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A Ridiculously Stupid Cincinnati Zoo Review: This One's a Keeper

Updated on December 16, 2010
I have no idea what this is, but you can see it in person for only $14.
I have no idea what this is, but you can see it in person for only $14.

Captives With An Audience

I wonder sometimes who was crazy enough to come up with the very idea for a zoo. It takes a special kind of mental to be brave enough to hunt down Earth’s most dangerous critters, capture them, and then incarcerate the unfortunate creatures in a man-made habitat as close to nature’s own as possible. It’s the sort of thing that makes me second-guess humankind’s place atop the list of brainiest beings.

But smarts aren’t necessary if you just want to get a gander at the poor beasts. Anybody can drop down $10-$15 to sneak a peek at something much more exotic than your everyday, run-of-the-mill, trashcan-diving opossum. The entirety of the animal kingdom is available for viewing, contained in a (bullet-proof) glass menagerie. It’s dangerous, probably unethical, and likely a lasting testament to man’s arrogant dominance over our “subordinate” species. It’s also a really, really fun way to spend a day, so follow me on my own little virtual tour of the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens. Bad jokes and completely non-scientific animal analysis are no extra charge.


Reptile Dysfunction

My first stop, after using the futuristic ticket-making machine to gain entrance to the park, was the Reptile House. All manner of scaly, slithering things call this place home. Snakes of every kind, turtles and tortoises and lizards of all colors of the rainbow dwell in this dimly-lit building. Not the best place to be if snakes give you the willies, my fears were calmed by the relatively sedate nature of the serpents. Most of them barely knew I was there, preferring to sleep all day amid their synthetic surroundings.

I can’t say I blame them, as it’s a pretty boring place overall. This is no fault of the zoo’s, but the Reptile House could be a lot more lively. A disco ball would be a good start, but that’s just my opinion.

Anyway, I would imagine those encased legless creeps spend their days and nights dreaming of an epic escape, swallowing every Jack Hanna-wannabe foolish enough to try to stop them. On a personal level, I was hoping a python might make lunch out of a fellow visitor or three. Any type of movement would do, though some death and destruction would be a pretty sweet bonus. All-in-all, this collection of some of Mother Nature’s most feared predators turned out to be a snooze. Next year, I’m finding a way behind that glass…dressed as a field mouse. Now, that will be something to write about.

Gorillas in the Midst...of Something

Next up: monkey madness in Gorilla World. This attraction makes up for all those lazy lizards, as the prime primates hanging out here were a hoot. The head gorilla (made abundantly clear by his willingness to lay the smackdown on his roughhousing roommates) was quite the male diva. The biggest fella stopped to pose for pictures, making eye contact with his human spectators and putting on a simian show worth seeing. He stood up, turned around and seemed to know exactly who, where and when pictures were being snapped.

Kids loved him, adults adored him and I made plans for a monkeynapping. Sadly, it was not to be. There was barely enough room in my supposed-to-be-blue-but-it‘s-probably-purple, broken down Volkswagen Beetle for my friend and I, so adding a 450 pound gorilla wasn’t feasible. I knew I should have bought a truck.

Aside from our show-stopping Mighty Joe Young, I saw a few gibbons and what I think were lemurs. These are all funny, graceful, intelligent mammals that seem to enjoy being on display for their most closely-related species. It makes me fear less our future world where the damn dirty apes are in charge. Charlton Heston needed to chill out.

It should also be noted that there was nothing in the way of monkey coitus going on. Too often, the Dian Fossey posse gets a bad rap for this. In our case, the chimps kept it kid-friendly and abstained from doing the dirty out in public. No humping and nothing even remotely auto-erotic occurred, so you probably won’t have to shield your children’s eyes should you choose to visit. The primates were PG at their peak of rowdiness, and for that, we were quite grateful.

Meerkat Manners

All about the cameras...
All about the cameras...

After putting the monkey business behind us, we headed to the "Cathouse" for some puddy tat peeping. Being a cat-person (which sounds more than a little like an unfortunate genetic disorder), I was thrilled for this. The whole place smelled like a litter box that hadn’t been cleaned in a week, but there was plenty to see, stench be gosh-darned.

There were kitties of every kind in this building, from fierce jungle cats to some that were not altogether too different from what you’d find in a pet store. I haven’t seen this many pussies since…eh, I’m not gonna go there. Hey, I warned you about the bad jokes. Don’t look at me like that.

My favorite part of the cat tour was something my friend and I agreed just had to be the spawn of a cat and some very amorous monkey. I tried to get a picture, but it was a little too dark to get a good one, so you’ll just have to use your imagination. Try breeding an orangutan with your housecat and you’ll probably get something close…as well as a jail sentence, you sick freak.

Lastly, I got to see meerkats in person for the first time. These little guys are too awesome for words AND my single lame picture posted above. Get out and see them and/or try to catch Meerkat Manor on The Discovery Channel (I think) if you’re interested in them. They’re cute as buttons and have more energy than an ADHD kid hyped up on Dr. Pepper and Pop Rocks. That means really, really energetic.

A Bug's Life

Definitely the scariest portion of our trip was the Bug House. I’m deathly afraid of creepy-crawly things, so this was an anxiety attack just waiting to happen for me. Behind glass, the Bug House contained more unwanted six and eight-legged guests than the filthiest condemned apartment building. The ugly critters went about their business, luckily seeming not to notice me or any other park attendees. I was glad to keep it that way.

One of my biggest irrational fears is spiders. As luck would have it, arachnids were present, prevalent and super scary. There were a couple different tarantulas as well as a heaping helping of scorpions, and no, I’m not talking about the glam metal band.

I felt the need for winds of change almost immediately myself, but trudged onward regardless, sneering at the disgusting things all the way. The last thing I saw were Bullet Ants, so-called because their sting is approximately 30 times more intense than that of an ordinary honey bee. They look sort of like the monstrous ants that eat one of the bad guys in the last Indiana Jones movie. These things are so dangerous that they’re housed inside a huge glass case and kept under another sheet of glass contained within the outer case, just to be safe. Thanks for the nightmares, Cincinnati Zoo.


Dragon's Lair

Komodo dragon: Not all it's cracked up to be.
Komodo dragon: Not all it's cracked up to be.

Oddly enough, all signs at the zoo are devoid of any punctuation. Want to go to Arctic World? It’s clearly marked, no period necessary. The same can be said for all other attractions but one: Dragons!

That’s right. The Cincinnati Zoo has dragons! Dragons! Unnecessary exclamation points aside, the zoo has exactly one komodo dragon. And it’s about as exciting as a coma. The beast does absolutely nothing. It sits there and looks at all spectators with it’s big, stupid face, likely thinking it’s something pretty damn special.

Well, it’s not. Since this part of the trip was utterly boring to big, salty tears, I’ll make something up. Here goes nothing.

We entered the lair of the dragons (dragons!!!!) and were promptly greeted by a ferocious, fire-breathing, flying beast. Why it was the size of a hundred men if it was one, I tell you! It looked at all of us with its cold, steely gaze and I knew I could do only one thing. I reached for the nearest broadsword, leapt atop my noble steed and charged headlong at the vicious creature.

A mighty roar shook the very foundations of the building as the beast readied it’s fire breath. A scorching flame nearly knocked me from my horse. I narrowly avoided the premature cremation and rode hard toward the beast, leaping high and far from my equestrian friend and landing perfectly upon the dragon's spiny, tiny-winged back.

“Cease your assault, you fiend, or I shall end you before the morrow!” I shouted, brandishing my sword and looking extremely studly.

With another great roar, the creature flung me from its back and readied itself again to burn me in a fashion similar to what I accidentally did to last night’s Hamburger Helper. Terrified, I grabbed my sword from the ground and heaved it mightily at the dragon.

The steel found it’s mark directly between the evil monster’s eyes. It fell to the ground in a lifeless heap, dead as my potential writing career after publishing this stupid-ass article. The crowd of spectators who survived cheered my heroism and bought me a $4.50 beer from the refreshment stand. Christina Ricci came down in a helicopter and proposed marriage. The entire cast of Jersey Shore showed up and gave me a collective fist pump. It was a grand spectacle, to say the least. Too bad I didn’t take any pictures.

Getting back on point, so much for the Cincy Zoo and their “DRAGONS!” Talk about false advertising.



There were a few other places I visited, but since this stupid thing is way too long as it is, I’ll finish up by talking about elephants and rhinocerouseseses. Rhinocerussesneses. Sorry. I have no idea how to spell that and I'm way too lazy to check Wikipedia. Let's just call 'em "rhinos" from here on out, okay?

I was a tad disappointed to see that no elephants were outside during my visit to the ‘Nati Zoo. Instead of watching them lumber about in the great outdoors, we had to peruse the pachyderms inside the smelliest building on the lot. I’m not kidding. It smelled as though someone left his gym socks in a closet full of dead bodies and cottage cheese for an entire summer. Not having a gas mask, I quickly watched the gentle giants and snapped this pic with my cell:

Kinda makes you want to bring up "Operation Dumbo Drop" on your Netflix queue. Or not.
Kinda makes you want to bring up "Operation Dumbo Drop" on your Netflix queue. Or not.


Watching an elephant eat is quite a treat. The huge creature snacked on some straw while we watched and paid little attention to all the people in awe of his presence. He snatched up his food with his trunk and stuffed his face for a good five minutes, munching and crunching away. When you’re that big, no one is going to question your manners.

This was another animal I wanted to take home with me, but if Donkey Kong from Gorilla World wasn’t going, Dumbo didn’t have a chance. Forget the truck. Next time, I’m bringing a U-Haul.

The rhino was quite a sight to see as well. There were two in total, but my favorite was the bathing chap you see here:

"I dreamed a dream..."
"I dreamed a dream..."

No, that’s not Susan Boyle taking a dip in a hot tub. How could you say something like that? Let’s try to be mature, people. At any rate, this beast is much bigger than my crappy picture can show, and while studying him from afar, I began to see Darwin’s point. This thing looked very much like a dinosaur that had somehow survived that fateful meteor’s impact 65 million years ago. What makes a hearty creature such as this so content to hang out in a zoo is beyond me, but I’m glad for it. Splash on, my badass prehistoric friend. You’ve earned it.

In Conclusion (Finally)

As I mentioned earlier. The elephant and rhino were far from the last critters I had the pleasure of seeing in action. There were penguins, wild turkeys, manatees and a myriad of other uncommon walks of life, all happily content in their unknown prison. It’s a little sad if you think about it, but going to the zoo (Cincinnati or otherwise) is something all homo-sapiens should do at one time or another.

Missing out on a show like this…now, that would be crazy.


Posted August 6, 2010


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