I must have zoo on the brain this week.
I haven't been to the Cincinnati Zoo in over a year, but all of my favorite Zoo Facts are about this particular zoo, so here we are.
The Cincinnati Zoo is the second oldest zoo in America, opening just 14 months after the Philadelphia Zoo, in 1875. (If you were curious, the oldest zoo in the world is the Teirgarten Schönbrunn of Vienna, built in 1752.) What is now the Reptile House, but was built to be the Cat House, is the oldest zoo building still standing, the last remaining building from it's opening year. This building, along with the architectural significance of the onion-domed elephant house, marked the Cincy Zoo for the national historic registry. There's even a plaque nestled in the bushes outside the old building, listing it's proud achievement.
(Of course, the reason the Cincinnati Zoo became the important zoo it is today is because it was one of the first, if not THE first, zoos to do away with the confining and claustrophobic animal houses and menagerie-type exhibits in favor of the more naturally spacious "habitat" enclosures. Better for the animals, and a little bit thrilling for visitors to see them "in the wild.)
And if you go to Cincinnati, be sure to visit Martha. Martha, named for Martha Washington, was a passenger pigeon, the last surviving Passenger Pigeon in the world, and she died in her hut in 1914 at the ripe old age of 29. Her home has since been transformed into a memorial aviary, complete with the history of America's brutal slaughtering of every wild Passenger Pigeon in the country. But don't feel squeamish - Martha's not there. Her body was immediately sent to the Smithsonian. I understand she's no longer on display, and is in an archive...somewhere.
There are birds on display, however. There's Incus, the last of the Carolina Parakeets, who died in this same aviary a mere four years after Martha's passing. There are also three stuffed Passenger Pigeons, including "Buttons," the last wild pigeon, shot by an Ohio farm boy protecting his corn.