Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Zoo That Time Forgot

Down with fence! You've heard that already and you're going to keep hearing it until our 17-acre Enchanted Forest is freed from its cage.

But... if we take down the fence, the Memphis Zoo can't grow and improve! Why does CPOP want to kill the Zoo?!

Let's set the record straight on that. CPOP is not trying to hurt the Memphis Zoo. We are trying to defend the Old Forest of Overton Park.

Many of us are members of the Memphis Zoo and appreciate what it has to offer, but we also appreciate what Overton Park has to offer. Why can't our community have a great zoo and a great park at the same time?

Why are so many of the older exhibits at the Memphis Zoo being neglected, and even abandoned, while its leaders happily spend $16 million to destroy four acres of one of the last remaining old-growth forests in our region?

As I've mentioned before, I take my toddler to the Memphis Zoo at least twice a week. Rosa's legs are short and we browse the exhibits at a leisurely pace, so I've had plenty of time to note opportunities for growth and improvement.

That place is so infested with unrealized potential, I had to break it up into sections.
Many thanks to Gates of Memphis for this gorgeous map. As always, you can click to enlarge.

We'll start our journey back in time with the letter A, for AQUARIUM.

Remember how the Memphis Zoo used to call itself the Memphis Zoo & Aquarium? I don't know when they dropped the second half of that name, but I can see why. The Aquarium building offers a small handful of tanks featuring well-tended aquatic beauties. Unfortunately, this is a more typical sight:

Every time I go in there, I'm perversely drawn to a display called The Living Reef.

Macabre, isn't it? But perhaps this is the Memphis Zoo's oblique way of educating us about the decline of coral reefs worldwide.
Let's move on to the Hawaiian Islands display. Hmmm... nine species on the info board and three fish in the tank. Maybe the others are just hiding behind those coral skeletons?

Here's the Tennessee Waters display, with thirteen species on the info board and a tank that's running on empty.

Here's the Florida Reefs display, with ten species on the info board and a solitary fish wondering what the hell I'm looking at. By this point, I'm starting to wonder, too.

Here's the North American Fresh Water display, featuring a zippy little crew of turtles. I'd guess they're a continent away from their native home, but I don't know for sure, because the info board only lists two fish species: the Spotted Gar and the African Lungfish.

African Lungfish in North American waters? Like, seriously?

Oh, Memphis Zoo. I want to love your Aquarium, I really do. But you don't even seem to remember that it's there.

(To be continued...)