Monday, May 4, 2009

It's All Happening at the LA Zoo

Play and Learn at the Los Angeles Zoo

Before I forget: there's a new baby at the Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens. A month-old giraffe. Mind you, we didn't see it because my squirmy toddler was intent on seeing the excavators working on the new elephant enclosure. But we've enjoyed the giraffes in past visits, including the youngster pictured above.

A recent visit included our first experience of the zoo's Toddler Totes program. These are short, themed classes for little kids. Last month it was "The Nose Knows." Toddlers and parents gathered in a classroom. The kids played with animal toys, listened to a (short) book about how animals use their noses, and were given orange-smelling canisters to sniff. Then we darted through the zoo to visit three animals--including this tapir--and observe how they use their noses. The teacher lent the kids small backpacks with animal cards and props, such as wooden eggs similar to those swans push around with their noses (beaks).

At the end, the teacher gave out booklets about animal noses. I thought it was well worth the $10 fee ($13 for non-members). The only trick with these classes is you have to register in advance, and the Zoo staff doesn't make it particularly easy. You have to fax or mail in a registration form that is found in the zoo newsletter. If you're not a member, you need to call to have it faxed or mailed to you. The topics and times are available on the Zoo's website.

I wouldn't drive across town just for the class: after all, it's intended for wee attention spans. But it's a great addition to a zoo visit. For three- and four-year-olds, check out Critter 'N Kids classes. The Zoo also offers programs for older kids. For the little ones, be sure to bring a stroller as you'll cover a fair amount of ground. 

On our last two visits we've been delighted to see Reggie. He's the 120 pound alligator that some fool released into Lake Machado in Harbor City (when he grew too big to keep as a pet). For two years, city workers and outside contractors tried and failed to capture Reggie. In 2007, a zoo reptile expert and others finally snagged and relocated him to the Zoo. Not long after, he scaled the chain-link fence, breaking free of his enclosure.  (He was put back and the area refortified.)

Look for Reggie near the entrance--to the right, at the top of the stairs. Just before the flamingos, keep an eye out for the meerkats. Kids can get a close-up view of these cuties, who don't seem to mind so many squirming, squealing human critters nearby. 

There are a lot of must-see animals at the Los Angeles Zoo: the hippo, tiger, lions, chimpanzees, kangaroos, koalas, billy the elephant, etc. Don't miss the gorillas. They are especially thrilling to observe. And, for little kids, the petting zoo is big fun.

The Los Angeles Zoo has generous membership terms and benefits. For example, you can include a nanny AND her kids on your membership. Members receive a newsletter and the Zoo magazine, which keep you apprised of critter happenings and special events. 

5333 Zoo Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90027

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