Yesterday, we went to the Columbus Zoo, my hometown zoo, so to speak, which I have not visited in years (between 2-4 years) and really wanted to go back and see it. A couple of the areas of the zoo were new to me, such as the Voyage to Australia & the Islands (which was probably there the last time I was there, but it might not have been open), the African Forest was redone, and Asia Quest, which just opened last summer. One part of the zoo about which I was disappointed was that the Johnson Aquatic Complex was closed. Speaking of further developments - it seems that some animals have already been removed to be a part of future parts of the zoo, such as polar bears which will be a part of the Polar Frontier, which is to open next fall, and giraffes, which will open in three years.
Pictured at the right is "Fluffy", the largest snake in captivity at 24 feet long and over 300 pounds heavy. There were some neat animals that I had not seen before, such as the markhor and some of the animals in the Australia exhibit.
A common thing that I have been noticing in my previous zoo visits (such as the NOLA Zoo, the Bronx Zoo, and the Boston Zoo (visited after Shavuos this year)) is thee making of the surrounding areas like that of their natural habitat, both flora-wise, but also similar to the human environment. "Rhino Ryan" noted that "The Columbus Zoo has fastly become one of the most popular and most innovative zoos in the country. ... The zoo is home to some of the rarest animals on earth and has been one of the trend setters of biomes. Biomes are areas in zoos built to house animals and plants of the same area whether it be a rainforest style or tundra." Another common thing (though I don't remember having seen it at the Biblical Zoo when I visited over three years ago) is that there is a huge push to save animals and that a very oft-repeated refrain is that humans, often via habitat destruction, are responsible for the demise of many, many species of animals. Anyways, I know I already noted this, but I guess this message needs to be put out somehow and the zoos are the most basic locus at which this message needs to start.
The one object that is noteworthy Jewishly is that there is a quote on the way into Manatee Coast that says, "Deeds of giving are the very foundation of the world." For the source to this quote, it quotes "the Torah". Now this is interesting because this quote is clearly not in the five books of the Torah, but seemingly a Talmudic quote. Thus, they probably got this quote off of the Internet. Indeed, searching for this phrase, yields several results, with most of them giving the same reference as "the Torah." While I am not sure where the true source of this quote is, I believe it is a paraphrasing of Shimon, the Just's words of "Upon three things the world stands: Upon the Torah, Upon the [Temple] service, and upon acts of kindness" (Avot 1.2). Apparently, someone must have originally paraphrased this quote and then other people quoted it without knowing precisely its location. Eventually, when the Columbus Zoo was creating their Manatee Coast exhibit, they found this quote and then printed it up and used it.
(Below is a movie HTR made a few months ago at Manatee Coast.)