The grandkids always love a trip to the Minnesota Zoo, with its warm and humid tropics trail a key attraction on a cold winter or spring day. Getting there early meant we had the place almost to ourselves, and as a result, saw some things we normally would not have seen.
Apparently the zoo environment is so attractive, House Sparrows, mice, and cockroaches have invaded to find better homes in the winter. The House Sparrows enjoy the food put out for the captive birds in the aviary, and nest in places the zoo staff can’t reach, so they are difficult to eradicate.
I am not a great fan of captivity for wild animals, but of course, some of the zoo’s inhabitants have debilitating injuries or are simply unfit to be returned to the wild, so zoos are a good alternative existence for them. Because there were so few other visitors around, zoo staff had time to talk with us about some of the success stories of captive breeding, rehabilitation, and even stress management programs that help promote healthier, long-lived zoo inhabitants. The “ah/awe” factor can’t be discounted either — kids and adults alike were wowed by gigantic sharks and rays politely, but dramatically, taking their meals of herring.