With all these days off and nothing in particular planned, cabin fever was beginning to set in and a quick day trip was definitely in order. Initially we planned on a small hike through the Greenbelt Park on Staten Island. We were excited to make our first actual trip to the borough, only having passed through it in the past. As we exited, we saw signs for The Staten Island Zoo and were easily swayed to visit there instead. I was expecting small and cheap and depressing, but we found it to be intimate, quirky, and lots of fun.
The zoo is intimate in many ways. Firstly, all the animals felt oddly close, even to the point of feeling a bit dangerous at times (though I am sure it wasn't dangerous at all), making it a great zoo to snap good photos and get a more detailed look at them. It may not have the size of one of the more famous local zoos, it took about an hour to see everything, but they make up for it with the variety the do house. Enjoy marveling at an impressive selection of giant cockroaches and other huge, gross out bugs, fuzzy meerkats, lemurs and prairie dogs, regal baboons, fish and snakes of all kinds, pheasants (including one whose plumage makes it look like his heads been chopped off and is dripping blood), and even fake dinosaurs which unfortunately were closed the day we visited.
There is also a sense of intimacy with the staff. Several zookeepers came up and spoke to us, giving us zoo gossip. For example, this gorgeous vulture (how could I not love any zoo with such a great bird of prey) got upset over the holidays when his usual keeper was on vacation and totally took it out on the pants of the poor girl who took his place. And these guys, called “Lasso” from Madagascar, only came to the zoo a few months ago. They're rare to find in any zoo and the keeper said they were the only animals he was genuinely afraid of. Apparently they have a bite grip that could easily take your hand off and are clever, usually circling the keeper when he goes in their cage and cutting off his exits. Another keeper told us that these lovely creatures are two year old sisters named Vixen and Lady.
The quirky side of the zoo is apparent in the murals, especially this one depicting a young boy with a zit on his nose (I wonder why the artist felt it necessary to include) eating a watermelon whole, and this one which depicts a small boy, a bear, and?a large bat living in a tree. Don't forget the time honored tradition of having your photo taken as a giant otter either. Other quirkiness comes in some of the exhibits themselves. They got especially creative with the snakes. One of the best environments is for the king cobra which holds various faux artifacts and a severed mummy's hand. Other snake sets include a southwestern suite, the attack in the garden tableau, and another favorite, the beach bum Aruba snake surrounded by beer. I like a little showbiz with my nature, and this is the perfect execution.
We were both surprised by how much fun we had, and with it only being about a forty minute drive, there's no excuse not to go.