A Zoo of One’s Own
By Carol, “I Love Zoo World” Contest Winner
Some of my most beloved childhood memories revolve around visiting the zoo. Growing up in south-central Wisconsin, we didn’t have a huge variety of zoological gardens to see, but the three we did have, the Milwaukee County Zoo, Madison’s Vilas Park, and little Ochsner Park in Baraboo, provided enough excitement for a young child to stimulate the imagination for weeks after spending a day in one of them. Learning about the hundreds of animal species; trying to understand their behavior patterns; and even having the opportunity to ride on ponies, tortoises and elephants, made a trip to the zoo something to eagerly anticipate and excitedly recall.
As the young bride of a navy man, I found myself living in southern California. We didn’t have a lot of money, but we found a way to visit the enormous San Diego Zoo. What a treat that was! When our oldest son was two years old, we took him there; and the wonder of being able to point out the various animals to him and talk about all the things I had loved about zoos when I was a child was like a dream come true. He loved everything he saw, and was especially captivated by the penguins. We didn’t want to go home that day.
Back home again a few years later, his younger brother experienced the same wonder during a visit to Vilas Park. We had been walking up a slight hill, when all of a sudden the rhino enclosure came into view in the valley below. He began jumping up and down, pointing, and he shouted, “There’s the dinosaurs!” Well, at that time I thought how naïve he had been to assume there were still dinosaurs, and some of them were living in our own little zoo. I tried to gently correct him, but some part of me also wanted to share his amazement that such a wonder could exist.
Now, decades later, there’s a zoo that actually does house dinosaurs. I discovered Zoo World almost a year ago, and it happened to be my second son who introduced it to me. Here was a world that allowed me to set up my own zoo, arrange it as I wanted it to be, and accumulate as many animals as I wanted. I became obsessed, and I quickly began to level up, until I could set up my displays the way I assumed they would be in a perfect world: I now have a primate island, an aquatic island, cat island, and seven other islands arranged by class and order. There’s a bird island, with a group of penguins; and another island is predominately reptiles and amphibians, and that’s where I house the dinosaurs. The only thing that may eventually need to be reorganized in that location is the fact that their natural prey, the insects, also ended up in one corner of this island; I guess it isn’t really very nice to have the dragonflies, fireflies and blue wing grasshoppers sitting where they can see the glass frogs and frilled lizards eyeing them hungrily every single day.
The beauty and charm of this game, for me, is the joy of returning to that wonderful time in my life when a trip to the zoo was the highlight of my week, and when I was still learning and absorbing all the wonderful things I could, about the world’s animals and our relationship to them. With so many violent and crude games abounding on the internet, Zoo World is a lovely respite and a peaceful place to unwind from the stress of a hectic world. I enjoy my zoomates, and it’s great to visit their zoos to collect treasures, shake trees and see how they’ve chosen to arrange their animals. I also enjoy the random facts because they offer a way to continue the learning experience I began long ago and tried to pass on to my children. Zoo World provides an awareness to its players, that we share the planet with some amazing creatures and we should each do our part to make sure that opportunity never goes away.