This and That by Steve Shor - Brookfield Zoo

As many of you know I greatly enjoy going to zoos and aquariums to observe the behavior of the many animal and sea creatures that populate our earth. For many of these creatures I might never get to see them at all without zoos. And in many cases they are on the endangered lists and the zoos offer one way to actually keep them from going extinct.

Some of my favorites are the San Diego Zoo, and the Washington DC Zoo, mainly because of their Giant Panda exhibit. Also the Newport Aquarium in Oregon and the LA Aquarium in Long Beach because of their excellent sea creature exhibits.

We are quite fortunate to have two excellent zoos right here in the Twin Cities. These of course being the Minnesota Zoo in Apple Valley and the Como Zoo in St Paul.

Recently I added a new zoo to my list that I have wanted to visit for some time now. This is the Brookfield Zoo near the Midway Airport in Chicago. It consists of over 200 acres of land and has a mixture of natural habitat exhibits similar to the Minnesota Zoo but also a number of excellent indoor exhibits that try to simulate their native surroundings.

Two exhibits stood out in my mind and these were the penguin exhibit and the tropics exhibit. Both are situated indoors but done very nicely and provide lots of open viewing area for those of us who like to take photographs. As you may have read in some of my previous articles, I am not a fan of the mesh netting or fencing that is used often to separate man from animal but prefer the more creative designs that allow people to look clearly at the creatures within.

I probably spent the most time at the penguin exhibit where the Humboldt penguins are paired with the Inca terns in a smallish but beautifully designed space. The penguins have nests dug into the hillside just like in their native land and have free access to the open pool for swimming, playing and fishing for their food.

In real life they live along the desert coast of Peru and Chile in South America. It is a very unusual environment, and you might not think penguins would live there. The coast is where one of the world’s driest deserts meets one of the world’s most fertile oceans.

More information at

Humboldt Penguin

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The Inca terns have free reign within the entire enclosure and fly often to various rock outcroppings within. It was great to observe and also offered many good photo opportunities.

Inca Terns

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The other exhibit which I spent a lot of time at was the Tropics Exhibit. This is a HUGE indoor space which houses many different species of primate and even has a special area for a gorilla family.

The bear exhibit was nice but more like the old one at Como Zoo. They are in the process of constructing about a 2 acre new site for the bears which I am sure will be very nice when completed in 2010.

I would definitely recommend this Zoo to anyone traveling in this area. Allow at least 2-3 hours and be prepared to walk a lot.

- Steve

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second of four articles which unfortunately went unpublished last year. Please note– the articles may refer to previous topics and contain out-dated links. However, the articles still contain valuable information worth reading. New articles are on their way soon… Enjoy!

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