Visiting the Potawatomi Zoo (& a few innovative zoo ideas of my own)

Yesterday my family and I visited the Potawatomi Zoo. It’s a place that inspires the imagination, especially when you try to spell the name. It’s in South Bend which is only about 38 minutes and 43 seconds from our house. It was a perfect 75 degree day and the van had a full tank of gas. Admission was $10 per adult and Adi was free so we ran out of excuses not to go. We loaded the van with the stroller and a several pounds of snacks for Adi in case exotic animals were not enough to keep her occupied.

Family Pic at Zoo

Upon arrival at the zoo I noticed a sign on the entrance that said “No outside snacks or beverages.” Now I’m a Christian and believe in submitting to God given authorities (is all authority God given?) but in this case I thought it was wise to cover Adi’s snacks with other parenting paraphernalia like the diaper bag, camera case, etc and saunter past the ticket agents with a causal nod and wave. Not having Adi’s snacks available for her would produce more drama than a lion wandering through the food court and I wasn’t convinced these zoo folks had what it took to handle an aggressive toddler with nothing to lose.

We started our self guided tour around lunch. I don’t know about you but I assumed the jungles of the world are constantly embroiled in the struggle for survival with beasts tearing smaller animals beasts and eating them on a 24/7 basis. For example, if crashed a Cessna 170 (which was obviously wired together by some drug smuggler and not MMS Aviation) through the jungle canopy, you’d instantly have to make a beeline for the closest tree because there would be a herd of angry tigers trying to eat you. Most of the tigers in the zoo, however, were sleeping in the shade with nary a care in the world. Which brings me to a zoo tip: Bring a Brazilian blow gun with you so you can subtly provoke the animals to swing around their cages exhibiting their maximum fierceness. The zoo may even thank you for making their exhibits more interesting. In fact, maybe the zoo could even offer these at the entrance for an additional fee. I’d certainly pay the extra.

This should get the lion on its feet.

It also occurred to me that any fool could start a zoo. Why didn’t I start one by now? The fact that all the big ticket animals were sleeping made me a little suspicious that they weren’t real. Who would know if you just threw some faux lion rugs on a high rock in the “King of the Jungle” exhibit? No one sits there for two days to make sure the lion ever wakes up. I could have a whole row packed with cages full of stuffed animals and no one would know. “Oh, they’re sleeping again! Shucks kids. Guess you’ll have to come back tomorrow.” My wife said it’s a bad idea and probably illegal. I’m not stupid. I would make sure to never imply in the marketing that the animals were alive. People would just assume that. How would I be liable for people’s assumptions? I’ll put that idea away for later.

All this aside, we did see quite a few cool animals that were quite real since they were up and walking around. We saw emu’s (which are like slightly smaller ostriches), kangaroos, tarantulas, zebras, monkeys (apes?), chickens (yea!), alligators, toucans (parrots), anteaters, large tortoises, and even a few mosquitoes.

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Blue Poison Dart Frog
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Giant Anteater

We were standing at the tiger exhibit and a doozy of an idea exploded in my brain. I’d make huge stacks of cash if I owned a zoo. Earlier in the day I noticed that the zoo had these feed dispensers at some exhibits. If you put twenty five cents in it you could get a handful of food to throw into the fish pond or to give to the goats or to throw to the birds. At another spot you could pay to feed the Alpacas. I wouldn’t pay twenty five cents to get my hand slobbered on by large mammals because that’s not my idea of a good time. This is pretty genius since the zoo gets visitors to not only do their chores, they pay for the food! It occurred to me while I was looking through the glass at the tiger pit that I’d take this idea and run with it. I’m a sensible person but even I’d pay good money to be able to just toss a chimpanzee in the middle of the tiger pit. I’d easily pay twenty five cents for that privilege – even two hundred dollars would be a bargain for that kind of drama! I totally understand if the zoo couldn’t import that many monkeys. For a lower price point you could even offer, say, groundhogs. You could also offer this entertainment at the Alligator exhibit. You would get free press as well. Animal rights activists would love you since you are encouraging natural feeding instincts just like the wild animals enjoy.

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Bengal Tiger

The otter pen contained only three lazy otters. I noticed that the zoo had a concession stand near the otter exhibit and advertised alcohol rather prominently. I suspect this is how they got away with having only three otters in their exhibit. They were counting on visitors having a couple drinks and then seeing six, nine, or even twelve otters all frolicking around at a fever pitch. I assume the more people drink the more otters they see.

Hmm. That’s enough of my money making ideas. I need to keep some to myself or people will steal all of them.

There was also a toucan! I love toucans. It’s a little scary having a parrot in a public space since they repeat any noise they hear (including racist jokes or swear words). My in-laws have an African Gray Parrot named ZuZu. It’s very good at imitating anything it chooses. If you call the in-law’s at their farm, chances are they won’t answer the phone. This is because they never know anymore if the phone is actually ringing or if it’s just ZuZu making phone noises. Half the time they pick up the phone and get a dial tone and the other time they miss the call. Anyway, I was hoping the parrot at the zoo would loudly exclaim some offensive things (because that would be funny). Maybe I should grow up. It was rather well mannered and beautiful to look at.

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Macaw Parrot

Adi had a blast at the zoo!

Adi at Zoo

We did have a wonderful time despite my sarcastic ramblings. The zoo is close by, affordable, and has enough cool animals that it even keeps the adult’s attention. I am like a little kid inside and I do enjoy exotic animals. We already have an eclectic collection of squirrels, chickens, and moles. It’s good we don’t have more than three square feet of backyard space or we would have all manner of weird and unusual animals.

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Red Panda

Always Grateful,