Opinion Videos

Mostly Animals from the San Francisco Zoo

Shot with the Sony DSC-T500.

The last time I was in San Francisco, I was determined to go to the zoo to catch some wildlife shots to add to my growing collection of animal portraits. I had such an amazing time at the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary in the Gold Coast of Australia with the roos, koalas, and attack emus and I was excited to get up and close with some other cute, but ferocious beasties.

But as usual, there were several things that prevented me from acquiring some awesome animal portraits.

1. I arrived at the zoo, one hour before closing. Nice one, sleepy pants.
2. It was literally so foggy that I nearly walked into a giraffe.
3. My camera battery was 1/4 from deadzo. Sweet.
4. I forgot my memory cards. Not a single one. Uh. How does that even happen when you have like 10.
5. All the lemurs, gorillas, and cool animals were hiding, asleep, or had made an escape earlier that day.

I may have cried a little, but then I realized I had the lovely little Sony DSC-T500 with me, so I decided to capture some “moving pictures” instead. I shot this at 720p and it looks fantastic.

Also, after visiting this park, I really felt morally torn about zoos and animals raised in captivity. The animals just seemed so cramped and sad and annoyed at the screaming bratty kids. I certainly love seeing these animals up close, but seeing their faces behind bars made me so very sad. Maybe I just don’t know enough about how zoos are run, and maybe I am just naive about what life is like in the wild for these creatures. Basically, I just want to hug each and every one of these animals, even the prickly ones.

What do you think? Zoos: Good fun or just plain mean?

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  • Reply
    June 12, 2009 at 5:52 PM

    I think Zoo were great in the past because people couldn’t easily see what wildlife was like.

    Now with the advent of modern TV and the Internet I can see videos of practically anything without leaving the city I’m in.

    They recently re-vamped my local zoo and the African safari bit was real cool. Funny though – thinking about it – the part I liked most about it had nothing to do with the animals. It was a safari tent with old camera gear, and land cruiser, lol.

  • Reply
    Howard Greenstein
    June 12, 2009 at 7:10 PM

    I’m not “in favor” of animal cruelty, but let’s face it, many of these animals, left in the wild, end up as someone’s lunch – whether it is another animal or a human. So, just think of the cushy lifestyle they’re living, not being eaten, and instead being adored and used as a way to teach kids and separate adults from their money with pleas to save wildlife.

  • Reply
    Ryan Oldham
    June 12, 2009 at 7:55 PM

    The free roaming peacocks are cool. We used to have those here in Portland until some little brat attacked one and it bit him. Poor Peacock.

  • Reply
    June 12, 2009 at 8:08 PM

    I’m not sure. Lots of the animals couldn’t actually survive on their own, regardless of how healthy they are.

    A lot of these animals would belong in a pack, or a herd, or a family, and just releasing them into the wild would probably mean certain death.

    I think it’s important to remember, they don’t have any predators at a zoo, they have an easy life, and are well cared for. (Mostly)

  • Reply
    June 12, 2009 at 8:22 PM

    yea zoos…. i dunno everytime i go to the LA zoo here its like a zillion degrees and well animals should be given acres of freedom. elephant exhibit is/was a hot topic 100’s of folks** showed up to debate spending zillions on a new enclosure or moving them to an elephant sanctuary.

    ** way more than when city hall topics are about homeless.

  • Reply
    Sean Creasy
    June 12, 2009 at 9:12 PM

    I think zoos really help with educating about the animals and helping people to realize that the animals aren’t evil things that need to be killed. But at the same time, those animals are SUPER bored… It’s like when i look at my pets, where my cat is overweight and just lays around all day and tries to get in our way, and then my mouse who just runs around her cage climbing the walls trying to chew through the bars… thats the main thing about animal captivity, boredom… but at least they are safe…

    but ya, if any of that made sense… but just be careful of those gift shop animals, they’re the most dangerous!

  • Reply
    Sean Creasy
    June 12, 2009 at 9:14 PM

    oh, and what is the music you used in the video? I love it :-)

  • Reply
    June 12, 2009 at 9:24 PM

    If you haven’t made it down to the San Diego Wild Animal Park yet, perhaps you should next time your in So.Cal. It might change your mind.

    The animals are in large, wide open areas, mixed in with other animals from the same regions. They also appear to emphasize more of the education, conservation and research more than the other zoos I’ve visited.

    When you’re there, you may want to try the Photo Caravan (http://bit.ly/DBMmf), where you’re in the cage (back of a flat bed stake truck) driving through their area.

  • Reply
    June 12, 2009 at 10:11 PM

    I think zoo are a great idea. Most people aren’t going to wild to see the animals and it’s hard to ask people to help protect something they’ve never seen.

  • Reply
    Juan Frias
    June 12, 2009 at 11:23 PM

    I know what you mean about the sad animals at the SF Zoo. I’ve been there twice and it always seems so gloomy. I think the problem is that it is so old that it starting to show its age.

    If you get a chance go to the Oakland Zoo it is a longer drive but it is much nicer. It is geared more towards little kids but you’ll enjoy it very much. Just make sure you get there early or you’ll be walking a mile as parking fills up really quick.

    As for the video it is really nice. I like how you kept the close tight view on the animals. Anything wider and you would see the “sad” surroundings.

  • Reply
    June 13, 2009 at 1:10 AM

    I visited a zoo recently on the island of Jersey (off France). I saw my first gorillas close up (within branch throwing distance as it turned out), and was awed by the creatures. The faces were often sad though. Seeing them on TV or the Internet isn’t the same, but what price happiness? I told myself that animal expressions aren’t the same as human ones, but I wasn’t convinced. Still to see them that close…..

  • Reply
    June 13, 2009 at 1:20 AM

    I think there’s something to be said of having somewhere to go without having to go to Africa, Australia, etc. and also not staying indoors, which is where TV and computers are most usable. Also, being on a screen, the animals might not seem so real, seeing them in person might help drive a message home that these animals and ecosystems need to be preserved.

    Hopefully the animals are kept in as high standards as reasonably possible, close down or update the worst of the zoos.

  • Reply
    June 13, 2009 at 2:10 AM

    That Sony takes awesome video for a point-and-shoot! You got some really nice footage there.
    Although I hate their SLRs, I respect Sony’s compacts. My friend has one and it’s pretty impressive for such a diminutive little thing.
    Nice animals too, especially that crazy one at the end. :S

  • Reply
    June 13, 2009 at 4:40 AM

    I love Zoos. ;)
    Thanks for the video!


  • Reply
    June 13, 2009 at 6:17 AM

    I think a good zoo should be more than just a collection of animals to be stared at. I think if you can take a kid somewhere to learn about wildlife they’re more likely to want to preserve it. A lot of zoos also do a lot of research and conservation work too.

  • Reply
    Anthony Brown
    June 14, 2009 at 5:48 PM

    The mission from the San Francisco Zoo’s website:
    “The San Francisco Zoo connects people with wildlife, inspires caring for nature and advances conservation action.”

    The San Francisco Zoo (like most zoos) is a non-profit, whose sole purpose is to care for the animals it is home to, connect people with these amazing creatures, and help advance conservation action.

    People tend to make the mistake of comparing zoos to prisons, when it’s actually more like club med for animals. Almost the entire collection at the San Francisco Zoo was born in captivity, or rescued from the wild.

    I encourage you to learn more about what makes the zoo tick! If you have any questions about our zoo in particular, feel free to reach me at anthonyb[at]sfzoo.org

    The video’s great, I’ll be re-tweeting it via the twitter.com/sfzoo account now!

    Anthony Brown
    Animal Keeper – Penguins
    San Francisco Zoo

  • Reply
    Mostly Lisa
    June 14, 2009 at 8:29 PM

    @Anthony — thanks for that. it makes me feel better knowing there are people like you caring for these animals!

  • Reply
    June 17, 2009 at 2:56 PM

    Wow what a discussion, as long as the animals are kept well I’m all good :)

  • Reply
    June 17, 2009 at 3:55 PM

    This is taking me away from playing with my new iPhone software (it took wayyyy long to download…) but,

    I think zoos do help people to appreciate wildlife and turn a lot of people on to helping save some of the natural world so that there are still wild beasties. But zoos should give animals room to behave and they should create as natural an environment as possible. Old fashioned cramped cages are not cool. I’ve had a macaw for over 30 years – I feel for him / her. Hasn’t seen another macaw in all that time, doesn’t go outside, no sex, etc. Animals aren’t here for our entertainment.

  • Reply
    Anthony Brown
    June 17, 2009 at 4:47 PM


    As I said earlier, zoos are non-profits – every dime that comes into the zoo, is put towards advancing the zoo’s mission, which is caring for its animals, connecting visitors to wildlife, and advancing conservation action.

    Most zoos are very old (the San Francisco Zoo celebrates its 80th anniversary this year) and with that age, comes many exhibits that need to be renovated and/or improved. The most exciting thing about managing animals in captivity, is that there is more than just exhibit modifications that can improve an animals well-being!

    As an animal care professional, I’ll tell you I’d much rather live at a zoo with a compassionate workforce who are always advancing husbandry, training, and enrichment programs, in an older exhibit, than some snazzy zoo exhibit where that emphasis isn’t as important.

    If you think about the animals in most peoples lives, are the dogs and cats that live with really rich people, better off than the ones that live with the lower/middle class? Some of the happiest dogs I’ve seen live with homeless people (haha, I’m not endorsing homeless people have animals, and thats a whole different conversation, I’m just trying to stimulate a thought process).

    Anthony Brown
    Animal Keeper – Penguins
    San Francisco Zoo

  • Reply
    June 19, 2009 at 12:56 PM

    Lisa, I just finished watching a webinar on zoo photography and drifted from there to National Geographic’s website ( http://blogs.nationalgeographic.com/blogs/admin/mt-search.cgi?tag=birds&blog_id=59). Another good thing zoos do is a lot of work to save / restore threatened and endangered species. I’d say animal lovers should get involved in protecting animals and making sure our community zoos are properly funded to ensure that their occupants are well cared for and have appropriate facilities. (And btw, iPhone 3.0 rocks – now if I just accidentally drop my iPhone 3G in the toilet, I might have to replace it with an iPhone 3GS.)

  • Reply
    June 20, 2009 at 1:59 AM

    If you’re ever in the San Diego area, then you have to check out the San Diego Wild Animal Park in Escondido,CA. That place is amazing!

    It’s a 1800 acre wildlife sanctuary for over 3000+ animals. This place is not your typical “zoo” since most animals are “free” and in a natural environment.

    Check out their amazing exhibits:

    They also have different tours to see the park and animals up close. Heck, they even have a Segway tour! One of these days, I’m going to do this.

  • Reply
    Douglas King
    July 1, 2009 at 5:07 PM

    I agree – Zoos and aquariums now seem like animal jails to me. I remember the day that my point of vie switched. I was at the Stanley Park Aquarium in Vancouver BC. I was looking at the Orcas and realized their dorsal fins were permanently warped from swimming in circles, because thats all hey could do in their cramped quarters.

    I know that Zoos and aquariums help save endangered species. I also feel that its very important for young people to connect with nature and animals and for many the zoo is where this happens. If young people don’t connect with nature they won’t fight to protect habitat and then the zoo will be all that’s left.

  • Reply
    March 12, 2011 at 11:40 PM

    When you were in Oz, you should have headed on down to Sydney. It too is a very old zoo, in the heart of Sydney, but there are very few “jailhouse” exhibits.

    While animals in captivity may seem cruel. Some species in the wild are hunted almost to extinction, with the zoos being the only safe breeding habitat.

    You know what’s ironic? Nearly every blog reply is from a guy! LOL

    I happened upon this site by Googling images for n00b BTW.


  • Reply
    May 26, 2011 at 11:52 AM

    I found your blog entry while looking online to see if the SF zoo has elephants. It is May, 2011. If you are still wondering if a zoo is “good fun or just plain mean”, look at “In Defense of Animals” website http://www.idausa.org. You will find exactly the information you are pondering. Hopefully, two years later, you have found your answer. Zoos are just plain mean.

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