The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs, Colorado

  I love animals. Almost all kinds of animals and when I was little, I was going to grow up to be a veterinarian. At least that was the plan before I realized how much blood and needles were involved in being one so now I'm just an animal lover who grew up to be a photographer.

  Zoos on the other hand, I have a love/hate relationship with. I love knowing I can show my children real live exotic animals in a semi up-close and personal way but I've always wondered if the animals were sad to be "stuck in a cage". They were meant to roam the Earth, free and wild. Frolicking in meadows, woods and flat lands; not stuck behind glass or wire. It has been with the wonder of a child and the sadness of an adult that I have visited zoos my whole life and now I'm sharing those experiences with my children.

  A few years ago my mother in-law came for a visit from NY, NY. On one of our outings with her we visited The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo and I was hooked. A zoo that only takes in rescued animals! From people who thought they would make great pets or circus animals that had been mistreated, they found a home there. The animals are ALIVE there! They "stalk" their dinners, they receive carrots by hand from zoo keepers, they sit in their care takers laps and look genuinely happy! My mother in-law now buys us a family pass each year for Christmas and she regularly sends $2 bills for feeding the giraffes and the kids love every second of it. Me - well I don't feel guilty taking my children there. We drop our tokens into the slot choosing which animal we'd most like to help that visit, the kids feel like they really ARE helping to save the rain-forest and they've taken a huge interest in recycling anything and everything possible. They've petted a baby wallaby and could never imagine owning a coat made from their soft fur. They laugh at the hippo and they're enthralled with the lemur who yells because no one will let him "go for a ride" on their shoulder. And me - me I'm just glad the lion who was starved and then was attacked by a circus cage mate, survived and found a haven that feeds her meat on a stick for fun (fingers are apparently too dangerous).

 Faith couldn't find this guy at first. ;)

 I know a few women who would kill to have eyelashes this thick!

 Feeding the giraffes is really cool and the kids get a kick out of it too!

 He was posing pretty for me

 Macey's little friend came with us and she wasn't so sure about turning her back on the giraffes! We had just watched one try to steal a gal's hat...

 The African Grey Parrot paints for fun and he talks but very quietly...

 Thanks to Meerkat Manor - my kids love the meerkats and we need a new picture every time we go. ;)

 The classic newborn pose modeled perfectly....

 This guy's trunk was ALL OVER! He just been hand fed carrots by a zoo keeper and he wanted a few more!

 My mom used to hand raise cockatiel babies when I was a kid and they have an atrium where they fly around loose (along with parakeets) and they eat spray millet on a stick from your hands. They're super cool birds but I don't recommend checking them out before they have feathers. Any naked newborn bird is ugly but these are what nightmares are made of! It's good thing they grow up to be so pretty.

 I might be a girl with a thing for lizards. I once had an iguana named George and my little brother had his brother named Fred. We pretended they had conversations on our way to Kearney, NE when I was in college. His was coming to visit and mine was coming home....

 She was seriously eyeballing Faith! I'm convinced if that fence wasn't there, she'd have had her for a snack!

I really wasn't kidding! She really wanted Faith ala-mode minus the ice cream!

Faith (understandably) got a little freaked out when she realized this gorgeous mountain lion was following her every move and she chose to hide behind me..

 This little guy is sitting in the zoo keepers lap checking out a Nikon camera! (Canons are better little dude)

 This little guy is vocal and not so quiet! He was a circus rescue and really LOVES people. If you don't acknowledge him - he yells. I overheard a zoo keeper say more than anything he just wants to walk around on her shoulder.

 The human qualities in these amazing creatures is indescribable.

 The first time we went by, she was snoozing...

Then it was snack time!

 Orangutans might just be my favorite animal. Silly, playful, human like hands and gloriously vibrant orange hair. Even he knows there's nothing like a mother's hand.

  I'm not a fan of ALL zoos but this zoo, it's very different and believes in rescuing animals, not caging them up for entertainment purposes. We're just lucky enough to be allowed to visit and help finance their care...
Sands of Time Photos. All rights reserved. © Maira Gall.