Friday, January 15, 2016

Yahoo! San Francisco's Zoo lets you walk, talk, learn from the animals

  Gauhati is one of many happy headliners at San Francisco Zoo. He wears down his horn by rubbing it on rocks in his enclosure. The zoo's attentive keepers and vet staff help him file and trim his horn to keep it growing and healthy.
Giraffes play and romp on a spacious preserve. This one
stretches to tree tops for food as a zebra grazes behind. 

James Ganner, right, and sister, Penelope, enjoy the San Francisco
Zoo for its "user friendly" aspects, here they take five on the lively playground.  

Penguins dive, splash and swim about in an open-air exhibit.

ZOOS HAVE always been a relaxing place for our family.  The natural world offers insight and escape, drawing us together to study similarities and differences of the species -- to feel connected to other life and to cultivate appreciation for the planet's precious animal resource.
Going to the zoo with kids is an enhancing way to gild the zoo lily.
We did that recently with our niece, Amarylla, and her two little ones, James and Penelope Ganner.
Zoo staff encourage children to gently touch the hide of the deer,
 and explain that the antlers fall off each year. The zoo stresses education.
At age five, James is already a regular, a fan of the zoo's charming steam train, "Little Puffer," and a natural tour guide and unabashed ambassador.
WE'D SPENT time at the San Francisco Zoo, but not for years.
So it was wonderful to revisit this treasure in a treasured city.
From the hills of its gorilla park, to attractive penguin display and regal peacocks who strut and preen, the zoo is a reminder that we share this fragile planet, a jewel to be cherished, visited, touted and supported.
Amarylla Ganner with young Peny take photos of James at play, while
 "Auntie Cookie" takes aim. San Francisco Zoo is a photographer's delight.
As part-time San Diego residents, we know a good zoo. San Francisco's is one of the west coast's oldest, most varied and best loved.
Founded in 1929, the lovely San Francisco Zoo sits on 100 well tended acres in the southwestern corner of the city, between Lake Merced and the nearby Pacific.
MORE THAN 1,000 contented animals representing 250 species -- some endangered -- inhabit the user-friendly place, with wide paths, gorgeous mature trees and pretty landscaping, mostly native vegetation.
James takes to the zoo's nicely arranged playground.
Here kids learn socializing skills and get exercise.
James has his favorite exhibits.  Besides the train -- which begins to attract a line at about 11 a.m. -- he loves the black rhino and hippo, the gorillas, the giraffes and ostrich roaming the attractive African Region. He delights in graceful lions, and yes, tigers, and bears.  As native Montanans, we enjoyed the grizzly, then watched the polar bear scratch her back on the ice.
San Francisco inspires several chapters in novel
WE DIDN'T GET to every exhibit. My family -- loyal zoo members -- often visit the Children's Zoo, and gives it "user friendly" thumbs up.
We spent an engaging half hour watching giraffes romp with ostrich, zebra and kudu.  Then James led us to the gorilla preserve, where we studied these animated and intelligent animals scratching, munching, tending their young and checking us out.
Zoos can be controversial. But having traveled to Africa and the Amazon many times, and watched critter numbers decline from poaching, illegal logging and over-population, we commend zoos for the opportunity to study, learn from and save imperiled animals.
THE SAN FRANCISCO ZOO has made national news through the years. In early 2006, the zoo announced its offer to name a soon-to-hatch American bald eagle after comedian Stephen Colbert.  Publicity and goodwill garnered from coverage on the Colbert Report was a windfall for the zoo and the city of San Francisco. Stephen Jr. was born on April 17, 2006. We hope he's flying high -- he's been introduced back to the wild.
Birds abound at the San Francisco Zoo, where nicely arranged exhibits
and displays allow for close-up study and enjoyment.
Another beautiful bald eagle, perhaps a flightless relative of Stephen, gazed at us from his tree perch on Eagle Island, a restful avian sanctuary.
WHEN WE asked about him, a zoo worker gave a detailed background on his flightless condition (he has only one wing and is a rescue, saved after being shot by a bow and arrow.)  How thrilling to see this magnificent creature close-up, as he sat in his tree, watching us watch him.  And lest you think, "How sad -- he should be flying" -- well, he can't.  And he would be dead without the San Francisco Zoo. So why not show what a beauty he is, and help groom environmental activism.
                                                                                           Amarylla P. Ganner Photo
THE SAN FRANCISCO Zoo is not pretentious, and that is one of its charms and strong suits.
It wants people to learn something while enjoying the animals. There are guided tours and lectures throughout the day and feeding times with commentary.  Amiable, informed zoo workers mingle and are happy to answer questions. 
The SF Zoo's Little Puffer scoots around
the zoo, making a couple loops. Right,
James and "Uncle Keller" enjoy the ride
Strolling through a unique insect display and colorful collection of reptiles and amphibians, you peruse at your own pace in the company of like minded nature lovers. There's plenty of room, too, thanks to nicely arranged and groomed pathways, special features such as the train and lovely carousel, a welcoming and large cafe, the Leaping Lemur, and impressive variety of side shows and lectures.
ZOO LIGHTS  at holiday time, is a delightful, eye-catching treat.
The zoo's ambitious hours are every day, including holidays, so you can enjoy pandas, penguins, sea lions, tigers, flamingos, and even consider adopting one through the zoo's enlightened program.
415 753-7173;
Bev Evans and her
husband Keith are
devoted to lions.

UP NEXT: Who knew? Not far from the glitter of the Las Vegas Strip, a fantastic lion preserve awaits. Have you heard of Lion Habitat Ranch? Or the painting giraffe? Visit a unique exhibit of well tended critters.  The lions, formerly from the MGM lion exhibit, which closed a few years ago, are a proud pride.  Owner Keith Evans works with his wife Bev to encourage appreciation and love of lions. Well trained staff offer a close-up look at these regal creatures -- plus a giraffe who paints.  You can buy one of his masterpieces! Remember to explore, learn and live and visit us weekends, and as the spirit moves.


  1. This is simply wonderful. I love the subtle, effective way of using a well run zoo as an educational tool -- for this family of several generations, and thousands of others!

  2. Love zoos, love this blog -- a happy find while planning a San Francisco visit.

  3. Sydneysiders San Fran boundJanuary 16, 2016 at 3:38 PM

    We have our beloved and beautiful Taronga Zoo with which to compare the San Francisco Zoo, which sounds lovely. We shall visit in May! Appreciate the enthusiastic recommendation and delightful photos.

  4. I don't know which are more delightful -- the photos of the animals and birds or the family. Adorable. Love the red hair!