One of my favorite things to visit while traveling are the local zoos. I spent many years volunteering at the Greater Los Angeles Zoo, first as a teenage volunteer and later as an adult in the Behavioral Research Department. Not only do I love animals, but I have a general interest in the layout and exhibits.
The Oregon Zoo does a great job at playing up the natural beauty of the area. It's located in the hills and the exhibits are nestled in the crevices and surrounded by canopies of trees. Even though it is very close to the high rises of downtown Portland, you feel like you are a million miles away and in the middle of nature. It's beautiful.
In addition to the natural beauty, the zoo has tons of sculptures are art sprinkled throughout the grounds.
I started my day in The Great Northwest, home to mountain goats and the coolest bald eagle exhibit ever. The eagles were close enough to touch. This section of the zoo featured a beautiful bridge, waterfalls and bat boxes to attract the local population. It felt like actually being in the forest with tall trees and lush greenery.
I really liked the children's barn that was maintained by student volunteers. If they had a similar thing in at the LA Zoo when I was a teenager, I would have definitely participated.
The Oregon Zoo had a very cool train and although I didn't ride it, an employee told me that it takes visitors over to a nearby rose garden.
In the early 2000's, I spent several years gathering date on stereotypy or repetitive behaviors in Polar Bears at the LA Zoo. I'm always interested in checking out Polar Bears at zoos.
The Polar Bear exhibit even had several informational placards explaining repetitive behavior and trying to prevent it through behavioral enrichment. I'm sure that it's a problem, but I didn't observe any obvious behavioral issues with any of the animals at the Oregon Zoo. In fact, I observed many cases of the animals enjoying their behavioral enrichment items, even late in the day. The lions were going nuts over some boxes and I saw two hippos bouncing a ball back and forth in the water!
One of my biggest zoo pet-peeves occurred while visiting The Fragile Forests.
This section of the zoo houses many primates, including chimpanzees and orangutans. It's bad enough hearing people call them monkeys, but it drives me absolutely batty when people (and they nearly all do) tack a G to the end of orangutan. It's not orangutanG.
Just for good measure, I heard several people point to monkeys and tell their children to look at the apes. The ape/monkey confusion needs to be clarified. This being said, most zoos have signs explaining the differences, just people don't take the time to read them.
These are the same people who approach an exhibit and loudly complain that "The (fill in the blank) isn't doing anything". Maybe you should trying being quiet, as the resident is trying to take a nap.
These are the same people who go to the zoo to see "Simba", "Timon" and "Bambi".
Going to the zoo would be perfect, if I could eliminate all human interaction.
Stepping off my soap-box now.
I tried hard to find the ocelot in the flooded forest, but it remained well concealed! I love the entrance to this section of the zoo. It was through a cave that really gave it a separate feel from the other exhibits.
The most popular resident at the Oregon Zoo, is its new baby elephant, Lily. The elephant area is broken up into three sections. When I visited, Lily and her mother were in the interior of the exhibit. Lily trailed right after her mom, nursing and playful running around her legs.
I caught the first presentation of Wildlife Live , which is an outdoor show. My favorite part was when they had the Bald Eagle fly over the audience and the eagle decided to perch on top of the stage and not come down. They had to end the show with the bird on the loose. If you go to the show, be prepared to bring extra cash to give to the vulture!
One of my favorite animals are bats and the Oregon Zoo has an awesome fruit bat exhibit. I probably spent more time here than anywhere else in the zoo,
When I volunteered at the LA Zoo, I spent a couple thousand hours watching flamingos for a big behavioral study. I am not fond of flamingos! I thought that it was funny to see a group of kids from the zoo camp with clipboards, watching the flamingos.
I saw two hippos passing a ball back and forth.
The lions were also very alert and active. Two of them were shredding a cardboard box, another behavioral enrichment tool.
The zoo has a very pretty indoor aviary filled with tropical birds.
If you want an opportunity to feed Lorikeets, go here early in the morning. I visited Lorikeet Landing hours after the zoo had opened and the birds were no longer interested in food. I spoke to a keeper and found out that they often will not feed when a lot of people are in the exhibit, as the noise scares them. Make sure to bring a dollar cash for a cup of food.
It seems like every place has a simulator ride, including the Oregon Zoo.
I finished my trip to the zoo with a late lunch at the Cascade Grill, located at in the entrance plaza. This was by far the nicest zoo restaurant that I have ever experienced. It had an extensive menu, including seasonal salads and soups. The style was pay at the counter and take a number to your table, so it was a little nicer than struggling to find a seat with your food. I found there to be ample indoor and outdoor seating. Adjacent to Cascade Grill is a really nice coffee bar. Both can be accessed without paying an entry fee for the zoo. I had a very delicious veggie burger, fries and latte.
The Oregon Zoo has a great layout, beautiful grounds and plenty of animals. I really felt like they go above and beyond to make sure the animals are happy and well cared for, while making it an educational and fun experience for human visitors.