I’ve decided to give this “create your own zoo” thing a go. My zoo will be called the Hamilton Park Zoo, and is located in the fictional mid-sized American city of Hamilton. It is a nicely wooded park with gently sloping hills and a fair-sized lake in the center. I will build my zoo in a piecemeal manner, and any constructive feedback is appreciated. Here goes... Flamingo Pond: These beautiful pink birds are the first animals guests see when they enter the zoo! It is a little cliché, I admit, but it works. The enclosure is about one-quarter acre (about 11,000 sq ft) and consists of a pool with an island in the middle, and banks between the fence and the water. The ground is mixed grass, sand, and mud, and the island has lots of visible, bowl-shaped nests. The species are Chilean flamingo. American Shores: When one walks through the entry plaza and turns right at the flamingos, they encounter the entrance to this exhibit complex. It features species from the coastal areas of North and South America. It begins with a rock tunnel with infographics about the bodies of water surrounding the Americas and a map showing where the visitor’s journey begins: the Pacific coast of South America. Visitors then enter the first exhibit: a glass-topped free-flight enclosure. The ambient air is chilly and the inside is molded with mock-rock cliffs and low-lying grasses and shrubs, and the enclosure is dominated by a large, deep pool of salt water. This exhibit is home to a colony of Humboldt penguins and a flock of Inca terns. The pathway starts out at ground level, then cuts through the middle of the enclosure and slopes down for underwater viewing of the penguins (including a glass floor to watch the penguins swim underneath your feet), then ramps up to a slightly elevated position so that one can get a closer look at the terns. Up here there are graphics about penguin conservation and the plight of seabird colonies. Guests then exit into an in-between space of some kind, which serves the purpose of introducing the visitor to the next exhibit and keeping the climates of the two exhibits separate. The graphics show that you have moved up in position, and are now along the shores of the Caribbean Sea. You then walk into an aviary similar in size to the previous one. Here, one starts out at an elevated position among treetops; the path then slopes down to put you looking up at the humongous tree that dominates the room. The large tree, along with other trees like mangroves, are covered in leaves, vines, and hanging moss, and sit in a muddy pool. This aviary is home to these bird species: scarlet ibis, roseate spoonbill, black-necked stilt, boat-billed heron, West Indian whistling duck, cattle egret, and black-crowned night heron. The pool would have a low glass wall, and would contain fish, crabs, and perhaps turtles native to this environment. On the other side of the path, there would be a side exhibit for Cuban crocodiles, including a graphic about their conservation. The exhibit would end with infographics about oil spills in the Gulf; the path would then slope down to the next exhibit. This next exhibit is a coral reef tank, and it represents the Caribbean reefs found just offshore from the mangrove swamp visitors just left. I don’t know much about reef ecology or species, but it would contain a variety of Neotropical reef fish and invertebrates- perhaps even a sea turtle! Sharks are a given, and of course the coral would be a live display. Echinoderms and crustaceans would also flourish. The viewing area would be darkened and carpeted black so as to emphasize the brightness and color of the reef. A better-lighted area at the end includes infographics about how climate change is killing off reefs around the world. (Note: these seemingly depressing infographics I’ve been mentioning include both the problem and solutions that people are doing to help the situation.) One then enters the next exhibit: a North American seabird aviary. This exhibit looks similar to the first one, but is smaller in size and with a much smaller pool. The path slopes up as visitors leave the reef exhibit and continues to slope up so that they are elevated at the end of this aviary. The species in here include Atlantic/horned/tufted puffin, common murre, and king and/or spectacled eider. On the other side of the pathway, there are tanks featuring fish native to temperate American waters and tanks featuring lobsters and a giant Pacific octopus. At the end of this enclosure, visitors walk outside and out onto the main pathway, where one can view the animals without entering the rest of the American Shores complex. This final exhibit is for pinnipeds, and consists of three pools that animals can be rotated between. There is above-water and underwater viewing for all three enclosures. They would look like typical pinniped enclosures, with mock rock and deep pools for swimming; they would all be of decent size. I’m not sure exactly what species will live in the exhibits, but it would be among these five species: California sea lion, harbor seal, northern fur seal, grey seal, and Steller sea lion. The first two are by far the most widely available, but the other three species are also very cool and could benefit from additional holding institutions.