Texas Liberal

All People Matter

Even If Zoos Are A Guantanamo For Animals, They Need High Admission Fees To Assure Quality


Last week I visited the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens

Admission to the Cincinnati Zoo is higher than at my local Houston Zoo. The Cincinnati Zoo is $13.50 for adults and $8 for kids 2-12. In Houston it is $10 for adults and $5 for kids ages 2-11. In addition, it runs $6.50 to park on the grounds on the Cincinnati Zoo while all parking is free in Houston.  

When I arrived in Houston in 1998, the zoo did not charge admission. That sent up a warning flag. The Cincinnati Zoo has long been recognized as one of the leading zoos in the country. I don’t know much about running a zoo—I know zero about running a zoo—but I’m sure it costs a lot of money.

My father said to me last week that zoos are ” A Guantanamo for animals.” That was a good line and has factual merit. But zoos are not going away and should have as a first concern good treatment of the animals.  

Earlier this year, I visited the very large and well-known San Diego Zoo. Admission there was $33 for adults and $22 for children. If you want something decent, you have to pay.

During my recent Cincinnati Zoo visit, I could not help but notice the absence of a single black zoo patron. I’m sure some black folks did visit the zoo that day—it was a nice 70 degree day—But I did not see any.

While the Cincinnati Zoo is a regional attraction, Cincinnati is 50% black and the neighborhoods near the zoo are very black. 

I see on the webpage of the Houston Zoo that students under the age of 19 who live in Houston city limits can go to the zoo for free on a school field trip. Cincinnati charges $5 for students.

The Cincinnati Zoo might have some progress to make on being more accessible to the local community.

As for Houston, I believe it should further raise admission and consider a schedule of discounted days for local residents. That is the only way it will become an institution worthy of such a large city.  

As a kid, I was sometimes brought to the terrible Slater Park Zoo in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. Here is an article about the mistreated Fanny the Elephant from that zoo. I recall that the Slater Park Zoo, now closed, was once featured on 60 Minutes in a segment about awful zoos.  

The animal in the picture is an Okapi. These beasts are the only living relatives of the giraffe and live in central Africa. Please click here to learn more about this creature.

November 25, 2007 - Posted by | Cincinnati, Houston, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , ,


  1. we are members of the zoo in cincinnati. while we worry about the treatment of animals more than the treatment of people its safe to say that these animals if not in the zoo would have no longevity in the wild. they would be hunted and killed for food or trophy. there is not enough undeveloped wild preserves left in the world and the survival of these animals would be minimal at best. if they were not hunted for food or trophy they would be shot and killed when they wondered into populated areas because after all they are wild and would pose a danger to the people, in india they have out of control monkies that attack people so the gov. has released bigger monkies to attack and scare off the smaller monkies. while over half the population starves and cant get an education or a telephone support job for every company in america. priority is paramount and the world is mad with all the wrong causes.

    Comment by bill brady | November 26, 2007

  2. The entry for zoos mene is a falicy. The National Zoo in Washington, DC has NO entry fee, and they some some of the best facilities and conservation programs in the world.

    Comment by redhotblueboy | November 26, 2007

  3. Bill—The monkeys in India are crowding in on people as the space where they live is crowded out by larger cities.

    That said, the world is indeed mad with wrong causes.

    Redhot—The National Zoo is funded by the Smithsonian. That said, The Washington Post did a series or articles in 2003 detailing problens at that zoo.

    Thanks for both comments.

    Comment by Neil Aquino | November 26, 2007

  4. Your parents should be scolded soundly for traumatizing you at the Slater Park Zoo. What about the place in Seekonk (?) MA that had the otters? Was that a traumatizing experience as well? I strongly suspect the Utica NY zoo was. On the positive side, you were at the Washington National Zoo on the very first day the pandas were on view in 1968.

    Comment by Newton | November 27, 2007

  5. the monkies are considered good luck and holy. and yes they are being driven from the natural surroundings they live in.

    Comment by bill brady | November 28, 2007

  6. Newton—The Utica Zoo was also a pit.

    Bill—Being venerated is likely a ticket to being treated lousy. That’s how it is with veterans and old people here. If we viewed monkeys as holy we would likely treat them even worse as payback for exposing the fact that we are not all-powerful.

    Comment by Neil Aquino | November 28, 2007

  7. A correction – don’t want to leave Seekonk with a bad name.
    It was one of the Attleboros – North or South.

    And let us not forget the Roger Williams Park zoo in Providence.

    Comment by Newton | November 30, 2007

  8. When I was young, my grandma lived about 30 seconds from the “Slater Park Zoo” and I remember being really scared by it for some reason? I remember it looked like it was thrown together. I remember the Elephant and I remember when they let the poor thing go. It must’ve been pretty horrible beacause I was no older than 5 when I visited that park but I will never forget how sad I felt for the animals. When a 5 year old can pick up on that, you know somethin’s up

    Comment by Paula | July 28, 2008

  9. Paula–Yep. The place was lousy. It really is something that any adult would have brought a child to the place. Thanks for your comment.

    Comment by Neil Aquino | July 28, 2008

  10. Yes, National Zoo is ‘free’ in that it doesn’t charge an admission fee. Instead of an admission fee you are subsidizing the Zoo with your federal tax dollars. You’re still paying. I disagree with your assertion that rasing admission prices at Houston Zoo with the trade off of discounted admission days for Houston residents is “the only way to become worthy.” A Zoo is worthy of its host city when it practices exemplary animal care, hires the best animal care staff available, and gives back to the community by supporting education (as Houston Zoo does with its free field trip program for Houston schools), contributing to conservation programs both locally and globally, and supporting, again as Houston Zoo has for many years, local and regional animal care NGOs such as Houston SPCA.

    Comment by Gentry | April 21, 2009

  11. I love the Okpai!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Comment by Anna | January 25, 2013

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