Wednesday, August 8, 2012

You'll Never Guess Where We Went Today*

*...actually, yes, you will.

The Eurasia section is closed until next May when the pandas arrive!
We went to the Zoo! See? I knew you'd guess where we went today. I was being ironic in the title. Sarah is nearing the end of her, her holidays in which we don't leave the city, and I promised that we would go to the Zoo together before she returned to work. When we got up this morning we checked the weather for the rest of the week and realized that the window was rapidly closing for me to keep my promise, so late this morning we headed up to the Rouge Valley...with the obligatory stop at Timmy's first, of course. It was a sweltering day and I wondered if it might cause some of the animals to be having a "siesta" once we got there. I needn't have worried, apparently. I wonder if they've just had time to get used to the extreme heat because it has been omnipresent since about May this year.

Little pied cormorant keeping cool
Because I've written about the Zoo so extensively in the past (and because I am totally worn out from the day) I don't expect to have very much to add today. I imagine this will turn out to be more of a photo blog than anything else. We spent a fair bit of time at the Australasia section of the Zoo today (we don't always get there at all) so many of my shots were taken in that area. Also, I neglected to charge up my camera's battery before we left (because it was a bit of a surprise) so I had to be very careful about when I turned it on towards the end of our visit. I took this photo of a little pied cormorant inside the Australasian building because he had his mouth open and was vibrating his throat muscles silently the entire time we watched him. Sarah thinks it might have been a cooling mechanism, which made sense because that section of the building felt rather like a sauna.  We didn't stay there long, but we did linger in the Great Barrier Reef area for a while because it was deliciously cool and dark. I took the opportunity to visit my buddy the lion fish, with whom I communed back in April. It was too crowded and noisy to have another Zen-like experience today, but I did manage to take one pretty surreal shot of him:

The lionfish mid-tank, looking like a trophy on the wall

The Aussie animals were active outdoors as well. We spent time with a cute wallaby and some adorable emus, which seemed quite young judging from all the down still on their heads:

A young wallaby
Even younger emus

Sarah stopped on a bridge to tease some carp (ok, kidding: I took a couple of shots but just missed them with their mouths open in each case and complained about it, so Sarah wiggled her fingers over the side of the bridge and they came together expecting - I imagine - to get fed):

Carp looking for a free lunch

From there we walked our usual route: the Tundra Trek, the Americas and the African Savannah. I didn't get any shots of the jaguars, Sambuca and Luca, this time because they weren't in a great spot to do so. I did post some video of them in an earlier blog piece if you'd like to check that out. Here are the shots I did take along the way (or, at least, my favourites of the bunch):

Hudson getting out of his pool
A rare sighting of the Arctic fox - awake!

Common marmoset just hangin' out

Capybara pups enjoying a treat
Flamingos just being flamingos

I also shot a short video of Hudson, the polar bear cub, enjoying his cool pool on this very hot day:

Matata and Chupa, the youngest penguins at the Zoo
Of course we went to see the penguins again. The three chicks that were born this year have all been moved into the "general population" now. Eldon, the....well, eldest of the three, seems to be having some trouble socializing. The last time we were there we talked to a keeper who indicated that this might be a problem for him, because he was hand-reared and his siblings didn't make it. He spent some time with these two younger cuties, Matata (in the foreground) and Chupa (all three surviving chicks are male) before he eventually slipped into the water for a quick dip and then waddled off to find some shade by himself. I realize I am likely anthropomorphizing these little birds, but I really hope Eldon isn't as lonely as he seems. I'm pretty sure I'll be following his development quite closely from here on in. Incidentally, there were other cormorants in the penguin exhibit, too, and they were doing the same thing as their cousins in the Australasia pavilion. I think Sarah might be on to something with her idea that they cool themselves that way.

We visited the elephants again but didn't take any pictures today. Two of them each have chain "anklets" on three of their legs (the third elephant has none) which we figure must have something to do with preparing them for their trip to the sanctuary, whenever that comes about. I'll be sure to get back closer to the time they go, although that will be a very tough visit to the Zoo. But before we made it to the elephant enclosure we passed by the cheetah's domain where we found this little fledgling sitting on the top rail of the fence around the exhibit:

Fledgling on the fence around the cheetah exhibit

There was a nest in the tree right above where this tiny little bird was sitting and we could see some activity in there, but couldn't tell whether it was from the parents or siblings. We couldn't be sure for a while if the baby had arrived on the railing on purpose or by misadventure so we stuck around to see what would happen next, hoping to see the mom or dad come along or at least a Zoo staffer so we could ask him or her what they thought should be done. Eventually, though, the little guy (or gal) turned around, spread its wings as best it could and fluttered off a short distance into a nearby bush. At that point we realized it was in control of its own situation and felt we could move on to finish our visit. Neither of us really has any idea what kind of bird it was, though. It had a reddish-orange tail but the rest of the body was pretty nondescript. Can anyone shed any light on this? We'd love to find out what it was.

It was, as usual, a pretty terrific day at the Zoo. The only negative energy at all came from some misguided souls that I only briefly want to talk about. I love the Zoo. I am comfortable with its purpose and with the animals that are necessarily "captive" to serve this purpose. By contrast, I do not care for circuses or any environment where animals are on display for purely entertainment purposes. I realize this is a fine line and I appreciate that there are many people who do not see things this way. Several of my friends have mentioned that they are not in favour of Zoos (or, at least, unsure where they stand) and I know that it's a very personal matter and I respect their opinions completely. I also am thankful that these friends have not used my blog or Facebook threads to take a contrary stand on the Toronto Zoo. But today on more than one occasion we came across a member of the public who had gone to the Zoo, spent the money to go in, walked around taking pictures of the animals, but decided that they should proclaim their revulsion at all of the "poor, caged animals" while they were doing so. These people made me sick. I don't imagine it's possible to be much more hypocritical, not really. Take a stand, don't take a stand, it's all good. But to allow these animals to give you an afternoon's enjoyment, all the while snapping off "trophy pictures", and then to say for public consumption how revolted you are at their "lot in life" is beyond repulsive to me. If you don't agree with the Zoo from a fundamental point of view, that is perfectly ok. But then don't go to the Zoo. This is not an incredibly difficult concept to grasp. Stay home and shut up. Or, if you feel strongly enough about it, write a letter of complaint to whomever you see fit. What they were doing, in my opinion, was a lot like going to a restaurant, ordering a steak and eating it, all the while complaining that we shouldn't be eating meat. Your stance is valid, except you yourself have invalidated it through your very actions.

I don't remember ever hearing someone at the Zoo make those kinds of comments before; if I have heard them I've forgotten about it. I can be sure, though, that I've not heard them in a long time and yet today it happened multiple times. I simply don't understand it.

But at least we got to spend another day at the Zoo together, Sarah and I. So it all worked out in the end.


  1. The "zoo debate" is an interesting issue, and a much-discussed one in recent decades. It seems to me that is wasn't that long ago that humanity thought that animals were barely sentient, and used animals for amusement (and worse) as they saw fit. I bristled at the comment about the "poor caged animals" too, but I personally would much rather that people in general are empathetic and thinking about whether zoos are a good thing or not, than mindlessly looking at animals or worse, abusing them.

    Although I understand what you're saying that the comment was made at an inappropriate time and place (I like your steak example), I too have sometimes felt a bit sad for the beautiful, powerful and wild animals that are restricted to enclosed spaces at the zoo (and I LOVE the zoo). On the other hand, they eat healthy food every single day, are sheltered and protected from predators and the environment. Good zoos work hard to enrich the animals' lives with toys and unique experiences.

    It is not a simple issue, and I certainly understand conflicting feelings about it.

    1. I guess you're right in that those people are at least trying to be empathetic. But they can't have their cake and eat it to. I find it really disturbing when people claim to have a "cause" but are actively combating that cause even as they are voicing their support.


I've kept my comments open and moderation-free for many years, but I've been forced to now review them before they post due to the actions of one member of my family. I apologize for having to take this stance, but that's the way the world is headed, sad to say. Thank you for your understanding.

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