Secrets of the Zoo

Secrets of the Zoo on National Geographic Wild on StarSat o1

Secrets of the Zoo

Humanity has always been fascinated with exotic animals and has collected them since ancient times. In 3500 BCE menageries were built in Ancient Egypt. They housed baboons, elephants, hartebeest, hippopotami and wildcats. These belonged to aristocrats where exotic animals served as displays of wealth.

It was only in 1828 when captive exotic animals became more than just status symbols with the opening of the Gardens and Menagerie of the Zoological Society of London for scientific study. Nineteen years later they opened their doors to the public at a fee and zoos as we know them were born.

Their success prompted the opening of zoos all over the world, some becoming hotbeds of animal abuse treated as little more than commodities. The treatment of these animals gave zoos a bad name costing them almost all their customers, becoming the wake-up call the industry needed. They shifted their focus from merely keeping animals alive to care for them as best they could. Now zoos are at the forefront of animal conservation and are responsible for saving the lives of countless creatures in the wild and captivity.

The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium’s mission is to “lead and inspire by connecting people and wildlife”, and lead they certainly do. The Secrets of the Zoo tells their story. You get to see not only how 2,000 staff members take care of their 10,000 animals in the most popular zoo in America. You also get to see all the conservation efforts that go on behind the scenes.

In their world-class treatment centre, they save the lives of many animals in the wild and captivity. Tibo is a Canada lynx that was born with one of his legs facing backwards. After two operations he’s running around happily with more treatments to come. Emmitt came to them with a gaping hole in his shoulder which they had to operate. Now he happily plays around with his three Labrador buddies in his spacious grassy encampment.

Some mothers rejected their young and had to be hand-raised. Fergus is a red kangaroo joey that was kicked out of his mother’s pouch but is now healthy and well on his way to becoming a full-grown 200-pound kangaroo. Bob, Francis, and Debby are playful cheetah cubs that have become some of the zoos favourite animal ambassadors after their mother refused to feed them. Those are just a few of the zoo’s cute animal ambassadors you’ll get to meet on the show.

They don’t limit their conservation efforts to the animals behind their walls, however. The Wilds is their 10,000-acre conservation facility situated 80 miles away from the zoo. Here they bring endangered animals to roam free, protecting them from poachers and allowing them to breed, eventually releasing them back into the wild. One of these species, the scimitar-horned Oryx, is registered as extinct in the wild.

This heart-warming look at the world behind the scenes of the best zoo in America is an experience you don’t want to miss.

Mondays at 6 PM on National Geographic Wild (ch 221)