Smithsonian’s National Zoo unites animals and people

A statue of a lion greets people at the entrance of the zoo.

The Smithsonian Zoological National Park is an institution that not only protects around 300 species, but allows people to come together with one common love: animals. Smithsonian’s National Zoo, located in the center of Washington D.C., will celebrate its 125th anniversary this year–one hundred and twenty-five years of protecting animals, educating visitors and offering opportunities.

Laurie Bay, a volunteer for 14 years at the National Zoo, shares her passion for animals with visitors by sharing information at the zoo’s Bird House.

“I have done a lot of things in my life,” Bay said. “I studied animal science in school. I have always had a passion for animals, and then when I started to work part time, I began to do this.”

Although Bay did not get a job within animal studies right away, she knew that she would work with them in her future.

“As I kid, I knew I always wanted to do something with animals,” Bay said. “But back in the day, there were not many opportunities and I had no money, so I went to school with an R2C scholarship and I had to go in the military. Everyone says do what you love but I couldn’t pay the bills with that. I had to find a way to get to where I wanted to be.”

The zoo offers many opportunities to volunteers and visitors alike. Several schools have field trips at the zoo for an outdoor and interactive learning experience.

“This is my first time here at the zoo, but my grand-kids have been before so I was excited to take them,” visitor Amy Singer said.

From pandas to cheetahs to bison, this interactive and family-friendly zoo has a little bit for everyone. With both outdoor and indoor exhibits, tourists and regulars have the ability to view the animals for free–compared to our San Diego Zoo which has a 1-day pass available for $46.

“I have never been to Washington D.C., so we just wanted to come and see everything,” visitor Sarah Putnam said. “The zoo was on the top of my list.”

Outdoor exhibits allow visitors to enjoy the sights of Washington, and attractions such as the Giant Panda Exhibit and Elephant Community Center let zoo-goers view the animals up close.

“I believe that animals matter,” Bay said. “And if you don’t show people that, then we will never know.”

 Facts about Smithsonian’s National Zoo: