By VINCE REMBULAT
Imagine if you can talk to the animals?
That thought crossed my mind during an encounter with a goat at the Oakland Zoo.
This happened to be our first visit to the 490-acre site at Knowland Park. As usual, I went along with my always partner-in-crime Karen and her 6-year-old granddaughter Brie for what was the youngster’s first-ever visit to the zoo.
I’ve been to a few zoos in my life.
Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington D.C., Fresno’s Chaffee Zoo, the Sacramento Zoo at William Land Park, and, of course, the nearby Micke Grove Zoo quickly come to mind.
But from here in the 209, the Oakland Zoo at 9777 Golf Links Road is a hop, skip and a jump off Interstate 580.
It’s also home to over 660 native and exotic animals.
The Oakland Zoo continues to grow with time, with the latest addition being the California Trail scheduled to open this summer.
This attraction is a gondola ride that will engage visitors in the exploration of the state’s natural past, present and future – try a bird’s eye view of bison and Tule elk roaming freely along the rolling hills not to mention seven new animal exhibits.
As for our spring break day trip, we had a game plan beforehand. The Oakland Zoo does allow – even encourages – visitors to pack a lunch. We did just that.
Cost to park is $10 for car / van and admission to the zoo is $18.75 for adults (ages 15-64) and $14.75 for children (ages 2-14).
We also did a quick study of the zoo map to explore the layout of the land.
Brie wanted to check out the elephants first.
The Oakland Zoo is home to four African elephants – Donna, Lisa, M’Dunda and Osh – who enjoy a spacious surrounding mimicking their natural habitats.
But in order to get there meant skirting past the tigers in the Tropical Rainforest, catching a quick glimpse of the giraffe, eland and Egyptian goose in the African Veldt exhibit, and walking uphill to the African Savanna, home to camels, lions and, of course, the elephants.
Word of note – the zoo has friendly “Quiet Coyote” reminders for visitors to speak softly and move more slowly around wild animal exhibits.
The good thing about put the elephants on the top of the list meant downhill walk to catch the zebra, hyena, vervet monkey, and meerkat exhibits, to name a few.
From there, we were able to catch the rest of the Tropical Rainforest area – this is home of the cotton-topped Tamarin, warthog, baboon, squirrel monkey, gibbon, macaw, coati and siamang monkey.
We lost our map somewhere between the tortoise exhibit and the zoo meadow.
No sweat, I just picked up another to see what we had missed.
In this case, it was the Wayne and Gladys Valley Children’s Zoo, which may have been the highlight for someone of Brie’s age.
It was there she got to see the river otters frolic in the water just after feeding time – a feeding schedule of all of the animals is posted at the main entrance – the lemurs taking a timeout, the black guinea hog, and the Goldman Bat Exhibit.
Perhaps what Brie enjoyed most was sharing that special moment with her grandmother in the Goat & Sheep Barn, getting up close and personal inside this farm animal petting zoo.
She also enjoyed exploring the children’s playground area.
It was a coincident that our planning saved the best for last, at least for one youngster.
For more information, log on to www.oaklandzoo.org.