I think most ZooChatters get annoyed about the focus zoos place on a few charismatic species, which is why we complain about "ABC animals" and also why I just got defensive when Batto called me out for not taking time to sit and wait for snakes to move (and I'm still not going to do that), but I think most or all of us have animals we skip over and animals we could spend hours watching. So I've been thinking about what makes animals interesting to me (since my last visit to San Antonio, actually, when I decided to pretty much only go to the animals that most interested me and skip the ones that I found less interesting) and I think that an animal has to meet at least one of the following criteria for me to spend more than a few seconds looking at it, and several for me to spend any length of time watching it. Adorablility: Do I want to pet, scritch, and/or cuddle it? Rarity: Is it something I haven't seen before or haven't seen in a long time? Oddity: Is it unusual taxonomically and/or behaviorally? Activity: Does it move around a lot? Sociability: Does it have a complex social system? Number five is particularly important for me. I may spend a good deal of time watching a rarity the first or second time I see it, but I'll keep coming back to the dwarf mongooses and guira cuckoos at the San Antonio Zoo or the raven at the Austin Nature and Science Center. Part of it's knowing that these animals are social, but only part of it. Complex social behavior is linked to curiosity and intelligence, and animals with complex social behavior tend to act interested in me. I didn't know guiras were social animals when I first saw them, but I spent a lot of time watching them because they spent a lot of time watching me. However it's not necessary for an animal to be social to evoke this reaction. I'm usually not interested in large carnivorans apart from spotted hyenas (social animals again), however when the cougar at the Austin Zoo came up to me as I was walking casually past, it took my breath away and I stopped to watch it. It was probably just patrolling its territory, but in seeming to take interest in me it got my attention. The seriemas at the San Antonio Zoo prompted a similar reaction when one of them seemed to take interest in me, though I was interested in seriemas even before then. And it's clearly not just a matter of animals taking an interest in me. The keas at the Denver Zoo seemed completely uninterested in me, yet I spent about fifteen minutes watching them and would have spent far longer if I'd had more time. But then the keas were playing, and that was fascinating to watch. So it's possible that activity, sociability, and interest in me are three distinct-but-related factors. Still my experience at the Austin Zoo doesn't make me any more inclined to seek out cougars at other zoos, so I'm not treating "curiosity: is it interested in me?" as its own factor. As I've said before, my main interest in zoos is birds, and while I think a lot of that is due to the way that they tend to meet many of my criteria at once, I still spend more time watching birds than mammals, even where they meet a similar number of criteria (guiras and dwarf mongooses are a good example). So "birdness" may be an additional factor for me. Even so, I still usually completely ignore things like flamingos (flamingos are actually pretty interesting, just not in zoos), emus, and bald eagles at this point. (Doesn't help that I've been spoiled by bald eagles in the wild; when you've seen a bird nesting everything else it does is boring by comparison.) While I'm making this thread, I'm going to confess: I enjoy watching both monkeys and (more upsettingly for our British members) meerkats. (For all that my mind boggled at all the people in San Antonio Zoo ignoring the bonobos for the colobus monkeys across the way. Bonobos hit all five of my criteria; the bonobos and kagu were my main reasons for going to the San Diego Zoo, which in turn was the reason I got interested in zoos as an adult.) Admittedly, meerkats are one of my less favorite social mongooses and I have a tendency to cut them out when going to zoos with other people because I have limited time and want to see rarities first. But given time to see everything I want, I'd still spend far more time watching meerkats than I would the average zoo exhibit, since they meet 1,4, and 5 on my list.