Tiresome Behavior

By Dan Conaway

ENOUGH ALREADY. Even after months of mediation, after an agreed-upon compromise, after the appointment of a committee and the committee’s selection of a master planner, after the Overton Park Conservancy put up $250,000 toward the plan, after the council voted to take the Conservancy’s money … even after all of that … the Memphis Zoo stiffed the conservancy, the city, and you and me. 

They not only didn’t put up a dime, they insulted the integrity of the only organization that has actually put up money – that has actually improved the park – and then used the council to require the conservancy to raise a million bucks in short order. And the zoo still hasn’t put up a dime or backed out of a single rut in the greensward.

I am tired of the Memphis Zoo.

That’s so sad, not just for me but for all of us. The zoo was one of the things about Memphis I was most proud of, never tiring of being there, but meerkats no longer come to mind, muddy ruts do. The screeching of siamangs replaced with the screeching of zoo officials, majestic predatory cats replaced with the petty predatory behavior of the zoo toward anyone who would deny them anything, gorilla chest beating replaced with Chuck Brady trying to beat the conservancy into submission. 

Even the impressive size of what the elephants leave behind pales in scope and smell to the manure being spread by the zoo all over the information ether, and the folks who clean up for the elephants with shovels have been replaced by the council members who clean up what the zoo is dropping with resolutions.

A couple of weeks ago, we took our grandchildren to the zoo. We parked for free on North Parkway and then mounted an expedition to find the North Parkway entrance, cleverly hidden in a poison ivy-covered fence like a speakeasy door, manned by a tired attendant, in a tired shack, down by the aquarium – which has been tired for 40 years. It’s like entering the lower intestine of the zoo, everything is literally uphill from there and you’re not sure if you’re welcome.

Before, I’ve forgiven the peeling paint, closed restrooms, attractions neglected in favor of the shiny and new – missing ten-penny nails in the midst of multimillion-dollar habitats. Before, I’ve accepted the constant sucking of money to feed this, ride that, see something here, eat something there – a phony carnival barker atmosphere, an animal pimping, a road cut through irreplaceable Old Forest – all of which makes any claim of conservation a ludicrous contradiction.

Now I’m just tired of it, so very tired.

The Overton Park Conservancy’s deadline to raise that million is June 11. I submit that investing in that will bring a far greater return in public benefit, returning Overton Park to you, than another single dime spent on the Memphis Zoo’s current priorities and management.

I’m a Memphian, and the zoo is part of Overton Park, not the other way around.

Dan Conaway, a communication strategist and author of “I’m a Memphian,” can be reached at