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Awe-inspiring Trip to the San Diego Zoo

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Awe-inspiring Trip to the San Diego Zoo

Dr. Christiane Northrup
Dr. Christiane Northrup More by this author
Mar 24, 2010 at 09:55 AM 0 comments

When I was in San Diego recently doing live pledge breaks for my new PBS show, I had the good fortune of enjoying a VIP behind-the-scenes tour of the San Diego Zoo. What an unforgettable experience! Here are a few highlights.

It turns out that isolated female Komodo dragons, found on Indonesian islands, lay eggs that hatch into live young, even with no males around. This is known as parthenogenesis. Turns out that Jeff Goldblum's character in Jurassic Park was right when he said, “Nature always finds a way!” No kidding.

The keeper of the big cats took us behind the scenes to see a pair of lions, up close and personal. The male was the most beautiful I've ever seen. And he knew it! His keeper brought him inside where he roared and strutted his stuff, clawing at the cage and marking his territory, two feet away from me. What a primal feeling to be that close! I saw his treats in the fridge. A whole white rabbit and tubs of frozen blood, which called were lion popsicles. His mate, the female, was far more sweet and demure. She doesn't like rabbits. She prefers beef heart!

We cut the line to see the baby panda, sleeping soundly in a sling in a tree while its mother paced around, upset that her favorite food is not available on weekends. This is her fifth cub and, like most experienced mothers, she's calm about her baby. The panda keeper, a delightful young woman with a fabulous sense of humor, told us that when you tickle the baby's tummy, it's arms and legs wiggle with delight, just like a human baby. Imagine the uber-cuteness of that!

The panda keeper also told us that the panda mom has another regular behavior that tends to disturb visitors so much that she (the panda keeper) just leaves her station so she doesn't have to answer questions: The panda picks up a thick piece of bamboo and self-pleasures with it, complete with moans and groans! Hilarious, eh? Who knew?

Along those lines, it turns out that the panda pair in Washington, D.C., couldn't figure out how to breed, so the San Diego Zoo made a video tape of their breeding pair in the act of having sex. This panda porn was shown to the Washington, D.C., pandas. And it worked! Guess they needed instructions. Apparently the video was on the zoo's Web site too, but was taken down because of complaints. To that I say, Come on, people. Get a grip! This is all a natural part of life. Of course I grew up on a farm and knew the facts of life up close and personal starting in childhood. And watching animals is a very good way to learn about all aspects of nature!

Another outstanding part of the zoo tour was meeting the people who work with and love the animals. They obviously love their jobs. And their joy and enthusiasm is contagious! Our guide was Tristen, and she couldn't have been more fun and knowledgeable. Talk about a breath of fresh air! She told us to buy only shade grown coffee (ask for it at Starbucks) because it doesn't require any destruction of the rain forest in order to grow. She also told us not to buy bamboo products from China, because they're not grown sustainably! (Check labels.)

I also learned all about the children's programs at the zoo. Later that night, one of the guys I worked with at KPBS told me that he was one of the zoo kids as a child and loved the experience. I was also struck by the fact that the people working with the animals have been passionate about this since childhood. Like the reptile guy—he brought home snakes and lizards as a child!

All in all, that day at the zoo was one of the most fun and memorable of my life. I'm completely sold on the mission of this venerable institution and the way the San Diego Zoo carries it out so beautifully! If you ever have a chance to go, don't miss it!

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