Whenever we're in DC, we'll take a walk over to the National Zoo, and it's frankly depressing. The kid loves it, of course [although the hippo freaks her out, so we have a deal not to see him. The pygmy hippopotamus is fine, though. So is the capybara.], but she loves watching the watering hole-cam, too, and so I find it increasingly unjustifiable to keep animals in miserable concrete boxes for the marginal entertainment of children.
The National Zoo just put down an elephant who was sick and arthritic, who was so slumped over, her trunk dragged on the ground, and whose natural lifespan was decades longer. Before that, they spread dirt across the concrete floor in two of the five rooms in the Elephant House, which now seems to have been a hospice-type accommodation. There's only one giraffe now, too, since the other was put down after an unsuccessful brain tumor operation.
The arthritic kangaroo is AWOL; the zebra is alone and forced to live right next to the cheetahs; and the way the emu picks at the fence all day makes it seem a little mental. If it weren't for the international political and merchandising implications of Butterstick the baby panda, I'd say the whole thing should be closed down and all the animals sent to some sanctuary somewhere. I'd rather watch Discovery channel for an hour and explain to her why the zoo closed than have to wonder if the big Death Discussion will come every time an animal disappears.
[Note: I'm saying this now because the Bronx Zoo lost an elephant last week, and they announced they'll shut the elephant exhibition down if they lose another. Elephants in particular have no business being in zoos.]