This past weekend I had the honor and privilege to assist Mr. John Berry, Director of the Smithsonian National Zoo with a VIP tour involving a very generous donor, Whole Foods who provides food and beverages to many of the Zoo fundraisers.
There were 4 adults and 5 children which I was pretty much responsible for as they had different interests and attention spans than the adults. I brought along a few interpretive objects to assist with Mr Barry’s tour one of which was panda poop. Surprisingly, none of the kids wanted to hold it.
It was an honor in itself to have Mr. Barry lead the tour, but these VIPs were in for a treat. They were able to go behind the scenes and feed the animals. I could not resist and asked Mr. Barry if I could participate as well. It is not every day you get to feed or touch an animal.
I was able to touch the trunk of an Asian Elephant, toss a carrot into the 3 ton herbivore Nile Hippo, and meal worms to a Sloth Bear! We were able to convince most of the parents and kids to do everything except feed the Sloth Bear. It must have had to do with the food they were being fed, meal worms! Yummy! Actually, as a child I did not like them either, but got used to it. My brother and I had turtles and fed meal worms to them regularly as a supplement to lettuce.
I hope to get an opportunity to help again as I was truly honored by the opportunity to help out.
That being said, FONZ (Friends of the National ZOO), which is celebrating 50 years this year, provides free tours given by volunteers such as myself for those who are not prominent donors to the National Zoo. Give a call to request one, but be warned, tours are not advertised on the Zoo website because we get so many requests without publicizing. They are free and private, so get your family together, join FONZ to get free parking, and visit the best zoo in the Nation!