When our daughter Casey was growing up, we’d frequently take her to the Bronx Zoo because, well, it was a great way to kill the time between naps. It was also fun and educational, like when we came upon some giraffes mating (lots of long legs and long necks and, um, another long leg).
The zoo never changed much year-to-year, so we had our routine on each visit: seals, monkeys, camel ride, and so on. We’d always end up in the children’s zoo, where Casey could feed the animals and have her picture taken with a chicken or guinea pig on her lap. We never drew a growth chart on the kitchen wall, but we have this series of photos of Casey’s head getting closer to the Children’s Zoo logo on the wall behind her.
However, it is no longer enough for a zoo to have the same old animals year in and year out. Today’s jaded children instantly adopt a “been-there-done-that” attitude that makes even the possibility of seeing an elephant poop, once a thrilling prospect for any child, not worth stepping away from a video game.
And so the revered and respected Bronx Zoo has added an attraction this year. This is difficult for a zoo to do, because there is a dearth of new animals to put on display, even though “naturalists” are always trying to come up with some, like ligers, and camas and zebroids (oh my!). But the Bronx Zoo has come up with something that is exciting and new and yet very retro.
Yes, that’s right. According to the zoo’s website, “They roar! They snarl! They move!” which is really everything you want in a dinosaur. Evidently, they also take part in a musical extravaganza on weekends, which, I truly believe, shows T-rex’s willingness to go above and beyond it’s job description.
I’m assuming these dinosaurs have not been developed in association with Steven Spielberg and the late Michael Crichton, and that they are, in fact, animatronic, just like the animals in the Country Bear Jamboree at Walt Disney World, only without the bonnets. This would mean that you’re taking your kids to a cross between Jurassic Park and Westworld, neither of which, I should point out, end all that well for the living humans, although turning the King of Siam into a killer robot was an inspired piece of casting.
The Bronx Zoo is run by the Wildlife Conservation Society, which pretty much has a monopoly on every non-domesticated animal in New York City (they run all four zoos and the Coney Island Aquarium, and it is rumored that they demand annual fees from wild squirrels and raccoons). The WCS is always on the lookout for ways to bring in extra money, like placing corporate logos throughout the zoo (although they’ve stopped just of short tattooing brand names onto the animals themselves). But now they figure drastic steps must be taken to increase zoo attendance.
And so we have robot dinosaurs at the Bronx Zoo, and dinosaur musicals (presented by Oshkosh B’gosh®).
According to its website, “The Wildlife Conservation Society, founded in 1895, has the clear mission to save wildlife and wild places across the globe.” With that in mind, New York City gave it 250 acres in 1898 for the purpose of building “a park aimed at preserving native animals and promoting zoology.”
News flash: Robots are not wildlife, nor do they need to be saved so they can ultimately become sentient and kill us. What is the WCS saying here? That it is no longer financially viable to stick to living, breathing creatures that don’t require software?
It’s a friggin’ zoo, not a theme park.
I mean, once you have programmable extinct animals roaming around, why not replace all the animals with animatronic copies? They’re cheaper to feed, easier to clean up after, and you don’t have all those icky animal smells. You could also stock the children’s zoo with adorable fictional animals like a push me-pull-you, a unicorn and a hippogriff, and your children could have their pictures taken with a tribble in their lap. And, hell, why stop there? Let’s get people suited up as every animal brand mascot that ever was: Tony the Tiger, Toucan Sam, the Trix Rabbit, the GEICO Gekko.
Anyway, get your kids to the Bronx Zoo before they replace the camel ride with a roller coaster.
See you soon.