Like many of Simon & Garfunkel's songs of their later period, "At the Zoo" is a multi-leveled piece, combining childish whimsy with serious, poignant social statements. On the surface, the song is a simple take on the pleasures of going to the New York City Zoo, complete with a description of the journey there. However, the lyrics in the final verse describe the dispositions of the different animals ("zebras are reactionaries/Antelopes are missionaries"), which draws a parable of human behavior. All of this adds up to the civilized "human" world as the real zoo. Musically, it's a fun and funky romp. Opening with a delicate acoustic guitar pattern, it slips into a walking piano and bass guitar pattern and also features some excellent studio performances, most notably Hal Blaine's drum work. The final section of the song finds the momentum escalating, culminating in a neo-African chant from Garfunkel, which foreshadowed the group (and Paul Simon's) later forays into what would be called world music.