't have a favorite "zoo animal" but i might pick the ducks and squirrels because they roam free. Zoos perpetuate objectification of animals and that is how they best "educate". It's time to shut'em down.

jk1 / January 6, 2006 5:21 PM

m -

Squirrels truly are great entertainment. Once I was visiting LPZ with my family. It was overcast all day and drops of rain were falling sporadically. As we approached the middle entrance to leave, near the old children's zoo, my sister in law decided to give an insistent squirrel the last couple of crackers that remained in a bag she'd brought along.

The squirrel stood up on it's hind legs, waiting expectantly for it's gift. My sister in law releases the cracker. The critter quickly hops to recover the cracker, resumes it's hind legged stance. It then sniffed and licked the cracker quickly like a connoisseur, spun it around, and sniffed at it again. After a moment's hesitation, the furry ingrate abruptly threw the cracker on the ground and looked back up at us, as if to say 'Got anything better?' Mind you, it didn't drop the cracker, it indignantly THREW the cracker - using both paws! Hilarious!

My wife and I have also discovered that squirrels will often respond if you make a rough, kissy noise. However, it can work TOO well. Last summer, we used our call on a squirrel while in the secluded section of north pond, under the tree canopy. The squirrel we were calling immediately skittered in our direction. As it drew closer, my wife excitedly told me to look on my opposite side, where another squirrel was creeping towards me. A few seconds later, there were literally over a dozen squirrels on every side. I actually would have felt guilty, calling them all over for nothing but fortunately we had some leftover bread from lunch, which they seemed to be happy with.

By the way, anyone interested in our local environment should definitely check out Chicago Wilderness Magazine |

Apis Mellifera / January 6, 2006 10:11 PM

Certified zoos participate in the conservation of endangered species, research and education. Sanctuaries do not. Sanctuaries are not open to the public. Sanctuaries basically exist to care for wild animals being imported or bred for entertainment, the pet trade and for medical research. I hate to burst your bubbles, but many sanctuaries house their animals in cages. With agriculture replacing the tropical rain forests and the loss of habitat, zoos are here to stay.

Murray @ PlanetThoughtful / January 7, 2006 1:10 AM

People. When I'm at zoos, as when I'm in any other public place, I generally end up watching people; the way they communicate and interact, the harried-looking, the delighted, the bored, the interested, the people watching me while I'm watching them.


Freddie / January 7, 2006 1:53 AM

I'm going to have to agree with those who said people/humans. I like watching animals looking at animals.

Lisa / January 7, 2006 10:02 AM


Huckle Cat / January 7, 2006 11:27 AM

I like the sand cat.


Amy / January 7, 2006 12:29 PM

That's a toughie. I've always loved kangaroos but they are usually just sleeping when I see them. Giraffes are amazing. Penguins are a given and I love cats of all kinds.

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