If anyone who lives or visits near me wanted to head to the zoo, they would undoubtedly think first of the Philadelphia Zoo. Over a million visitors go there each year, in fact! It is, after all, our country’s first zoo, covers over 42 acres, and houses over 1,300 animals.
Sometimes the day calls for something a little less ambitious (and maybe a little less expensive!). I’ve discovered that my girls can get just as excited about a more “bite-size” approach to enjoying the animals, and we can spend a couple of hours at a smaller place, like the Brandywine Zoo, instead of wearing ourselves out with an all-day affair.
The Brandywine Zoo, in Wilmington, Delaware, covers less than 13 acres, and their web site says they have 150 animals, though this includes the animals in their Traveling Zoo Education Program. When we are there, it kind of feels like we could count the number of animals on our two hands!
|My husband and I used to call this place the "dead tiger zoo" because the poor guy in this cage was usually sacked out and lifeless-looking. Not so today! The tiger was on the move for our viewing pleasure.|
|Sadly, the rhea looked as though he had seen better days!|
But, oh, the animals they have: two bald eagles, a tiger, a bobcat, some llamas, two red pandas, some tamarins, two otters, various birds, a capybara. There isn’t an overwhelming number of animals, so my children get an opportunity to really focus on these few.
|The otters looked sweet napping together, but weren't in the mood for a swim.|
|What is it that I find so fascinating about this gigantic rodent, the capybara?|
And spending time with majestic, colorful, adorable, grumpy, cold-blooded, or even napping animals really contributes to our awe regarding the God who created them in such variation.
In a February 2015 article in Christianity Today, Ted Olsen of The Behemoth magazine says that the vast array of animals God has created “helps you marvel. And the ability to marvel is a prerequisite for the ability to worship.” While there are many who debate the ethics of containing animals within the confines of a zoo, it is undeniably true that through the efforts of the zoo, we are given access to aspects of God’s creation that we would have no opportunity to see otherwise.
Zoo mission statements are usually some variation of the stated purpose of the Brandywine Zoo’s educational programs: to enhance and enrich understanding and respect for the relationships among living things and inspire wildlife conservation. In this regard, the zoo helps me as a parent as I try to teach my girls to care for other living things and to live gently in this world of ours. I care about the welfare of God’s creation, and I want to share that concern in a healthy way with my children. I have found that the zoos we have visited have helped me move toward that goal, and my girls are already loving animals, and wanting to protect and care for our environment.
|My girls can count on their father to take them farther out on the rocks along the Brandywine River than I am willing to go.|
And I would say that the afternoon’s visit to the “bite-sized” Brandywine Zoo was a hit with the kids. When Bayla said grace before dinner that night, she prayed, “Thank you that we got to have such a special day, and do such fun things.”
|My girls and I, on the banks of the Brandywine River, just across the street from the zoo.|
Thank You, indeed!