Surfin Safari 

On The Scene at the Memphis Zoo

Many visitors to the Memphis Zoo this summer might call it a “hot spot.” The animals can retreat to the shade or the cool waters of their moats, an amenity that could make zoo patrons jealous. But humans will soon have access to one hot spot the animals don’t.

Next time you’re visiting the zoo, you might want to try bringing a laptop — and your opposable thumbs — because the Memphis Zoo is the city’s newest “hot spot,” a place where you can access the Internet.

Memphis-based Catecea Sound installed wireless access around the zoo’s reflecting pool, as well as in the zoo’s education department. For visitors, the reflecting pool is a calm, shady area where you can check e-mail, do a little pre- or post-visit research, or surf the Web while basking in faux-Egyptian splendor. The wireless access is not officially up and running yet, but I was able to connect during my visit, so the system clearly has promise.

Catecea’s motivation for the installation was education, according to the company’s president, John Fleskes.

“What we’ve installed right now is a backbone system that will support the growth of wireless throughout the zoo, hopefully for the next couple decades,” said Fleskes. “Ultimately, I would like for the Memphis Zoo to go completely wireless, to become a virtual zoo, so that more people can have access to it.”

The zoo is still formulating plans on how to take advantage of the technology.

“We want to put together programs that would increase the visitor experience and integrate this new hardware into the activities of the education department,” said Brian Carter, the zoo’s director of marketing and communications.

In some ways, the zoo is ideal for the Internet, especially when visiting with children, because it can provoke so many questions. After watching the new baby orangutan at the nursery, I checked orangutans out online and learned that they are the most arboreal of all primates, meaning they spend almost all their time in trees, and adults rarely, if ever, touch the ground.

Other Memphis hot spots include Court Square, the Tobacco Bowl, the Deliberate Literate, and Empire Coffee.

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