Work camping is a popular life style in many campgrounds, both public and private. RV Resorts are no exception. Basically work camping is trading your time for free or reduced lot fees. Some work campers are paid in addition to having a free site. Here at Llano Grande RV Park, Lonny and Patti arrange tours and field trips for whatever is of interest to the RV Parks Winter Texans. Phoebe has a passion for the zoo in Brownsville, and on occasion helps with the zoo tour. A group of us went on a behind the scenes VIP tour at the Gladys Porter Zoo, Phoebe was our point person.
The zoo staff was genuinely grateful for our interest in their facility. The history of Gladys Porter and her love for preserving endangered animals made for a great backdrop of why the zoo was established. Back in the day Gladys was doing alright, her father, Earl C. Sams, had been President and Board Chairman of the J.C. Penney Company for over 30 years. FYI – The animal’s grocery bill alone is close to a hundred thousand dollars a month.
On average 430,000 people visit the 31-acre zoo annually. It’s owned by the city of Brownsville, and it is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. The accreditation is a big deal, only ten percent of zoos have attained the strict criteria. Sharing animals with other zoo’s is easier if you are dealing with an accredited organization. I got the impression that a zoo needs to track a lot of data in addition to health records when it comes to sharing.
Our VIP tour included riding on a tram, petting and feeding some of the animals, and a light lunch with a parrot. “Polly want a cracker?” Personally, I was most impressed by the white rhino. He was on loan from another zoo. To help facilitate physical checkups the handlers will use voice commands, and run their hands over the animals. With the aid of some grass hay, the zoo handler talked a male rhino towards the stockade gate. When he was grazing quietly, we were allowed to pet him. Rhino’s feel like rough leather, surprise surprise. Feeding the camels, giraffes, and Galapagos tortoise was also pretty cool. After our lunch we were released to freely check out the exhibits at our own pace.
The question, “How right is it to cage up an animal?” will sometimes rests on my frontal lobe. Doesn’t everyone, including animals want freedom? Running wild in a natural environment is freedom, right? Heck, thirty-five years ago I was running wild in a natural environment. However, back then my self-will-run-riot attitude had me heading for certain extinction. Was that freedom? Should cats and dogs be tied up, or held behind locked doors? Should humans try and preserve the extinction of animals due to overzealous expansion? God gave Adam the authority over all animals. How wrong can zoos be?