A Morning at the Zoo

This year the Fourth of July is on a Tuesday, and as luck would have it, the library was closed on Sunday and Monday too. That means a five-day weekend for me! Rich and I spent the first three days of the weekend working on projects around the house. But today … today was the day for sloth-hunting!

Some background: Rich and I are big fans of sloths and would love to see one in the wild. But since we don’t have any plans to travel to Costa Rica, our next best option was to find one at a zoo. When we were in Arizona, I searched for zoos that house a sloth. We didn’t find any in Arizona so I started looking closer to home. I expected to find one in Philly or New York City. But when I found that there was a two-toed sloth at the Ross Park Zoo in Binghamton … let’s just say I was beyond excited.

We decided that today would be sloth-hunting day. The zoo doesn’t open until 10:00am, so we left the house around 9:00 in anticipation of an hour-long drive. Usually we prefer the back roads but in this case there isn’t really a good option other than I-81, which we took to Conklin. From there, we took back roads and arrived at the zoo around 9:50, just before opening time.

We parked in the upper lot and took a slow walk down to the zoo entrance, just in time for two girls to come by and open up the admissions booth. Rich and I were the first ones in. They suckered us into paying a few dollars to feed the goats … how could I not do it?! Rich was laughing, “pretty amazing that they get people to pay to feed their animals!” But the goats were all adorable and I had fun feeding them. The food was gone in about 40 seconds. One goat even grabbed the cup with her teeth and started shaking the food right into her mouth. The baby goats were even cuter, and one was suckling as we walked by, while its little sibling snuggled in the corner of the barn. Near the goats a dark gray pig dozed away the morning.

By now some kids were showing up so the place was getting louder and more crowded. That made our attempts at photography even more difficult, so we spent much of the day just taking a relaxed wander among the animals and enjoying the exhibits.

Eventually we made our way to the western end of the zoo and the star attraction (for us): the sloth! He was inside a humid enclosure called “New World Tropics” that also featured a prehensile-tailed porcupine, a pair of aracari, and a dwarf caiman along with some tropical plants (peace lily, anthurium, bromeliad) to set the mood.

No surprise, we spent most of our time with the sloth … or at least trying to view more of the sloth than his back and the back of his head! He was, in typical sloth fashion I guess, snoozing the entire time we were there (we went back three times just to check and see if he had moved!). He was so cute, hanging from his toes and just barely moving his head every once in a while (when “encouraged” by Rich who was, admittedly, shaking the enclosure now and then). We got a few glimpses of his cute face, mostly his nose, but couldn’t really get a decent photo.

Our overall impression was that the zoo has a ton of potential! But it can still use a lot of work and obviously needs more funding to rise to its potential. The setting is relaxing and peaceful, like an old-fashioned city park, carved out of the woodland, paths lined by stone facades both natural and constructed. The animals were varied and all appeared to be well cared for. Some enclosures were small for the size of the animals, and I’m sure many of the animals would have preferred a companion.

After trying one more time to see the sloth’s face, Rich and I left the zoo and headed toward Lupo’s Char-Pit in Endwell for spiedie sandwiches. Spiedies are a specialty of New York’s southern tier and are basically just marinated chicken (or pork, or lamb) chunks served on a club roll or slice of Italian bread. They’re so delicious, juicy and salty and savory! We bought three pounds of the raw marinated meat to bring home for ourselves and two pounds for my father. We dropped the meat off at my father’s house on our way back. Now he just needs to get a grill so he can cook up the spiedies!

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