A Behind-The-Scenes Look At The Maryland Zoo (Transcript) | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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A Behind-The-Scenes Look At The Maryland Zoo

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:03
Our next story takes us up to Baltimore. That's where you'll find the Maryland Zoo. It's one of the oldest zoos in the country, dating all the way back to 1876. And evidence of those early days can still be found in a part of the zoo not many people get to see anymore. Clare Fieseler went on a rare behind the scenes tour and brings us this story.

MS. CLARE FIESELER

00:00:23
It's early morning on a Sunday when I meet up with the Maryland Zoo's Press Officer, Baltimore native Jane Ballentine. We're whizzing along on a golf cart past a do not enter barrier near the zoo's entrance. To our left, some African crowned cranes are calling in the morning sun.

MS. JANE BALLENTINE

00:00:40
This is the oldest zoo exhibit in the zoo. And was built in 1876, so this zoo came into being in 1876. So, this was one of the first things to be built.

FIESELER

00:00:54
We're in a part of the zoo called "The Main Valley." Next to an enclosure known as "The Round Cage," it looks almost medieval. It's a hulking, wrought iron enclosure, now overgrown with kudzu, and no bigger than a one-car garage.

BALLENTINE

00:01:09
The last thing I recall being exhibited in here were hyenas.

FIESELER

00:01:13
No.

BALLENTINE

00:01:13
Yes.

FIESELER

00:01:14
It's hard to imagine anything of substantial size being confined behind these bars on a concrete slab.

BALLENTINE

00:01:21
Back in 1876, it was really a place to -- you put an animal, you let people come and see it, and you gave it food and water, and that was that.

FIESELER

00:01:29
The Maryland Zoo used to be run as a municipal zoo for the city of Baltimore. And like a lot of municipal zoos, it had periods during which it suffered, competing against other city funding needs, with no money to replace outdated cages. But to really understand how we got here, you have to reach back to the early part of the century.

MS. LUCILLE QUARRY MANN

00:01:48
We just took, collected everything that came along.

FIESELER

00:01:52
That's Lucille Quarry Mann, a former Bethesda resident who, in the 1930's, used to travel around the world, collecting animals with her husband, the director of the National Zoo. She passed away in 1985, but was interviewed by the Smithsonian Institution in 1977 for its Oral Histories Project. She and her husband would seek solitary rare animals, like a gorilla, and when rarity wasn't found, they collected anything they could get their hands on. On a monumental trip from Indonesia, they brought 900 animals back to the US.

MANN

00:02:24
We'd take a freighter where we'd have all the cargo space we wanted.

FIESELER

00:02:30
Zoos weren't for education, or breeding really.

MR. MIKE MCCLURE

00:02:33
We've seen some pretty drastic changes in how these animals have been, first, housed.

FIESELER

00:02:39
That's Mike McClure, General Curator of the Maryland Zoo.

MCCLURE

00:02:41
You know, because that's what zoos did originally. You know, they were menageries that housed animals for people to come and see.

FIESELER

00:02:48
We're having this conversation on a grassy hill overlooking the lush open elephant exhibit.

MCCLURE

00:02:53
(unintelligible) back there. Yeah.

FIESELER

00:02:56
The elephants, Anna and Dolly, were brought here in 1985 from the run down elephant house I had seen earlier.

BALLENTINE

00:03:02
A lot of zoos, during that time period, really looked at privatization, and this zoo went private in 1984.

FIESELER

00:03:08
Jane Ballentine, the zoo's spokeswoman, says that made it easier to raise money and better care for animals. And in Baltimore, that meant the beginning of the 20 year phasing out of the now closed "Main Valley." The Maryland Zoo has drastically downscaled the number of animals in its care. Mike McClure says it's still a work in progress.

MCCLURE

00:03:28
Look, we don't need to be a giant zoo. We don't need to be something like San Diego. We can be small, but focus on what we do well, and do it even better. And that's what we've been doing for the last, almost 10 years now, I think.

MCCLURE

00:03:46
Good girl.

FIESELER

00:03:48
And as they pursue that mission, zoo administrators are debating the fate of the antiquities in "The Main Valley." Why not an animal free exhibit on the zoo's evolution? Jane says it's an option on the table, one that might give visitors a new respect for just how far we've come. I'm Clare Fieseler.

SHEIR

00:04:13
You can check out photos from Clare's visit to the now closed sections of the Maryland Zoo on our website, metroconnection.org. And a special thanks to the Smithsonian Institution Archives for the use of audio from the Lucille Quarry Mann oral history.

SHEIR

00:04:49
After the break, the spaceship from "Star Trek" is living long and prospering, right here in D.C. We'll find out how it ended up in the nation's capital.

MS. MARGARET WEITEKAMP

00:05:01
Very clearly, Paramount did not anticipate the universe that "Trek" became.

SHEIR

00:05:02
Plus, we'll hear why one local indie band wants you to let it all hang out.

MR. MICHAEL MOON

00:05:09
We're just trying to bring our message of self acceptance, and loosening the tie on the collars of all the D.C. folk.

SHEIR

00:05:17
And in this case, loosening the belt on the pants.

MOON

00:05:19
The belt on the pants. Taking, getting rid of the pants altogether.

SHEIR

00:05:24
It's coming up on "Metro Connection," here on WAMU 88.5.
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