Mad about zoo
Fire up your animal passion and let our guide help you decide which local menageries pass muster.
Thu Sep 27 2007
- Life a' vermin
- Beastly does it
- New York critters: facts and figures
- Varmint district
- Neigh Sayers
- Pest side story
- Hooking up
- Master baiting
- Mad about zoo
- PETA's most wanted
- The ferret debate
Bronx River Pkwy at Fordham Rd, Bronx (718-220-5100)
With more than 4,000 animals and 465 species, the Wildlife Conservation Society’s NYC flagship zoo has a $49.7 million annual budget and all the animals you’d expect (lions, zebras, gorillas). Take the $5 monorail to help cover all 265 acres.
Congo Gorilla Forest Unmissable in summer—20 of ’em in a lush, realistic habitat. Tiger Mountain The Siberian stripers are awesome in the snow. Astor Court Home to the Monkey House and sea lion pool.
Linger in the World of Darkness, where your eyes will slowly adjust to meet bats, caimans and spooky, cave-dwelling eyeless fish. In the Mouse House the cloud rat, the largest of all rats (up to three feet long!), will give you nightmares.
Like the National Geographic Channel live—you get a real sense of the animals in their natural habitat, and celebricritters like Pattycake the gorilla have huge fan clubs.
Central Park Zoo
Southeast corner of Central Park, enter at Fifth Ave at 64th St (212-439-6500)
With more than 1,400 animals (of 130 species) in only 6.5 acres, some of these creatures live in Manhattan-apartment-sized quarters, which might leave you feeling bad. But hey, look—monkeys!
Silo and Roy They’re everybody’s favorite gay penguins (their breakup even made local gossip pages). Gus This polar bear has been in therapy and likes to swim laps to work out his angst.
Witness if you will the three varieties of tamarin, those creepy primates that look as though human heads (complete with Tina Turner hair) have been stuck onto itty-bitty monkey bodies. And their wee smells really bad.
You can tour this 5.5-acre zoo on your lunch break and smile as city kids see a sea lion for the very first time. In the winter, otters and bears play in the snow, tobogganing around their enclosures.
53-51 111th St at 54th Ave, Flushing Meadows, Queens (718-271-1500)
The 11 acres of this America-themed zoo are home to only 400 animals of 70 species, but having more space for fewer critters seems like a worthy trade-off on their behalf, even if it leaves you wanting more.
Bison The big-headed bovines roam in Queens. Spangles The Andean spectacled bear is the panda’s closest cousin. Otis Meet the coyote who moved here afterhe was found wandering in Central Park in 1999.
Our country’s misunderstood predators (pumas and bald eagles) are well defended and easy to see—still, it makes you shudder when the coyotes come right up and look you in the eye.
Never dragged to a National Park as a tyke? This zoo will give you the idea. It’s nicely forested, signs are easy to read, and the bald eagles will make you feel all Stephen Colbert.
Prospect Park Zoo
450 Flatbush Ave at Empire Blvd, Prospect Park, Brooklyn (718-399-7339)
Poison dart frog
This tiny zoo is aimed expressly at kids: They can observe and draw the animals and even get to touch them in the barnyard. Also, since 54 of the 106 species are reptiles and amphibians, you’ll get through this tiny zoo pretty quickly if you’re not a fan of the squirmy stuff.
Meerkats Watch the recent Animal Planet celebrities fight at close range. Red pandas Our favorite NYC display of the cute rust-colored furballs. Poison dart frogs Just because they look like technicolor rubber toys…
Esther the kangaroo occasionally surprises visitors by sneaking up and plucking out their leg hairs. The beady-eyed rock hyrax look uncannily like our bucktoothed Aunty Irene.
Avoid the temptation of entering the prairie dog tunnels—they, too, are designed for little ones and you might get stuck. At least the kids won’t notice the cramped quarters of the sea lion show.
Staten Island Zoo
614 Broadway at Harvest Ave, Staten Island (718-442-3100)
There are no glossy maps or WCS funding for this zoo, but this eight-acre site has some spunk the others don’t. Aside from the 858 creatures of 220 species, it’s got a mascot, the famous Groundhog Day star Staten Island Chuck.
Amur leopards You can almost touch them: There’s just a chain-link fence dividing you from them. River otters The sleek, clever mammals are worth the $7 entry fee. Black-tailed prairie dogs They are adorably pudgy.
On weekends, zookeepers wriggle dead mice to tempt the reptiles. Too gross? Check out the fossa from Madagascar. It looks part bear, part mongoose, and it springs around its enclosure.
And a little bit of ew. With its dilapidated grounds and strains of (we shit you not) “The Hokey Pokey,” this zoo is perfect for a date who is up for a laugh and a long-ass hike for a critter fix.