Friday, January 18, 2008

Palm Beach Zoo

During a recent trip to Florida, I went with some family members, including my 6-year-old cousin, 3-year-old niece, and my 18-month-old nephew, to the Palm Beach Zoo. I've visited many zoos before and also worked at the Bronx Zoo for several years, which I think has turned me into a bit of a "zoo snob."  Very rarely do I see something that I haven't seen before. So when I walked into the little Palm Beach Zoo I was not expecting to see one of ten white alligators known to exist in the entire world.

On loan from the Audubon Nature Institute in New Orleans, "Mardi" is a snow-white, blue-eyed alligator measuring 9 feet in length and weighing over 230 pounds. There was a sign on the back wall that explained all of this but unfortunately, it was located in a spot where no one noticed it. Visitors were too preoccupied with staring at a creature they never even knew existed to think to look behind them for the animal ID. So the Palm Beach Zoo was filled with misinformed visitors who think they saw an "albino alligator" when they had not. 

I don't mean to single out the Palm Beach Zoo because a lot of zoos and museums have poorly placed signage but they have a rare and beautiful creature on exhibit and are not doing it justice. Many of the animals at this zoo didn't even have identification. My young companions wanted to know the name of every animal we saw but the interpretive signage was severely lacking. So please, (and I'm begging all zoos, aquariums and museums) put your identification labels where people can find them. 

Even if visitors go to this zoo expecting to see an albino alligator I don't think anyone will be disappointed at what they find. If you happen to be in the Palm Beach area Mardi is definitely worth taking a trip to the zoo.

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