I recently had a delightful day at the Turtle Back Zoo in West Orange, NJ. It's a surprisingly leafy, hilly spot filled with terrific exhibits and comes complete with a playground, carousel and miniature train ride. Lookit how close I got to a red panda! Jealous, much?
It was such a beautiful spot that I wasn't even annoyed by the bling and designer-clad New Jersey housewives whose sandpaper and bourbon-tinged accents nearly peeled five layers of skin straight off the reticulated python. e.g. "BRAYDON, AIDEN, JAYDEN & KADEN — GEH AWEFFADAH SLOYDE RWIIGT NOW — WEAHH GOIN OME NAHOW!"
After a long day of play we headed to the cafe. That's when things got stupid.
As you can see the penguin is eating a hot dog, the parrot is pecking at strawberry ice cream, the toucan is scarfing fries AND a soda. Of course the turtle is touting a supreme pizza and the bear is all over a burger.
From the Zoo's mission statement:
TURTLE BACK ZOO is committed to providing an enriching recreational experience that fosters excellence in wildlife education and wildlife conservation so that present and future generations are inspired to understand, appreciate and protect the fragile interdependence of all living things.
Which is great except the cafe sign scuppers the education and conservation part because many people think fast food helps destroy the rainforest, these animals can't eat this stuff and cartoon characters on food influences kids taste perceptions making the job of feeding kids healthy fare that much harder. This not only makes the toucan a total sell out, it teaches tots that junk food is awesome, natural and what a penguin would eat given half the chance.
I want to shake the turtle and tell him, "Hey dude, your species lacks the enzymes needed to break down lactose!" And, "Besides, Mr. Turtle, the pizza here is nearly as hard to chew as your shell and tastes half as good as a monoplacophoran mollusk."
The cafe is sponsored by a soda company and… OK, I seriously I need to care less about this.
I hope the snake comes to life and eats the lot of them, leaving behind nothing more than the monkey's popcorn container, which to my crazed eye — looks like a safe bet.