The Guam Zoo

I went to the Guam Zoo today. I went just to see it. I don’t suppose there’s any other reason to ever go to a zoo, but I wouldn’t have gone, except that I found myself with some bonus time on Guam and I figured I would add it to my “Second Chance Guam Bucket List.” The Guam Zoo is an attraction I had passed by many times in my time on Guam, and I hadn’t ever really regretted that decision. Most of the signs for the zoo are in Russian, it’s nestled behind a California Pizza Kitchen, and most of the time all I ever heard from the place was the sound of dogs barking, so I hadn’t expected much. Reality didn’t do too much to dissuade me from that assessment, but it was nicer than I thought it was going to be.

Approaching the zoo, it rather bombastically pronounces itself to be the Guam Zoological, Botanical, and Marine Garden. At the front gate, you push a button to ring for the zoo attendant. He was a nice old guy. He accepted my $20 bill and wandered off to fetch me my $5 change while I inspected the first animal, a carabao. I was already pleasantly surprised, frankly, because all I had really expected was various species of boonie dog. “Boonie Dog,” for those not in the know, is the affectionate name for the feral dogs that can be found in large numbers on Guam. The carabao seemed mildly interested to see me, and I admired his nose ring. As the man returned with my change he also brought a tuna can full of generic animal feed, thus revealing the source of the carabao’s interest. At the zoo various animals had little chutes you could tip some of your tuna can-borne feed into, thus attracting the animals out of whatever hidey-hole the zoo had provided. So that was cool I guess. I was most amazed by how even the turtles knew the gig, following me around the edges of their enclosure until I provided some food.

Late on a Sunday afternoon, I had the zoo to myself. If I could read an expression on any of the animals, it was the macaque, and that expression was mild surprise at seeing a visitor. Passing by the zoo attendant building, the white board on the outside delineated that the zoo wish list included a second-hand refrigerator and a rake, to give you a sense of the scale of this operation. Like I said though, the place was nicer than I thought it would be and had a far larger variety of animals than I anticipated. It wasn’t a huge variety, but it was larger than I anticipated. They had emus, and ostrich, the macaque I mentioned, an American and Nile crocodile, African crowned cranes, tortoises, sea turtles, and small sharks. The variety of African animals threw me off; was there a sale someplace at some point? The zoo also had exotic animals like a pigeon, rabbits, pigs, and goats, but it was interesting to see some of the local animals they had on display. The carabao is a given for Guam, but they also had a Sandbar deer, which helped to clear up my confusion on a deer I saw on the south side of the island a while ago. There is also a cage full of Marianas fruit bats, of which there are apparently less than 50 left in the wild. The star of the zoo, however, is the Ko’Ko’ bird, which is a small flightless bird that resembles a kiwi and is extinct in the wild on Guam. It is displayed across from its unnatural enemy, the brown tree snake. Despite the island apparently being infested with them, I had never seen a brown tree snake on Guam before today. So now I know what the enemy looks like.

The Guam Zoo isn’t going to win any awards any time soon for creativity, originality, or overall animal well-being, if the expression on the American crocodile’s face is any indicator. The zoo, however, is obviously trying to do its best to display for the public as many interesting animals as it can and be as educational as any zoo can be. I don’t think it’s the place to go if you’re looking for a solid afternoon of entertainment, but if you’ve got $15 ($8.50 for 12 and under) and are interested in seeing some easily excited turtles, it’s worth a visit. And if the zoo keeps alive at least a small population of the critically endangered species of Guam, it’s a noble enough institution to keep around.