In honor of April's status as Zoo and Aquarium Month, I went searching for the best zoos on the Net. My objective, as always, was to find sites offering a quality educational experience, not just brochure sites listing hours and admission prices. I hope you enjoy the lions and tigers and bears, oh my!
The Wildlife Conservation Society of the Bronx Zoo presents a fun, colorful kids' site with a Shockwave game arcade and a smattering of animal tidbits and wildlife news. After playing the games, the best click is the virtual tour of the zoo's newest naturalistic exhibit, Congo Gorilla Forest. You'll find this link buried on the About WCS page, under the Bronx Zoo heading. "Congo Gorilla Forest's 6.5 acres are home to a remarkable collection of animals, including two troops of lowland gorillas, led by silverbacks Timmy and Dan, as well as DeBrazza's monkeys, okapis, mandrills, and red river hogs."
Take a tour of Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo by following one of the color-coded trails to the animal exhibits or jump to the live animal cams at the bottom of the page. The trails lead to individual animal fact pages, which are fun for browsing and useful for school reports. Only two of three Web cams were operational when I visited: one at the Swan Pond, and another focused on the Great Ape House. Zoom in and out to view the animals, and click "Add to Album" to snap a still photo.
Best reads at the virtual LA Zoo are the feature articles scattered around the site. Look for the cutesy headlines ("Where Wolf?") running down the middle of the front page, and also in: Critter Close-Up ("Hang Out with Indian Fruit Bats"), Zoo Animals ("Fabulous Fossas"), and Zoo Conservation ("Two Days of the Condor.") Excellent tips on researching an animal report can be found at ("How to Find Information about Animals").
Highlights of The National Zoo site from Washington, D.C. are the animal Web cams, photo gallery slide show, kids games and the two giant pandas Mei Xiang and Tian Tian. Browse "a sampling of moments" from the pandas' first year at the zoo in the online photo essay, "A Year In Their Life." Other don't-miss-them-clicks are the Panda cams and notes from the ongoing panda research studies.
First stop on our virtual tour of the world-famous San Diego Zoo is Kid Territory for their zoo games, animal crafts, science experiments, and profiles of "Wildly Famous Featured Creatures." The zoo does a lot of work in animal conservation, and their site has an excellent section on research efforts in China, the Pacific Islands, the southwestern United States, the Caribbean Islands, and South America. For specific animal backgrounders (for reports and such) head to Animal Bytes. And while you're cyber-vacationing at the San Diego Zoo, don't forget your friends and family back home. Send them a digital zoo card!