Saturday, June 23, 2007

Seattle Sojourn Saturday (Part Two): At The Zoo

I realise that the issue of keeping animals in captivity is a contentious and emotional one. Once, at an election time meeting of Vancouverite lefties, the Vancouver Aquarium t-shirt I was wearing made a woman cry.

Now, I'm not entirely insensitive, but some people need to get a grip and realise that not everyone is always going to agree with them. Especially radical lefties who favour the overthrow of everything just for the Hell of it. You know who you are.

Are zoos ideal? No. But there's only so much a person can learn from
National Geographic and the Discovery Channel. At some point it helps to get face time with an actual animal. I can credit the time I spent at zoos as a child with my current interest in ecology and habitat preservation.

At least at a zoo the animals aren't being chased across the savannah by a Range Rover full of tourists, and until the mindset that allows poaching to continue can be overcome, all the habitat in the world isn't going to save some species from extinction.

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With that in mind, I found the Woodland Park Zoo's enclosures rather humane, especially given what they were like just thirty years ago. Compared with some of the apartments I've lived in, they're downright palatial. They're large enough, in fact, that if the animals aren't feeling particularly social they can go off and hide.

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Such was the case with the gorillas, most of whom stayed out of view. This female, however, was up for a bit of tree climbing followed by a light snack. For an encore she turned her back to the humans watching her, pinched a loaf, picked it out of her ass, and made a tidy little present on a nearby log. All the children watching (and I) found this hilarious in the extreme.

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Leaving the gorilla enclosure it was onto the ever-popular penguins, who are as entertaining as any animals I've ever seen.

This particular group were all clustered at one end of their pool, looking like they were about to dive in. When an audible murmur arose amongst the gathered crowd they withdrew, and waddled over to the other side of their pool. The crowd dutifully followed, and again they poised themselves to dive, the faint sound of whoo arose from the humans...

And again the penguins balked!

For all I know, they could have done that all afternoon. I swear I saw a couple of them laughing, except that would be anthropomorphism, and that's wrong. Unless, that is, it's in a movie or a book or... Well, any pop culture really. In which case it's often hilariously right.

A n y w a y ...

For some reason, not a few of the animals were being shy. It may be that, like me, they prefer to snooze in the middle of the afternoon. It may have been the chilly wind blowing, or it could have been the scores of ill-behaved and shrieking children running about not being parented by the stroller jockeys they came with. Who can say?

All this means, for my purposes, is that those animals who chose to make an appearance today get to be stars, while the rest get to keep going on auditions and waiting to hear from their agents.

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This zebra, for instance, posed beautifully for me, unlike the pen full of antelope who scampered around her as though spooked by the sight of each other's scampering.

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Entering one of the bird enclosures, I found this beauty sitting on a branch not an arm's length from me, utterly unafraid despite the nearby flitting of weaver-birds who, contrary to their name, were not weaving but pecking at each other and swatting anything that moved with their wings.

Nothing they did, however, frightened off my little friend.

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Rounding another corner Mr. Gagne and I came upon the most ferocious of the African mega-fauna - the hippopotamus. Three of them, in fact, just a laying there, acting like it was an inconvenience to flutter their ears at flies. I guess nobody thought to tell the ducks floating past them what danger they were in.

I'm ashamed to admit, I was rooting for one of the hippos to yawn and swallow a duck, if for no other reason than it would have given me a blog post.

Cruel, maybe. Selfish, obviously. Hilarious, definitely.

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I warned Mr. Gagne that, once we made it to the giraffes, the rest of the afternoon was going to be all downhill. While not entirely true, they are my favourite animal after Colin Farrell, and just a few minutes in the presence of one brought the day's excitement to a gentle close.

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In addition to providing a home for numerous foreign species, the Woodland Park Zoo is also home to many crows and other birds and what can only be described as a bevy of squirrels. Under normal circumstances, I understand a squirrel does not belong in a post about zoo animals, especially when said squirrels are utterly tame and inured to living off human leavings.

This one, in particular, went in and out of garbage cans like he was on some kind of pub crawl.

Besides which, I will take any opportunity to publish a picture of a squirrel. So there.

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So that was the Woodland Park Zoo. An amiable and leafy place to spend an afternoon to be sure, but I looked at it as a training ground. Tomorrow I will be encountering animals more fierce than any I saw today...

Tomorrow it's Gay Pride Day. Yikes!
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