On days when I work - which are almost all days, lately - I come home, have dinner, shower, and flop into bed. Much of what goes on in the greater, non-zoo world tends to escape my notice. On my increasingly scarce days off, however, I like to catch up on the news... and sleep... but mostly the news.
Generally, that means reading about whatever Donald Trump just said, or whatever someone else said about Donald Trump, or whatever the latest catastrophe from the Middle East is (and what Donald Trump said about it). Lately, however, there's been a whole lot about Pokémon Go.
No word as to what Donald Trump has said about that yet.
It turns out our little zoo isn't the only one being swarmed by gamers. They're everywhere... including a fair number of staff members at different zoos and aquariums. Most of these visitors just want to play, and that's fine. Some are playing in a manner that makes me a bit worried, however... like the young man and young woman recently arrested at the Toledo Zoo for jumping fences.
I swear, if the zoo wants to cut down on its carnivore feed bill, it should just see about getting a few Pokémon station in strategic locations and watch the gamers practically walk into the waiting jaws.
When this craze started last week, I was waiting to see if zoos and aquariums would find a way to join the phenomena and maybe steer it towards an educational message, and sure enough, they didn't disappoint. (PETA, likewise, didn't disappoint me by coming up with some ridiculous denunciation of the game as promoting the capture and forced-fighting of animals... yep, because all of these folks playing Pokémon are one step away from pit bull fighting...).
Many zoos are embracing their role as game arenas and encouraging more visitors, hoping that they'll come for the Pikachu, stay for the penguins... or pythons... or other P animals.
Others are trying to make ties between the Pokémon and the real animals that were their inspiration. The creature Drowzee, for instance, is a spot-on replica of a tapir, an animal that most gamers have probably never heard of (which is fair enough as I, for one, had never heard of a Drowzee).
Other zoos are trying to recreate the game using their actual animals and encourage exploration of the zoo. Yeah, you found all of the Pokémon in the zoo, congrats - but can you find ALL TWENTY species of birds in the African Aviary? Catch 'em all... with a camera, please.
Last week, I was strolling the zoo grounds with a new intern, when she rounded a corner and let out a squeal of delight. Her mom was at the zoo! She'd come to see her girl at work! Well... no. It turns out, mom was playing Pokémon Go, and just happened to be at the zoo when her daughter was there. No time to talk, Pokémon to catch. I thought the poor kid was going to sink into the asphalt, she looked so embarrassed.
With a few days to reflect upon it, I've gotten over conflicted feelings about the fad of the week. At least this one gets people moving, with friends, and visiting places they might not otherwise go.
And who am I to judge? When I was a teenager, I mucked kudu stalls on my weekends for fun...