Friday, August 7, 2015

I Took Myself To The Zoo!

7 August 2015

I thought I should include a photo of the house we lived in since 1968.  This is the house we cleared out last summer, and it's been on the market for a few months now.  Hope it sells, it's a gorgeous house and needs a good family to fill it up with fun and laughter and love.  (And those circle designs are from a rain grate in town - I love practical items that are pretty as well as functional!)   

We've been having a great time in Bellingham, but planned to head to Seattle to meet up with my buddies from college.  So last week, we headed south for our annual celebration of everyone's birthdays.  It was wonderful to catch up with my former college roommates, find out what's new and where they've been or are planning to go.  (One friend and her husband spent a few weeks in Brazil, another friend is planning a trip around Turkey.  And a friend I met up with later spent last autumn in Spain.  We're a travelling bunch!)

It was a long weekend of good friends, good food, good wine, and good conversation.  Plus birthday flowers!

I also met up with a friend from high school - gotta love the power of Facebook to reconnect with friends with whom you've lost touch, right?  Again, a wonderful several hours of catching up on our lives!

Monday was my real birthday, despite having celebrated it since Friday.  Richard spoiled me with brunch, and later on with dinner.  But then, there was the whole middle of the day waiting for something special.

We were staying in a cute 1920s bungalow in the Greenwood area of Seattle, a neighborhood full of sweet old houses, funky little cafés, trendy wine bars, and even a recording studio.  But this neighborhood is also not far from Woodland Park Zoo.  So I decided that would be my activity for the day.  It was a glorious sunny summer day, just perfect for an outdoor activity.  And after the events of the past week, I thought I needed to do something good for the animals.  To appreciate the lions, tigers, and bears.  As opposed to killing them for trophies.

I went to buy my ticket, and of course asked if they have a birthday discount.  Well, no, they don't - instead, they have a HUGE pin they give the birthday celebrant.  Which includes a free ride on the carousel - a hundred year old carousel with hand-carved wood horses, in the tradition of gorgeous old carousels.  However, this carousel has been turned into a SOLAR-POWERED carousel!!!!!  Amazing, huh???

I wore the crazy pin, and rode the carousel, along with a bunch of kids and their parents.  I had a great grey horse, but he was racing the other horses, so his head and neck were stretched out (because they were running neck in neck, and he wanted to win by a head length).  This made it difficult to get a decent selfie with my horse, but I think we did okay.

The tigers are featured on the signage around the zoo, and there was a beautiful pair of Malayan tigers in the enclosure.  They were sound asleep, and not exactly snuggled up in the hot weather.  Touching but not spooning.  Absolutely beautiful tigers!
There was also a little girl who had her face painted like a tiger!  Adorable!  (Her mother didn't want me
to take her photo, so what could I do, I understand.  But SO cute!  And another little girl painted with a cheetah face!!!  Just so wonderful!!!)

There were other exciting animals - my favorite, the penguins who play and swim and bicker and argue like a group of argumentative tuxedo-wearing children.  Then zebras and antelope on the African plains, wallabies and emus in the AustralAsia area, a HUGE komodo dragon, meerkat villages, all that.

But one of the most exciting things was seeing the giraffes moved from one area to another!

There are special feeding times at the zoo, as well as ways to raise extra funds to care for the animals.  (I'll get to that in a moment.)  At 3 PM, it's time to feed the giraffes.  People can pay a special fee and go to a separate area to feed the giraffes.  They don't feed them much, just some leaves.  But the giraffes seem to like it, and they were happily munching on the leaves that were waved at them.

After all the people who paid to feed the giraffes had their turn, it was time for the giraffes to return to their large enclosure.  The giraffe crossing!!!  The giraffes are used to this, so they turned around and lined up at the gate, similar to well-behaved children after lunch and ready for recess.  The giraffes waited patiently while the zoo crew hustled all of us, the zoo guests, behind webbing barriers.  Then the large outer gates were opened, and connected left to right, making an enclosed corridor so the giraffes won't escape.  Then the inner gates are opened, and the giraffes placidly walk from the small to the large enclosure, gracefully and slowly striding across the road like ten foot tall fashion models, regally gazing over the fence at the huge audience gathered on both sides of their private runway.  It was amazing!!!!  Definitely a highlight!!!!

I also visited the keas, which are alpine parrots from New Zealand.  They're really feisty birds with sharp beaks that look more like claws or talons!!!  They also eat meat as well as fruits and vegs, and walk around making piercing cries rather than the usual parrot squawking.  

More animals, another ride on the carousel, and it was almost time for the zoo to close.  I peeked in the gift shop, and saw all the beautiful stuffed animals.  Plush zoo animals.  The same kinds of animals that trophy hunters kill and process and hang on their wall.

So I had the brilliant idea of posing with the TOY animals as my trophies.  I'm trying to come up with a hashtag to start a Facebook campaign against killing exotic animals as trophies - like #letthemlive or something.  Anyway, I had fun taking selfies with all the plush toy animals, and the store employees thought it was quite funny but a great idea.  I also did this in Thailand, rather than visiting the "pet the baby tiger" places where the tigers really aren't treated well.

While part of me loves visiting the animals at the zoo, part of me thinks they should be able to run free in their native environment.  The Seattle zoo has won awards for having large spacious enclosures, plenty of room for the animals, and environments that mimic the homeland of the animals.  But I still would rather see the animals running free and safe.

Safe.  That's the key part.  When animals are lured off the protected reserves to be shot and killed as trophies, they're no longer safe.  No longer protected.  They're betrayed by human greed and a need to prove something.  (I don't know what, I only kill mosquitoes.)  So we need zoos and reserves and protected areas where the animals are kept safe and secure.  And alive.  Various species are almost extinct in the wild, and at some point in time, probably in my lifetime, certain animals will ONLY exist in zoos. In many ways, zoos have become the protectors of these wonderful creatures.

So yes, I support zoos.  I visit zoos.  I hope to get to Africa and volunteer with orphaned cheetahs and other big cats.

But until then, I will visit zoos.  

And if you're on Facebook, please join our no-kill-no-trophies campaign!!!

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