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I have mixed feelings about Zoos, which is why I rarely visit them. The local zoo is, I guess, a pretty good zoo. They do a lot within a little footprint. It is that juxtapostion of a lot with a little that bothers me. There’s a painful tug-of-war between animal rights and wildlife conservation..

One goal of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) is to “cooperatively manage the Species Survival Plan® (SSP) Program, in part by managing ex situ species populations of endangered species. Species Survival Plans are led by expert advisors who cooperatively work together to maximize genetic diversity, appropriately manage the demographic distribution and long-term sustainability of Taxon Advisory Group recommended Animal Programs within AZA member institutions.” The Association has a rigorous set of standards for Zoos seeking accreditation. Zoo Boise is AZA accredited. Its mission is to connect visitors with animals to inspire and involve the community in the conservation of wildlife worldwide. The very act of visiting Zoo Boise is an act of conservation. Part of the ticket fee and sales within the Zoo benefit Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique.

I stopped by the zoo for an unplanned visit on a recent quiet Monday morning.

Yes, those are my own eyelashes, thank you. Would you like my stone? – Southern Ground Hornbill

Born at the Zoo last summer, the young Red Pandas are playful little cubs.
Sand Dune Cat doing what cats love to do.

While the Mrs. fastidiously grooms herself . . .

Revan, the Mr. catnaps.

What horse-lover would not be dazzled by the extravagance of a zebra?
Cape Painted Dogs are so energetic and full of life. Relative to other species at Zoo Boise, they have a fairly spaceous enclosure. But I’ve seen them in the wild, and know the enormous habitat they roam for just a morning hunt.
Even the tiniest creatures bedazzle the eye.

Zoo Boise is trying hard to expand sustainably and to provide their animals with as much space and naturalish habitat as possible. I know the zookeepers love these animals and provide them with the best care and nutrition possible. Each display includes tasks and toys to stimulate the animals. But Boise winters are just too cold for many of the animals—like giraffes. The zoo’s two ballet-legged youngsters spend most of the winter inside the four walls of a habitat that is the relative size of my bathroom. That is hard to stomach. The magnificent fish eagle surely can’t stretch his wings for even a hint of flight in his small cage. Perhaps these unlucky animals were found injured or stranded. Perhaps their presence at the zoo is their hospital. I’m sure that is true of the great horned owl. Still, I always leave the zoo with a broken heart.

I guess we cage humans. What’s so different about caging a few animals? Oh my.