Sunday, December 12, 2010

A Day at the Zoo

There should never be any tears spilled at the zoo, unless they are the tears of a small child, overwrought by the excitement of it all and overcome by exhaustion. Such children would be comforted by his or her parents and would probably fall asleep on the way home, with cotton candy still sticking to his chubby little cheeks and most likely with a toy still clutched in his dimpled little hand. He would sleep as though cradled by angels, appearing quite angelic himself.

I cried at the zoo, and I am not a small child, nor did I have cotton candy. However, I was both overcome and overwrought. But let me start at the beginning…

So, this weekend I went to the zoo… Wait! Back up even further!

Immediately after waking I gingerly stepped into the shower and stood still as I washed because Liz told me I should never jump in the shower for fear of breaking a hip. Sound advice. Within 2 hours of waking I was outdoors. A rare feat for me; usually I take my time heading out. But I really wanted to get to the zoo in plenty of time to enjoy it.

Sometimes the online bus directory I use to help me get around is not necessarily reliable. It told me to take but 202 for 4 stops and then ride bus 203 for another 4 stops. The zoo would then appear in front of me, as if by magic. Well: I counted 4 stops and got off bus 202, but I ended up in a somewhat desolate area by the 8-lane freeway. There were no bus stop markings whatsoever, and ahead loomed a very elegant suspension bridge. It looked like I might have to cross it on foot. I asked the only other passenger that had debarked with me; she told me no other buses stop there and in fact, that location was not even a bus stop. Sigh! In for a penny, in for a pound, I figure: bring on the adventure! I started walking.

Not an auspicious beginning to a fun day out.

Luckily, I only walked a short way before a passing cab driver faked engine trouble until I walked up and he drove me the rest of the way to the zoo. Cab drivers are not allowed to pick people up just anywhere, you know. That’s why he had to fake engine trouble. I’m grateful he did; it would have been a long walk otherwise. I paid the driver and, full of anticipation I entered the zoo enclave – after buying my ticket and beating the beggars and the trinket salespeople away. I swear: being a foreigner guarantees you a cloud of hangers-on! The first glance around the park showed me a lovely lake where black swans paddled majestically. Originally, that was the picture I was going to attach to this entry.

I’m going to be really optimistic here and say that the park is undergoing renovations. Actually, the park itself is lovely, but the animal enclosures are depressing. Just as houses here are built of solid concrete, so are the animal pens. Concrete floors, walls and ceilings with bars or glass out front for easy viewing of the captive inside. Fortunately the weather was very nice and I didn’t have to see many animals penned up in their concrete prisons. Instead they were in their open-air concrete prisons: concrete floor and heavy duty bars all around.

Now I’m really worried. Even more so because spectators are beating on the bars with their hands and with keys or bottles and making strange, loud noises, trying to elicit some reaction from the animals penned up inside. Nearly all of the animals appeared asleep, or just sat there, staring and dispirited. I don’t blame them. If all I had was cold concrete floors, no simulation of my natural habitat, no food or water and no toys to stimulate any kind of activity, I think I would be dispirited and sleep all the time too.

First there were the monkeys – normally a lively bunch, but these monkeys were quiet and lackadaisical. Have you ever seen a lackadaisical monkey? It is a very sad sight. That was the first of many sad sights I beheld that day.

There was an elephant who begged us for food. Literally: he was facing us and would open his mouth, and then use his trunk to point to his gaping maw. Had I known that all of the animals were starving and those vendors outside were selling zoo-approved food pellets, I would have bought a case of them. All of the animals appeared to be starving! As it was I had just a few food pellets at my disposal and did my best to lob them into the enclosure. The poor, starving elephant snuffled each morsel up: he didn’t miss a one. Even more disturbing: the other elephant in the enclosure was rocking back and forth and anyone who watches Animal Planet knows that elephants rock when they are in distress. Was he hungry? Thirsty? In pain? Emotionally bereft? All of the above? I couldn’t tell but I’m guessing this was no day at the zoo for him.

The heartbreak continued: the wolf with the broken paw in a dank, damp, dark enclosure. He cringed when we walked up to him and slunk off to hide. I wondered how his paw could have gotten broken – I got my answer later. The Tibetan yak with his pelt matted and burdocked. His enclosure was not even swamped out and the flies buzzed around him madly. The camel with both humps flopped over, and sores on the underside of them where flies nested. We saw that because the poor camel kept dropping to his knees and then laying down with his lips skinned back as though near death. His poor, bruised knees made a horrible ‘thunking’ sound on the concrete and it appeared he was suffering from mange, if camels can actually contract the mange. Then there were giraffes that did not move at all. Their pen looked like the recreation yard in a prison: all that was missing was a basketball hoop. It seemed sadistic that there were brightly painted, smiling giraffes on the wall but the actual giraffes could have done with a dose of counseling to cure their depression.

Two of the saddest exhibits were the big cats and the pandas. The big cats had nothing in their pens: no food, no water, nothing. They lay on the concrete, asleep. King of the Jungle I just didn’t see. More like defamed, dethroned, humiliated and incarcerated king. Heartbreaking. I was full of hope for the panda exhibit though. After all, the panda is the national symbol of China; surely their enclosures would reflect that.

Not so much. Even though pandas are very social animals, they were kept in separate enclosures and couldn’t even see each other. Both pandas were dirty and listless. One was awake and peeling bamboo, the other was asleep on a wooden pallet. I just can’t imagine why…

The last straw was the circus type show. But I’ll write about that in the next post because this one is long (and depressing) enough. I really want to get graphic about this show so that you can see the true horror of it, and why it drove me to tears.

So… make a dash for the bathrooms and meet me at the concession stand. I’ll try to buy some more food pellets so we can feed these poor animals something, OK? Then we’ll go to the show together.

No comments:

Post a Comment