Monday, May 11, 2009
Lions And Tigers And Bears, Oh My ... A My Town Monday Post,
The Amarillo Storyland Zoo opened in 1955 and for the next 30+ years the facility could be described in one word ... embarrassing.
Luckily, that is changing. First let me tell you what the zoo used to be. I'd hoped to find some old photos to go along with my descriptions and memories but I wasn't able to find any.
The zoo I knew as a kid, we are talking late seventies here was called Storyland Zoo. The entrance was a dark dingy fake cave filled with poorly rendered Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs scenes. Admission was free but as a kid I remember it being kind of damp and scary. And what it had to do with animals is beyond me.
Once inside the zoo was filled mostly with animals anyone could see by driving the back roads in and around Amarillo. There were deer, in a tiny little pen with a gingerbread-esque house. Rabbits and prairie dogs in a large dirt enclosure. Goats, donkeys, and aoudad sheep in cages backed by a false fronted western town, bobcats and coyotes, longhorn cattle and peacocks, and some big goldfish swam in a pond located in the mouth of a large concrete whale.
As a kid the only things I enjoyed were the dome cage full of spider monkeys and the large western fort themed playground. Once upon a time the zoo had an elephant but it outgrew it's small pen and was gone before I was old enough to remember any pachyderms.
The cages were small, the smell was bad, and as I said the Amarillo Storyland Zoo of yesteryear was nothing more than an embarrassment.
And while the Amarillo Zoo, (storyland was dropped from the name a number of years ago) is still far from being comparable to top of the line zoos in larger cities it has done a nice job of working with the resources at hand and improving little by little each year.
The spider monkeys remain, but these days they have a, clean open island environment to swing about on trees and and enjoy the sunshine.
The old elephant pen was combined with the goose and duck pond to create a large spacious area for the black bears.
An interesting side note is that these bears once were the mascot for Baylor College.
A couple of years back the zoo, built a nice big cat pavilion and added three lions a male and two females.
Prior to the lions arrival, the Amarillo Zoo acquired Holly, a Bengal tiger from the town of Lubbock, Texas which is a 100 miles south of Amarillo.
Holly was named for Lubbock's famous son Buddy Holly but their zoo did not have adequate facilities to properly care for her. As an Amarilloan it's always good to know we have something better than our rival city to the south.
Another newish addition to the zoo are the wallabies.
Not Everything is new. There is still a cage full of pigeons that harkens back to yesteryear. And a Longhorn still plods along in a barren dirt corrals. and that old western section full of goats sheep, and aoudads still stands as well.
But the zoo is continuing to work. Elk are soon to be added to the large grassland area already stocked with Pronghorn, deer, and bison. Construction is under way for a new herpetarium and plans are in the works for a new children's area which is to include a petting area.
The Amarillo zoo is now a place I can take my boys and be proud. No, it's not all the way where it needs to be, but hopefully the city and the people of Amarillo can come together to find the necessary funds and expertise to continue the trend of improving the facility.
As always, check back here throughout Sunday and Monday, for links to other bloggers as they take us to their location for MY TOWN MONDAY.
Jenn Jilks - Muskoka, Ontario, Canada
Maria - Vienna, Austria
Shauna Roberts - Riverside, California
Lyzzydee - Welwyn Garden City, England
Cloudia - Honolulu, Hawaii
Barbara Martin - Toronto, Canada
Debra - Village of Peninsula, Ohio
Clare2E- Oakland Beach, Rye, New York
Patti Abbott - Detroit, Michigan
Chuck - Kentucky
J Winter - Cincinnati, Ohio