Friday, May 4, 2012

The Zoo: Always Good for What Ails You

Sarah and I are members at the Toronto Zoo and try to get there as often as we can. Last night they held a "members-only" event after closing (6:30PM) where they introduced us to their latest exhibit: the white lions. Of course there was a mascot there; of course Sarah needed to have her picture taken with...erm..."it". She never misses an opportunity to do this and there's quite a collection growing of "Sarah & Mascot" photos on our hard drive. I got the feeling this was a very awkward costume to wear because a Zoo staffer had to tap the mascot on the arm to let it know that Sarah was standing beside it for a picture. Also, unless the person inside has a broken neck, that's one awkward head position!

I was able to get a couple of pictures of the lions themselves, but they're not terrific. The pictures, I mean. The lions themselves are gorgeous. Here are a couple of the better photos:

I like this particular picture because of the eyes that are glowing from within. You can probably tell from his body stance that these youngsters haven't quite gotten used to the throngs of people watching them from over the fence. Last night was only the second that they were on display - both nights "members only" - and today they become a permanent exhibit. I expect it won't take them long, though: their playfulness was already much in evidence last night.

This is a picture that Sarah really likes. There is a tunnel under the lion habitat with windows onto the exhibit; this tunnel leads to the rest of the African Savannah walk. I believe what we are seeing here are people coming out the other side of the tunnel; however, in this picture it looks like these people are in the exhibit (with their images being reflected by the glass) and this lion is staring down at them. Really spooky!

The last time we were at the Zoo - almost exactly a month earlier - two new penguin chicks had just been hatched. Both survived their earliest perils, bringing the brood count to three this season. They have been on display only a day or two so we had to have a look at them. I mean, obviously. We couldn't get as close to the glass as last time, so here is the best shot I could take of the beautiful, downy babies. The one standing at the back of the enclosure is easy to spot; you may have to peer a little bit harder to make out the second one, prostrate in front of the first.

This is the best picture I could get of the older chick, the one we visited a month ago. The down is completely gone from this one and it's getting very close to full maturity when, presumably, it will be allowed to go and hang out with the adults in the "swimming pool". For now, though, I wonder if the isolation is wearing it down: notice how it is sprawled out flat with its head against the glass divider between its own enclosure and that of the younger chicks. It's really sweet to see and yet a little sad at the same time....but I suppose I might just be projecting.

We went to see the lions first, doubled back to check on the penguin chicks, spent some time with the giraffes who were out in their pen (where I hadn't seen them in a while), watched the hyenas chase each other around at full tilt for a minute, saw a rare appearance of the African porcupine, then went back to see the lions while it was a little quieter. While we were there the second time, the skies suddenly grew unbelievably dark, like a scene out of the movie Twister. It was really menacing and we decided to just get back to the car as fast as we could. We could see lightning in the area before we made it but we didn't get wet and managed to outpace the rain on our way home. It didn't hit our neck of the woods, in East York, until much later but it was pretty fierce once it got to us. I hope all the Zoo workers got to cover before the worst of it hit them out there.

Predictably, both Sarah and I were much more relaxed on our drive home than we had been all week. I'm starting to wonder if I might need to make a visit to the Zoo a weekly occurrence for the rest of this summer!


  1. This mascot was quite nice, really. I also aim to have photos taken with the ugliest, weirdest mascots I can find. Whoever was in this costume was also pretty short - I had to crouch for the photo!

    I recommend the white lion exhibit and the penguin chicks as a stress reliever to everyone!

    1. I sense an entire blog post on you and your mascot encounters coming soon. ;)

      So much fun last night!


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