We’re lucky enough to live 30 minutes away from the world-famous San Diego Zoo. As annual pass members, we don’t feel obligated to spend the whole day there to get our money’s worth, so we usually spend the morning checking out various exhibits, have a sit-down lunch to add to our zoo’s financial contribution tab, and go home for naptime.
What keeps the zoo visits interesting and entices us to renew our yearly memberships is the new exhibits that pop up on a regular basis. I’ve been living in San Diego for 12 years, and since then, I’ve witnessed the creation of amazing exhibits like the Ituri Forest, Monkey Trails, Polar Bear Plunge and the Elephant Odyssey. It always seem ironical that zoos were originally created to bring faraway animals for all of us to see. Today, they still have that purpose but have also found a deeper cause to address – the preservation of some endangered species. The (possibly naive) thought of “helping out the animals” with every zoo visit keeps us coming back for more.
This past weekend, we were lucky enough to enjoy special encounter with nature. The San Diego Zoo recently created an enclosure featuring arctic wolves. Unfortunately, the enclosure was empty at the time we walked by, causing obvious disappointment to my four-year-old son. As we kept walking, I saw the wolf’s dwelling at the end of the enclosure, featuring a tall wall with mesh fabric mounted to the top of it.
I once attended the zoo’s Wildlife Show where I witnessed a crowd of about 500 people howling with a wolf on cue. I thought the wolf knew he had to howl to get a treat, but I wondered if a wolf would howl without a large audience, and without any visual clue…
So I told my son the wolf probably was in his den and asked him if he thought he could make him howl. Without hesitation or embarrassment, he started to howl, using his cute little cub voice, over and over, relentlessly. After what seemed like a dozen howls and many dazzled stares from passers-by, I was ready to ask him to stop, fearing the wolf wasn’t there. Well, don’t underestimate the will of a child, because right then, our wild canine howled back in his deep voice! What followed was a series of alternating howls between my son and the wolf, only separated by a wall, to the amazement of those same passers-by. Some kids walking by giggled, asking their parents what animal was making that noise (hmm, where the heck are those kids from?), while parents themselves clearly were impressed by my son’s howling abilities.
The howling session went on for a few more minutes until it was time to move on. My son couldn’t wait to tell his dad and brother what he managed to accomplish, and I’m quite sure our next visit will include a pit stop to the same exhibit. Hopefully we’ll get to see our canine friend face to face then.
I can envision that one day my son will want to put together a list of “cool things I want to see and do in my lifetime”. I hope he thinks of this event and includes “Howled with the wolves – checked!”
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