The Memphis Zoo

May 3rd, 2012

I wasn’t planning on seeing any sights on my own, but the travel guide in our hotel room mentioned that the Memphis Zoo won some national award. looked through their website but didn’t find what award they earned, but I was hooked on the idea of visiting. Also, their list of animals on display was enormous.

On Saturday I borrowed Derek’s car and drove about 10 minutes to the zoo. The city was strangely empty around that time, but the zoo was already pretty packed at 10:30 in the morning. The entrance had a Hollywood-Egypt feel (I guess it taps into Memphis’s Egyptian namesake?). It was impressive enough for me to use the Photosynth panorama app to take a picture though:

By the way, I didn’t think I would be doing any major sightseeing so I didn’t bring my usual camera. All I had was the iPhone which did an OK job, but man would the Canon have been more appropriate! I really underestimated this zoo.

Near the entrance was the Animals of the Night exhibit. The building housed a surprisingly great number of exhibits in lowlight to simulate nighttime for the animals. In the center was a long enclosure for bats, while on the periphery there were more bats (for example, vampire bats), snakes, aardvarks, wombats, bushbabys, lorises, hedgehogs, kiwis, and so on.

{ A keeper feeds a bat that had landed on her cap. }

While I was there two keepers entered the central bat area and gave a demonstration of bat feeding.

I spent a lot of time in that area and I thought it was worth the $15 + $5 admission. The rest of the zoo had some really nice exhibits. I went north towards the pagodas in the distance. (I noticed that many exhibits had architecture reminiscent of the animal’s home territory. For example, the tiger exhibit was bounded by walls in the Khmer style.)

Back to the story, the Chinese section of the zoo featured pandas. In San Diego, the pandas seem to be fairly languid and there is a very structured system to get visitors moving along. In Memphis, the pandas are in an ordinary exhibit and when I was passing by, one of the pandas was very active. It ambled around on the grass, before climbing its treehouse. There, it started urinating, lifting one leg, then the other. Still urinating, the panda did a handstand (!). After that, it got back on all fours and did this:

I kept walking past the panda enclosure when lights turned on to my left.I looked and saw what can only be described as a panda chill den. The same panda from before entered the den and started chowing down on some bamboo that a keeper had left there. I was mere feet from a panda!

I went all over the zoo before heading back to the hotel. The zoo is actually pretty small and I was out by two that afternoon. Some exhibits were very old (the aquarium is from 1959 and it shows) but overall I was very impressed and I had a great time. The photos I took are below!


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Update: Here is the other Youtube movie of my zoo trip!


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