The Bronx Zoo is located in the heart of the 'hood in New York City. It is one of the largest metropolitan zoos in the United States and contains over 6,000 animals representing hundreds of species. The zoo first opened on November 8, 1899 with 22 exhibits featuring 843 animals.
The zoo has been important to the nation's animal conservation efforts. The zoo's first director, William T. Hornaday, was instrumental in saving the American bison from extinction. Today, the zoo's researchers are heavily involved in trying to save over 40 species, including the snow leopard, the lowland gorilla, the Chinese alligator, and the Mauritius pink pigeon.
The Bronx Zoo is a wonderful place. When I visited in 1992, I saw animals that I never knew existed, like the hairy rhinocerous. It was smaller than the regular rhinos, about the size of a large horse, and, indeed, it really was hairy. Evidently, the species is extremely endangered, as were many of the animals I saw. That was the one major downside to the zoo; I knew that many of the species I was looking at, despite the zoo's efforts, will likely be extinct in 50 years.
Because it rained hard the day we visited, we couldn't see many of the animals that were in the outdoor enclosures. But we did get to see the seals and the gorillas. The gorillas I really felt sorry for, even though they didn't look like they minded the rain too much. I saw a small portion of their "African Safari" section, which is a few acres planted to look like African grassland. I saw a big male lion out on a low hill, looking miserable and periodically giving his mane a hard shake. Knowing cats, I figure he probably thought the zookeepers had made it rain just to aggravate him.
We mostly stuck to the various enclosed exhibits. As it was, the inside exhibits, such as the Reptile House, the Monkey House, the Mouse House, the World of Darkness (which contained all nocturnal creatures, including many fine bats), and Jungle World (which contained rainforest fauna), were wonderful and we didn't have time to see all of those.
The Reptile House had some incredible specimens in it. There was an alligator snapping turtle in a big tank; the turtle must have had a shell that was four feet long. He looked like he could have bitten a rowboat in half. And they had some absolutely huge snakes. They had an anaconda that must have been over a foot in diameter. And they had an impressive array of poisonous snakes, including some very large king cobras. One of the cobras was about to shed. Snakes tend to get pretty irritable when they're close to shedding because they can't see properly. He heard us outside the tank and reared up and flattened out. He didn't actually spread his hood, as we hoped he would, but he was pretty impressive nonetheless. They had a sign posted below the glass to the cobra tank that read, "Please Do Not Tap On The Glass. What If It Broke?"
The Monkey House was equally incredible. They had more species of prosimians than I had ever seen. They even had some mouse lemurs, which are reported to be the smallest primates, and they really were tiny. They couldn't have been more than four or five inches tall. The little guys were in a tank with some tree limbs, and they were bouncing around all over the place. One of them spotted me looking at it and he ran up to the glass, pressed his little hands and nose against the pane and stared at me for a few seconds, then ran off again. Running into one of those in a forest really would make you believe in sprites or fairies.