O​n the road again with the San Diego Miata Club
O​n the road again with the San Diego Miata Club


Memorable r​oad trips are also about the destination…

Many of us have pets, and regard them as loved family members. We care for them and talk to them – even though they can never answer with more than a bark, meow or an understanding gesture or response. While I no longer own a pet, in my life I’ve had the pleasure of sharing my life with several turtles, an unexpected family of hamsters, a budgie bird and a dog.

Some of us help to satisfy our love for animals by visiting zoos and aquariums. In this column I have reported on the world-famous San Diego Zoo before, as recently as this year – before the zoo was closed to the public due to the Coronavirus Pandemic.

P​hoto taken at the San Diego Zoo

Long ago, when I was a teenager and attending college, I worked for a couple of summers at the Calgary Zoo and dinosaur park, in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

Late last year I embarked upon two road trips in my then-new 2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata 30th Anniversary Edition. My destination was far from home, a long drive up the scenic California coast to an event named Miata Reunion at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, in Northern California.

R​oad trip with the San Diego Miata Club from Southern California to Monterey County, in Northern California

One of the great things about a car is that it gives you the unparalleled freedom to explore. That is precisely what I did in my spare time during Miata Reunion.

One of the places that I discovered is The Monterey Zoo, located on the Vision Quest Ranch between Monterey and Salinas, California.

Even if you have never been the Monterey Zoo before, you might have seen one of its big cats. Josef, a majestic African lion, starred in “The Lion King” and in a television commercial for the Dryfus Fund, filmed in the Grand Canyon. Josef is immortalized in silhouette on the Monterey Zoo’s logo. The zoo is also home to the Bengal Tiger and African Spotted Leopard.

Like people, animals have distinct personalities. For instance, Martha the bear is “very shy and reserved,” whereas “Stuart is pushy and rambunctious.”

Birds of prey include hawks, eagles, owls, vultures and parrots. “They are all meat eaters, with hooked beaks, talons and keen eyesight.” All of the birds of prey at the Monterey Zoo are “non-releasable birds that have suffered injuries in life.” Did you know that parrots are a “broad order of more than 350 birds” that include macaws, Amazons, lovebirds and cockatoos?

Primates at the Monterey Zoo include Guido and Pierre – lemurs that are two of the zoo’s most senior citizens. Also represented are the intelligent and especially vocal Capuchin monkey, baboons and the Common Marmoset.

Many of the zoo’s reptiles were turned in by pet owners who could no longer care for the animals, or who did not fully appreciate that their “cute baby” would grow into something large and difficult to handle.

The zoo is also home to a collection of hoofed animals, including zebras, camels, alpacas, warthogs and donkeys.

The Monterey Zoo has been undergoing an extensive modernization program, “with exhibits that give our animals maximum space in the most natural, humane and mentally stimulating environments possible.” This is in support of the zoo’s stated mission: “to provide an entertaining, intimate educational experience that fosters respect and admiration for all wildlife.”

The Monterey Zoo provides exceptional, hands-on animal tours. For example, the Pachyderm Package is a two-hour experience that includes a one-hour guided walking tour of the animals and an hour of hands-on with the African Elephant, where you can help the keepers bathe one of the elephants and learn about how they take care of them. Their elephants came to the zoo in retirement from the entertainment industry.

In addition to welcoming guests for daily visits, private tours and interactive animal encounters, the Monterey Zoo also offers Safari Bed & Breakfast accommodations, where you can spend the night on an African safari at Vision Quest Ranch.

Unfortunately, the Monterey Zoo is struggling to stay in operation. It was ordered to close temporarily due to the Coronavirus Pandemic, yet it still has ongoing and very significant expenses for the care of its animals. You can help to insure their health and well-being through a donation, or by the purchase of gift certificates at app.arts-people.com/index.php?retail=wildt

For more information, visit the Monterey Zoo online at www.montereyzoo.org.


Jan Wagner

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