It's a zoo out there — an insider's guide

I love snapping pics of animals (mostly my cat, but other critters too). My husband and I are also at the age when many of our friends have young children. So in our travels to visit far-flung friends and family, we often end up at travel week-1the local zoo. Our nephews and our friends’ kids have proven to be excellent tour guides; they know all the coolest animals. And because each zoo is different, it’s a chance to see interesting species we don’t have in DC.

Here are highlights from the last couple years from zoos in New Orleans, New York City, Los Angeles, Roanoke, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, San Diego, and Toronto.

All images © angela n.

[divider line_type=”Small Line” custom_height=””]Dispatches is our occasional look outside of DC at the places local photographers have traveled. Have a set of photos you’d like to feature here? Contact us at editor@dcfocused.com.

 

Audubon Zoo (New Orleans)

White Bengal tiger, Audubon Zoo. White tigers aren’t a species, but result from a rare genetic mutation. Almost all white Bengals today are descended from a single male cub captured in 1951.  To reduce in-breeding and associated congenital defects, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums has banned its members, including the Audubon Zoo, from breeding any more white tigers.

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Bronx Zoo

Gelada baboon, Bronx Zoo

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Wolf’s mona monkey, Bronx Zoo

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Mandrill, Bronx Zoo

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Squirrel monkeys, Bronx Zoo

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A young western lowland gorilla, Bronx Zoo. DC’s National Zoo has gorillas too, but none this young. (Snapped July 2015)

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A baby western lowland gorilla, July 2015. Some of the Bronx Zoo’s exhibits are quite dark, requiring big apertures and high ISOs. This is f/2.8 at ISO 6400.

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The extinct-in-the-wild Pere David’s deer, Bronx Zoo.

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Central Park Zoo

Tucked into the southeast corner of Manhattan’s Central Park, this zoo is very small at six acres. A highlight is the snow leopard exhibit, designed to bring you super close to these endangered beauties.

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Los Angeles Zoo

A highly social troop of chimpanzees lives in an impressively large outdoor exhibit here. According to the zoo’s website, the exhibit “has been hailed by renowned primatologist Jane Goodall as one of the country’s finest chimpanzee habitats.”

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Good lord, baby koalas are cute.

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Mill Mountain Zoo, Roanoke, VA 

Cage bars make it hard to get good photos here, but I liked the free-flight aviary.

A fashionable Golden crested pheasant, Mill Mountain Zoo

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Philadelphia Zoo

This is one of my favorite zoos. In nice weather, great cats and primates roam overhead on catwalks. The Big Cat Falls glass exhibits let visitors view deadly kitties from inches away.The zoo also has a beautiful collection of endangered species.

Red shanked douc langur, Philadelphia Zoo

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Spectacled langurs, Philadelphia Zoo

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Red-capped mangabey, Philadelphia Zoo

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Due to injuries, this bald eagle can’t be released back to the wild.   (The National Zoo has an injured bald eagle too, but the Philly Zoo exhibit has better light for photos).

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Puma, Philadelphia Zoo

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The critically endangered Amur leopard is the world’s rarest cat; there are about 70 left in the wild.

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Pittsburgh Zoo

When we were first planning our Pittsburgh trip, the zoo wasn’t even on our radar. Then my friend and DC Focused colleague Pablo said “You should check out the polar bear.” Of course he was right. Thanks Pablo! Pittsburgh City Paper readers also voted the polar bear the city’s best zoo animal.

View from the glass tunnel under the polar bear’s swimming pool.

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A polar bear shows off its catch, Pittsburgh Zoo

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African elephants and Masai giraffe. The Pittsburgh Zoo recently withdrew from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums after disagreeing on elephant handling standards.

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San Diego Zoo

The most visited zoo in the Unites States. Come right when it opens and head straight for the pandas. (Otherwise you’ll end up in a long queue).

The endangered giant panda, San Diego Zoo.Yes, DC has giant pandas too, but one can never get enough of pandas.

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Gerenuk, San Diego Zoo

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The San Diego Zoo has terrific free-flight aviaries. This is a “Cock of the Rock.”

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San Francisco Zoo

Located in one of the city’s foggier neighborhoods, this zoo frequently has soft, even light, making for lovely photos. Don’t miss the African Savanna: you emerge from a tunnel into the middle of the exhibit, with no cages or tall fences between you and the zebras, giraffes, oryx, kudu, and birds who all live together in this lush three-acre savanna.
Reticulated giraffes, San Francisco Zoo’s African Savanna

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The endangered East African crowned crane, San Francisco Zoo’s African Savanna

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Barn owl with lunch, San Francisco Zoo. Check the white board at the zoo entrance for daily feeding schedules.

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No California vacation is complete without meeting the the official state mammal (though the grizzly bear is now extinct in the state). The San Francisco Zoo took in its grizzlies after they were orphaned in the wild.

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Toronto Zoo

At a whopping 710 acres, this is one of the biggest zoos in North America. Wear good walking shoes. Posted at many Toronto Zoo exhibits are photo tips with detailed suggestions for composition and camera settings.
Giant panda, Toronto Zoo. (Not as cute as DC’s pandas)

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The endangered West Caucasian tur, Toronto Zoo

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The Toronto Zoo provides a home for several injured and orphaned wild animals. This red-tailed hawk was hit by a car and lost its eye. He can’t be released back to the wild, so now he lives at the Toronto Zoo.

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Before deciding to patronize a zoo, consider checking if it’s accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums. AZA members are required to meet health, enrichment, and welfare standards for their animals. You might also check the zoo’s USDA Inspection Reports for Animal Welfare Act violations. (Click “I agree” to search a zoo’s name in the database, and use the “Inspection Information” tab).

What are your favorite zoos? Let us know in the comments.

 

  • bfins

    These are awesome!

  • Clif

    These are all tremendous, Angela! The awards go to the baby koala and the baby giraffe pictures with the grizzly licking the window a a close second.