Thursday, July 06, 2006

We went to the Zoo (and lived to tell the story)

Ok, so it has been said that I exaggerate once in a while. I don’t really agree with this assessment, but I realize that others think this it true – so I accept their opinions (not really, but it sounds nice).

Anyway, I am not exaggerating when I say Mia and I had the most up close and dramatic experience we have ever had at a zoo. In Mendoza the people are separated from the zoo animals by a metal bar about 3 feet high and a chain link fence. Sounds ok when you are talking about a Toucan – not so great when you are talking about a 350-pound Bengal Tiger. The upside – you can really see the animals in Mendoza. And, you get to see what happens when stupid people get drunk and have the chance to stand incredibly close to animals that think people are food. Two stories for you to chew on (this pun will be funny in about 30 seconds):

#1 There we are at the lion’s cage – maybe three in the afternoon – and two guys who have clearly had too much Frenet (the local equivalent of Tequila) decided that they are going to scream at the lion. At the National Zoo (in DC) these fools would be 100 yards away from the lions and zookeepers would be on top of them in a matter of minutes. In Mendoza these guys were 2 feet from the lions and there were no zookeepers in sight. And, the cages are essentially chain link fences (very much like the fence that used to separate our house in VA from Jose's house). Needless to say, the lion got a little bit perturbed. I found myself wondering how long that fence could hold that 400 pound lion and rooting for the lion. When I had this thought I decided we should visit the Llamas – no one was screaming at them.

#2 Puma are everywhere at the Mendoza Zoo – they are the local equivalent of mountain lions and they have a lot of them on display. So Mia and I are walking past the third Puma cage when a little boy standing near us sees a red ball in the cage and decides he wanted it. The boy runs, jumps the three-foot high guard rail and starts to reach into the cage. The Puma is no fool; he waited until the prey is close and then made his break for the boy. The mother arrived a split second before the Puma. No one seemed to think this was a big deal, except Mia’s overprotective father. At this point I thought it might be a good idea to visit the ostrich -- they didn't seem to be too interested in the kids hanging around.

Besides being a great adventure, it was a great reminder that animals are animals after all (and Rhinos are huge – especially when you are only four or five feet away). So, I have some photos from the day and you can see them here . I didn’t take as many as I would have liked, I was busy trying to keep one hand on the kid. Maybe next time I will be a little less nervous. Maybe not.

In the meantime, bless the beasts and the children.

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