Dave Thomas, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0
Dave Thomas, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

12 of the World's Most Unusual Zoos

Dave Thomas, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0
Dave Thomas, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

1. Caves of Sea Lions

Oregon's Sea Lion Caves are the only known mainland rookery and wintering home of the Stellar Sea Lion. The system of sea-level caves also provide sanctuary for the California Sea Lion and serve as a resting place for a variety of birds, from Tufted Puffins to Bald Eagles. There's even a whale watching deck from which visitors can see Gray Whales and migrating orcas.

The caves were discovered by Captain William Cox in 1880, but have only been open to the public since 1932, as the cliffs and lack of roads made it difficult to access the caves by land. Today, visitors can access the caves via their gift shop off of U.S. 101.

2. The High-Altitude Zoo

india_sikkim_day9_61, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

The only specialized zoo in India and the largest high-altitude zoo in India, Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park (a.k.a. Darjeeling Zoo), specializes in breeding animals for alpine conditions, including Snow Leopards, Tibetan Wolves, Red Pandas, and Himalayan Newts. The zoo is also home to Blue Sheep, Blood Pheasants and Bhutan Grey Peacock Pheasants, Satyr Tragopans, and Himalayan Monals.

The zoo was established in 1958 as the Himalayan Zoological Park. It was renamed in 1975 when then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi dedicated the zoo to the memory of Padmaja Naidu, the former governor of West Bengal.

3. The Biblical Zoo

Marice T, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

The Tisch Family Zoological Gardens in Jerusalem, also known as Jerusalem Biblical Zoo, highlights a collection of animals featured in the Hebrew Bible. The narrow focus has been difficult for the zoo to maintain, since many of the Bible's animals are now extinct in Israel. The terms used in the Bible to name animals are also somewhat ambiguous, leading to some uncertainty over which animals are actually discussed. The zoo now includes a variety of endangered species in addition to the biblical animals, and it has become known for its breeding programs, which have enabled it to reintroduce at least 11 species to Israel's nature reserves.

Since its inception in 1940, the zoo has moved several times, but today it resides in the Malha valley. The two-level park includes trees and shrubs mentioned in the Bible, an artificial wall called Moses' Rock, and a "two-story, boat-shaped wooden visitor's center meant to resemble Noah's Ark."

4. Old MacDonald's Farm

Rain0975, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

In 1966, a public park and petting zoo called Old MacDonald's Farm opened in Hampton, Virginia. Designed like a working farm, the park showcases farm animals and fowl as well as Virginia-native wild animals. Now known as Bluebird Gap Farm, the park intends to expose kids to animals in a farm setting, to which they would otherwise have very little exposure.

In addition to the animals, the park showcases both modern and antique farm equipment, the original Hampton train station, a family cemetery, a demonstration garden, and an Azalea Trail featuring rare azaleas.

5. The Butterfly Zoo

Dawn Ashley, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

The U.S. is home to at least 35 butterfly gardens, homes, and exhibits, but the oldest is Florida's Butterfly World, which opened in 1988. (Butterfly World also holds the distinction of being the world's largest butterfly park.) Butterfly World serves as a public attraction, research facility, and butterfly farm.

In addition to approximately 5,000 live butterflies, the park also houses the U.S.'s largest free flight hummingbird aviary, an enclosure in which visitors can feed Lorikeets, tropical birds, botanical gardens, a Bug Zoo with live bugs, and an Insectarium of mounted bugs and butterflies.

6. The Sanctuary for Rescued Animals

New Jersey is home to Popcorn Park Zoo, a sanctuary for abandoned, injured, ill, exploited, abused and elderly animals. The small zoo—housing just 200 animals on 7 acres—has been nurturing rescued animals since 1977. The animals range from foxes, geese, and deer to lions, tigers and bears (oh my!). They also have rescued dogs and cats that are available for adoption.

When I was a child visiting the park with my grandparents, my favorite animal was an elephant with an injured trunk, who was followed around the park by a little troop of ducklings. The elephant would use its trunk to pet and herd the ducklings.

7. The Zoo in a Rainforest

Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo & Gardens in Hilo, Hawai'i, is the only U.S. zoo located in a rainforest. At just 12 acres, Pana'ewa is a small zoo, but it boasts a popular white Bengal Tiger named Namaste, who was given to the zoo by the Las Vegas magician Dirk Arthur.

The free zoo is home to more than 80 different animal species, a petting zoo, and a butterfly house.

8. The Koala Sanctuary

Adam Foster, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Australia, naturally, is home to the world's oldest and largest koala sanctuary, Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. In addition to the koalas, the sanctuary is also home to other Australian animals, including kangaroos, Tasmanian devils, wombats, echidnas, parrots and cockatoos, reptiles, and a platypus.

Visitors have the rare privilege of being able to hold koalas for a fee. They can also feed and pet free-roaming kangaroos and feed nectar to lorikeets.

9. The Home for Birds of Prey

Richard Wise, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The International Centre for Birds of Prey is located in Gloucestershire, England, and houses some 60 species of owls and other birds of prey. At any given time, the Centre has about 20 to 40 trained birds residing in its Hawk Walk, an assortment of birds that rotates throughout the year to give the birds a break from the spotlight. The trained birds are used in flying demonstrations at the ICBP.

The Centre was originally established in 1967 as the Falconry Centre by the Glasier family, aiming to educate people about birds of prey and teach falconry. (Phillip Glasier was the leading expert on hawking and falconry in the UK; his daughter, Jemima Parry-Jones, is the current director of the ICBP.)

10. The Amusement Park Resort Zoo

Jeremy Thompson, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Long before Disney built Animal Kingdom in Florida, England had an amusement park that offered a zoo, rides, and a resort all in one. Flamingo Land, which opened in 1959, is named for its popular colony of pink flamingos, some of the first animals housed at the park, but today the zoo is home to more than 120 species of animals.

The animals are only one facet of this amusement park and resort, which includes more than 50 rides and attractions, three shows, a 9-hole golf course, a fly fishing stream, a 1000-seat entertainment venue, a swimming pool, and log cabins. Flamingo Land was the subject of a "docusoap," Theme Park, on ITV and has also been featured in Zoo Vet at Large on ITV1.

11. The World's Most Northern Zoo

Norway's Polar Zoo is the world's most northern zoo and the zoo with the biggest area per animal ratio. Spread over 114 acres, the zoo focuses on creating a "Scandinavian wilderness experience," showcasing animals in their natural habitats. The cold-weather animals include wolves and bears as well as red deer, reindeer, moose, and musk ox.

The Polar Zoo offers some unique experiences, including a wolf camp and fox camp in which you can get up close and personal with socialized wolves and foxes, respectively. You can also go "photoguiding," during which a keeper will take you inside enclosures to take "the perfect picture," or join the wolves for a "howl night," in which you not only meet the wolves inside their enclosure but also howl with them.

12. The Harem's Zoo

Egypt's Giza Zoo, an 80 acre zoological garden encompassing Giza's largest park, first opened in 1891 on land that was once part of the harem gardens. The original collection of animals was taken from the private menagerie of Imsa'il Pasha, the Khedive of Egypt from 1863 to 1879. The harem building itself served as a natural history museum from 1890 through 1902.

Today, the zoo houses a wide variety of animals, but the architectural and botanical features are just as fascinating. The garden roads are paved with black stone flags from Trieste, and footpaths are done in mosaic designs. The zoo includes a suspension bridge designed by Gustave Eiffel (of Eiffel Tower fame) that allows visitors to view the animals from above; it is thought to be the world's first elevated viewing area in a zoo. There are also five grottos and a Japanese building.

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The Annual Festivals That Draw the Most People in Every State
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iStock

Every state has that one big event each year that draws residents from across the region or even across the nation. Louisiana has Mardi Gras. Kentucky has the Kentucky Derby. South Dakota has Sturgis. Genfare, a company that provides fare collection technology for transit companies, recently tracked down the biggest event in each state, creating a rundown of the can't-miss events across the country.

As the graphic below explores, some states' biggest public events are national music and entertainment festivals, like Bonnaroo in Tennessee, SXSW in Texas, and Summerfest in Wisconsin—which holds the world record for largest music festival.

Others are standard public festival fare. Minnesota hosts 2 million people a year at the Minnesota State Fair (pictured above), the largest of its kind in the U.S. by attendance. Mardi Gras celebrations dominate the events calendar in Missouri, Alabama, and, of course, Louisiana. Oktoberfest and other beer festivals serve as the biggest gatherings in Ohio (home to the nation's largest Oktoberfest event), Oregon, Colorado, and Utah.

In some states, though, the largest annual gatherings are a bit more unique. Some 50,000 people each year head to Brattleboro, Vermont for the Strolling of the Heifers, a more docile spin on the Spanish Running of the Bulls. Montana's biggest event is Evel Knievel Days, an extreme sports festival in honor of the famous daredevil. And Washington's biggest event is Hoopfest, Spokane's annual three-on-three basketball tournament.

Mark your calendar. Next year could be the year you attend them all.

A graphic list with the 50 states pictured next to information about their biggest events
Genfare
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Jack Taylor, Getty Images
8 Arresting Facts About Scotland Yard
Jack Taylor, Getty Images
Jack Taylor, Getty Images

Depicted in fiction for well over a century as the world's premier police force, Scotland Yard might be the most famous banner for law enforcement in history. Though the name itself is officially a term for the location of the London Metropolitan Police headquarters, it’s taken on a colloquial use to describe the collective brain trust of that station’s patrolmen and detectives. Here’s what we’ve deduced about the past, present, and future of this historic—and sometimes controversial—institution.

1. IT GOT ITS NAME FROM A TRICKY BIT OF GEOGRAPHY.

London didn’t have a formal police force until 1829, when Home Secretary Sir Robert Peel arranged for a squad to replace the fractured system of watchmen, street patrols, and the River Police. Colonel Charles Rowan and Richard Mayne were tasked with organizing the force: Mayne’s house at 4 Whitehall Place opened to an adjacent courtyard that had once been a medieval palace that hosted Scottish royalty while they were in London. This “Great Scotland Yard,” which was also reportedly the name of the street behind the building, became synonymous with Rowan and Mayne’s efforts to create a new era in law enforcement.

2. CHARLES DICKENS TAGGED ALONG ON PATROLS.

Author Charles Dickens poses for a photo
London Stereoscopic Company/Getty Images

The renowned author of Great Expectations and other literary classics wasn’t a policeman, but he did perform the 19th-century equivalent of a ride-along. Dickens was friends with Charles Frederick Field, a Scotland Yard inspector, and their relationship led to Dickens occasionally accompanying patrolmen on their nightly rounds. He even based a character in his novel Bleak House on Fields.

3. THERE WERE DIRTY COPS AMONG THE RANKS IN THOSE EARLY DAYS.

For all of the public acceptance of Scotland Yard—Londoners were initially wary of the plainclothes cops walking among them—the squad suffered a sensational blow to its image in 1877. Known as the “Turf Fraud Scandal” or the “Trial of the Detectives,” the controversy erupted after a Parisian socialite named Madame de Goncourt was conned by two men named Harry Benson and William Kurr. Scotland Yard inspector Nathaniel Druscovich was dispatched to Amsterdam to capture a fleeing Benson while others pursued Kurr. The men proved surprisingly elusive, which prompted suspicion among Scotland Yard officials. When the two con men were finally arrested, they explained that an inspector named John Meiklejohn was taking bribes in exchange for tipping off Kurr to police activity. Two other policemen were implicated; the three each received two years in prison. The high-profile breach led to a reorganization, with the Yard inserting detectives into a new Criminal Investigation Department (CID) to help minimize misconduct.

4. THEY HELPED PIONEER FINGERPRINTING.

A Scotland Yard employee examines fingerprints
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

At one time, the science of fingerprinting was more of a theory than anything that could be put into practice. Most police forces instead relied on anthropometry, a system created by French police officer Alphonse Bertillon, which used 11 body measurements taken by calipers to provide a unique physical identity for an individual. While fingerprinting was beginning to take off in India in the late 1800s, the English-speaking world didn’t adopt the forensic technique of lifting and matching prints until 1901, when Sir Edward Henry, then the assistant commissioner of Scotland Yard, instituted the Metropolitan Police Fingerprint Bureau. In 1902, a billiard ball thief was convicted based on a fingerprint he left on a windowsill. In 1904, a Yard detective demonstrated the efficacy of fingerprinting at the St. Louis World’s Fair, helping spread the new science to American law enforcement officials.

5. THEIR PATROL OFFICERS DIDN’T CARRY GUNS UNTIL 1994.

The uniformed police officers who wander London’s streets with an eye on keeping the peace were unarmed for most of the 20th century. It wasn’t until 1994 that select patrol officers were permitted to carry guns, a policy shift that stemmed from increased assaults on police. The addition of firearms was limited to armed response cars intended to be dispatched to high-risk calls; previously, officers were instructed to keep their weapons in a lockbox inside their vehicles. Today, 90 percent of Metropolitan police officers go on duty without a gun, a policy largely maintained in response to a relatively low number of guns carried by civilians. Less than four in 100 British citizens own a firearm.

6. THEY HAVE A SQUAD OF “SUPER RECOGNIZERS.”

A surveillance camera is posted in London
Leon Neal, AFP/Getty Images

With surveillance cameras dotting London, facial recognition for identifying criminal suspects is in high demand. But no software can outperform Scotland Yard’s team of “super recognizers,” who are recruited for their ability to match a face to a name based on their own memory. These officers are hired by administering a facial recognition test first implemented by Harvard in 2009. Those in the top percentile have an uncanny ability to retain facial feature details and are often dispatched to cull out known criminals like pickpockets at public gatherings. One such specialist, Constable Gary Collins, identified 180 people out of 4000 while examining footage of the 2011 London riots. Software was able to identify exactly one.

7. THEY KEEP A SECRET CRIME MUSEUM HIDDEN FROM THE PUBLIC.

Housed across two floors at the headquarters of the Metropolitan Police in London is the Black Museum, a macabre cavalcade of evidence from nearly 150 years of investigative work. Established in 1875, the collection houses body parts (gallstones that failed to dissolve in acid along with the rest of a murder victim) and seemingly innocuous items that take on sinister connotations: A set of pots and pans that once belonged to Scottish serial killer Dennis Nilsen and were used to boil human flesh. It’s closed to the public, though visiting law enforcement and sometimes celebrities can secure an invite: Laurel and Hardy and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle have toured its inventory. A sample of the collection went on display at the Museum of London in 2015.  

8. YOU COULD LIVE THERE ONE DAY.

The former New Scotland Yard building at 10 Broadway
Jack Taylor, AFP/Getty Images

The Metropolitan Police have changed locations several times over the years. It was situated at its original location of 4 Whitehall Place from 1829 to 1890, then housed in a large Victorian building on the Victoria Embankment from 1890 until 1967. That’s when the operation was moved to a 600,000 square-foot building at 10 Broadway in Westminster: a famous revolving sign announced a New Scotland Yard was taking up residence. In 2014, the building was sold to investors from Abu Dhabi for $580 million: London cited operating expenses and budget cuts as the reasons for the sale. The buyers plan to mount a residential housing project in the spot. Scotland Yard staff moved to a trimmed-down facility at the Curtis Green Building in Westminster and within walking distance of the Houses of Parliament.   

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