Being raised by a birder, I have always been aware of the stunning wildlife that is a massive part of Cape May County. From the dolphins that seem to swim within an arms length of the shore to the Laughing Gulls that steal my French fries, I spent my entire childhood surrounded by animals. Not only is there incredible wildlife on the island itself, but just a few miles up the parkway lies a variety from every corner of the world tucked in to 85 acres: the zoo.
I couldn’t tell you the hundreds, possibly thousands, of hours that my family has spent in the zoo. Take me there blindfolded and I could walk you to any habitat in the park. As a wide-eyed youngster, there was nothing that could beat it; all of the animals that I saw in The Lion King and The Jungle Book were waiting for me and larger than life. The tiger paces the perimeter of his cage back and forth and the lion perches regally as he gazes at children in awe. Of course I wanted to pet any furry animal that could easily swallow me in one bite, but I would just have to settle with feeding the ducks and the goats.
We would walk around the zoo for hours on end, observing the animals that the majority of us only know from a distance and within a cage. I never fail to be amazed at how majestic they look, even when held within their cages. How lucky we are to be able to see animals from other corners of the world, corners that some of us may never be lucky enough to visit. With the youth of the future wandering in awe at the many animals that the Cape May County Zoo is able to share with the public for free, it is possible for the phenomenal existence of these animals to continue on. Not only that, but the zoo educates these children about the animals they are seeing, even the ones that are in danger of extinction.
My hope is that the zoo inspires others not only to appreciate the beautiful animals within, but also inspire them to want to help. The next time a little boy points and says, “Look how cool that tiger is!” maybe he’ll learn that only a few thousand exist in the wild today. Maybe he’ll set out to change the fact that one day the zoo might be the only place to see a tiger. The zoo provides knowledge of the presently living animal and a future for those who can’t fend for themselves. Everyday those animals leave the zoo in the minds of hundreds of children and adults, freeing their spirits and spreading knowledge for the generation to come.