A Day at Brookfield Zoo

My husband and I each had a rare day off, so we decided to go to Brookfield Zoo. In the Chicago area, there are two primary zoos: Brookfield & Lincoln Park. There are other zoos that are within reasonable driving distance, but in other states. Brookfield is the zoo I would go to on all my childhood field trips, and it had been a couple years since I’d been there. I have been to zoos in Washington, San Diego, Milwaukee, New Mexico, Racine, San Francisco, and more, but it’s always nice to go back to the zoo I’m most familiar with.

This isn’t exactly a disclaimer, but I will say I’m somewhat torn about the concept of zoos. I think it’s incredible to be able to observe and learn about animal behavior, especially those who are on a path to extinction – the literature and information available at the exhibits gives us insight into what we can do to help. I am also grateful for conservation efforts, and that there is a safe space for animals who are unable to successfully live in the wild. I appreciate the research efforts and all of the good things that can come out of zoos, but I’m also aware of the sort of prison the animals are confined to, and I feel for them deeply. However, I do make it a point to do what I can to help, whether that is donation, paying extra attention to my carbon footprint, spreading the word, etc.

Since it was a random weekday off, I was in a celebratory mood. I started the morning with a “shot” of water, apple cider vinegar, coconut oil, and cayenne, along with Vitamin C and cod liver oil supplements. We went out to breakfast and I got a sandwich that had egg, cheese, avocado, and tomato. I also had the newest 3D Energy (Red, White, and Blue) and it was fruity and delicious.

We got to the zoo and decided to just wander without any type of plan. We didn’t take one of the printed maps, but we did use some of the maps that are located around each exhibit. I’ve been there several more times than Julian, so I had a slightly better feel for where things were located and some of my favorite exhibits (I adore the Living Coast and am also partial to exhibits featuring the bats, wolves, and African painted dogs).

There were three dogs in the African painted dogs exhibit, and they were each doing their own thing. One was sleeping and didn’t want to be disturbed, one was enraptured by a bone he was devouring, and the other was just trying to play but also kept a focused, predatory eye on his audience.

In a way, they almost reminded me of dogs, but I also know that some of their differences probably seem immeasurable.

We also got to see the giraffes being fed. There were about four of them, and they each took turns leaning over the fence for vegetation.

These creatures are magnificent! They are so tall and majestic, and they’re very intuitive and intelligent. I truly cannot get over the kind of patterns and coloring that develops and evolves with nature. It’s really extraordinary, especially in some of the fish in the Living Coast exhibit!

The kangaroos (and many of the other animals) seemed to be hiding out. It was a really hot day – rain was on the horizon. but there were hours of intense sunshine and humidity before that relief. I wonder what it is like for animals who are used to a desert environment to have to be stuck in the Illinois marshland.

We were able to go to the Hamil Family Wild Encounters exhibit, and we got to pet goats, walk among wallabies with no barriers, get a close-up of grazing caribou, sit inches away from a red panda, and stand in a room of what seemed like hundreds of frantically-flying canaries.

Next, we headed towards the bear exhibits. We were able to see a polar bear named Nan. Her sign indicated that she was an orphan cub who has an odd head/neck mannerism that seems to freak some of the guests out, and researchers haven’t been able to determine the cause of it yet. We watched her do the moment several times, and she paced back and forth multiple times on the same route. I wonder if it may be a movement triggered by anxiety or overwhelming feelings.

We also stopped by the primate exhibit. Every time I go there, I can’t help but think about the story of the boy who fell into the gorilla pit and was cared for by Binti Jua, a female gorilla with “maternal” instincts. It’s super-fascinating, and although it might be hard to tell from this photo (mother cuddling her young), the mannerisms and caring nature of gorillas in general is incredible.

After seeing the gorillas, we made our way through the swamp and the “Scales and Feathers” exhibit to get over to the Big Cats. We saw a snow leopard, lions, and this little guy, whose eyes followed my every movement.

He almost looks like a regular house cat! We also saw bat-eared foxes, wombats, porcupines, and more.

While walking from exhibit to exhibit, I was entranced by all the beautiful flowers and plants growing around the zoo. They were so bright and colorful.

After walking for miles and miles for six hours, we decided to go for a beer. I’m all about enjoying the moments that remind you life doesn’t have to be mediocre and monotonous, and I work so hard on my fitness and nutrition that I wasn’t going to let myself feel guilty. It was a gorgeous Chicago day, and I spent it off with my husband – I wanted to end it on a fun note! We each got an IPA.

Although it did pour rain for about ten minutes, we ended up having a great day. The rain was a bit of a relief from the burning sun, and it was fun to run through the zoo. I feel like every time I go, even if it’s been a couple years, I learn something new and important that I carry with me. When in Chicago, it’s definitely a great place to check out!

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