They may not make hilarious wisecracks like their animated brother in "Shrek," but the four tiny donkeys at the National Zoo's new Kids' Farm are pretty cute.
They're miniature Mediterranean donkeys, and their big heads and long ears seem a bit goofy atop their little bodies with clip-clopping hooves. Also, they tend to stand together facing the same direction and move in unison, like a school of fish.
But these little critters have one special feature that the zoo's popular pandas and chimps do not:
You can touch them.
The donkeys and some similarly shrimpy goats (Dwarf Nigerian and Nubian varieties) are part of a nearly two-acre petting zoo that opened this month. It's at the lower section of the zoo complex, across Olmsted Walk from Lion/Tiger Hill.
Along with the donkeys, Kids' Farm has cows, chickens and ducks -- 62 animals in all. Kids can help scrub down the Holsteins in the cow-washing corral, or pet, groom and brush the goats and donkeys in another area. They also can watch the on-site "farmers" feed the animals and collect eggs.
Another part of Kids' Farm features a giant, squishy, pizza-shaped play area. (You haven't lived until you've straddled a tomato the size of a beanbag chair, crawled through an oversized olive or slid down a huge wedge of cheese.) Nearby, there's a round garden where all the things that go into making a pizza -- herbs, grains, tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic -- will be grown.
"We want to show kids and families where your pizza and other foods come from," said zoo spokeswoman Peper Long. "It doesn't just show up on your doorstep or in the store. It came from plants in the ground."
Kids' Farm visitors will "get up close and personal with animals. We want them to see that animals aren't just objects you look at, but living, breathing creatures," Long said.
Why donkeys and goats? "Well," she said, "you can't exactly pet a tiger."
-- Fern Shen