One of my favorite zoos escapes major hurricane damage.

It is heartening to know the Houston Zoo fared well during Hurricane Harvey and its flooding. About 60 staff members stayed to care for the animals at the long-time Houston attraction.

The Miami zoo has also prepared for Hurricane Irma which is barrelling through the mostly peninsular state.

The giraffe exhibit at the Houston park sustained the most damage which included about eight inches of water.

Although I do not remember hearing of any human electrocutions from lightning during Harvey,  an electrocution did kill someone who stepped on a power line under water while touching a metal boat. Also, I don’t know how much lightning was experienced at the zoo. But quite a bit happened here in Beaumont during the deluge. That brought to mind something I had often wondered: Are giraffes major targets for lightning due to their height?

Apparently, lightning kills maybe two giraffes a year, according to a BBC article on the subject. An average of 55 people are killed by lightning per year in the United States says this fact sheet from Texas Tech University.  I remember interviewing a guy who was struck by lightning following Sunday church services after a sudden thunderstorm in Central Texas. The man retrieved an umbrella and decided to help some older ladies get to their cars. The umbrella acted as a lightning rod. There seems a lot of irony in this.

A beautiful Malayan tiger at the Houston Zoo. Photo thanks to Houston Zoo.

The Houston Zoo is hoping folks will visit as a means to divert them for at least a little bit from the big bummer that has been Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath. That sounds like a good idea. I might visit there myself when I have a long time I can kill after my frequent trips to the Houston VA Hospital. I might have to walk awhile and rest a few minutes due to my back problems but it sounds like it would be worth the effort. It has been more than 20 years since I visited the Houston Zoo. It is second in my top two zoos I have visited in the U.S.

My favorites:

  1. San Diego Zoo — It is huge and the gold standard in American and possibly world zoos. I visited there while stationed on a ship in San Diego back in 1978. I spent all afternoon walking around this massive park and could have returned to spend several more hours. The zoo is located in the awesome Balboa Park.
  2. Houston Zoo — This is a zoological park that opened in 1922. My Dad worked there as a young man and I enjoyed hearing his story about feeding the wild animals.
  3. St. Louis Zoo — This storied park had its origins during the 1904 World’s Fair.
  4. “The Saint Louis Zoo traces its origins to the 1904 World’s Fair and in 2004 commemorated the centennial of the Fair with this dramatic new transformation of the 1904 Flight Cage.“The Smithsonian Institution commissioned the Flight Cage for the Louisiana Purchase Exposition and intended to move it to the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. following the Fair. But St. Louisans rallied to keep the Flight Cage intact, and the City of St. Louis soon purchased it for $3,500 (the structure had originally cost $17,500 to construct). Within a few short years, it served as the impetus for St. Louis to develop a full-fledged zoo – the first municipally supported zoo in the world.”Long before there was a “Jungle Jack” Hanna and the Animal Planet network there was “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.” I loved watching this animal show hosted by Marlin Perkins. The show began during his tenure as director of the St. Louis Zoo.
  5. San Antonio Zoo — I found this to be a nice zoo during a visit around 1982 or 1983. This zoo, located in Breckenridge Park, began with some small animals, and later some buffalo and elk.. This park had the first white rhino born in the U.S. back in the early 1970s.
  6. Cameron Park Zoo in Waco — I visited there once or twice when I lived there. It was nice for a smaller zoo. I always liked the dik-dik exhibit. These are small antelope from eastern African. I always thought their names were funny. My Dad used to call me “Dick Dick” as a little boy.

Runners up:

Caldwell Zoo in Tyler — I took a small group of emotionally disturbed boys with whom I supervised to this park. I found it to be a nice, small park that was well-laid out. With this group, I also thought their education program for kids was first rate. Like most other zoos I visited, I have not been back since first visiting in 1987.

Fossil Rim Wildlife Park in Glen Rose, Texas — Although not technically a zoo it does feature a number of animals to be found on a self-guided tour. I went there to do a story about one of its conservation programs in which the then-nearly extinct grey wolves were bred and later reintroduced into the wilds of the Rocky Mountains. I was let in the cage holding the mother and pups. It was amazing.