Monkey island, 1972

Zoo standards have changed an awful lot in the past few decades, thankfully. I’m also very thankful that my new scanner has made it possible to share the photos I took at the Sacramento Zoo as a fourth-grader in 1970 — the original prints are so faded and blue-toned I was embarrassed to publish them, but after a bit of editing, they’re almost presentable!

Ostriches behind chain link fencing

When I last visited the zoo this past January (for the first time since that fourth-grade field trip) there was not an ostrich or a cassowary in sight; the only large birds were the ever-popular flamingoes and the emu (an Australian cousin of the cassowary). According to the Sacramento Zoo’s About Us page, it was in the 1980s that zoos began to “provide a new experience for visitors by replacing iron bars and concrete walls with protective moats, larger animal enclosures and more a naturalistic look.”

Map of the zoo in 2018
Curious cassowary

I’m fairly sure the reason I photographed the cassowary was that my sisters and I were endlessly amused by them — after reading an article somewhere that described the birds as very shy, but noted that when alarmed they would “go crashing through the underbrush at 30 miles an hour.”

I also have to include a video I discovered on YouTube showing a group of kindergartners visiting the Sacramento Zoo in 1970 (the second half of the video depicts the San Diego Zoo). It’s incredible to see the casual physical contact between the children and the animals, including people reaching down and grabbing the monkey’s hands! Seeing this reminds me of the Big Guy’s story of visiting the Sacramento Zoo as a young boy and watching his dad feeding the baboon, named Pinky, and even teaching it some tricks. None of that would fly these days, needless to say.


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