Friday, July 18, 2008

It's All Happening at the Zoo

At the Denver Zoo, that is. While I was in town Mom, Richard and I spent a morning at the zoo. I had not been to the zoo in Denver for nearly 20 years, and besides I thought an outdoor activity might be fun for us. Denver had been "enjoying" temperatures in the mid 90's, but a brief cool front dropped that down into the low 80's for one day only. We took advantage of that respite and got to the zoo nice and early to make the most of the cooler weather. In the rush to get out while the morning cool lasted we forgot to toss Richard's chair in the trunk, but we were saved by the chair rental. Having the chair along made it possible for Richard to get around most of the zoo and see most of the sights.

We were in and out of most of the buildings, even spending quite a long time in the herp/aquarium/rain forest complex. Richard even went in the Lorrikeet enclosure with me. He's not keen on birds, so I thought that was being a pretty good sport. My sister and I used to take a great deal of malicious pleasure in dragging Richard through the chicken exhibits at the State Fair just to see him squirm.

I have mixed feelings about zoos in general. I do think animals belong in their natural habitats, but zoos are a good way to show people (especially children) in a concrete way what we are hoping to save. For people with limited mobility and/or budgets zoos are really the only way to see what wild animals look like in the flesh. Like most zoos, the Denver Zoo has some variation in the quality of life enjoyed by various animals. They are moving towards housing the animals in larger, more naturalistic enclosures. Some are still what I might classify as "not so great". Still, it would be hard to beat the nostalgia of going to the zoo with my sibling.

I got to see a couple of things I had never seen before, too. There were peacock chicks following their mother around. For some reason although I have certainly seen loads of peacocks I had never seen any chicks. They are intensely cute. I also got to see a giant elephant shrew, which I don't think I had ever even heard of. Apparently there are very few on exhibit anywhere, so it was a treat for me to see one "in person". They don't really look much like anything I've ever seen, and apparently they are no relation at all to the common shrew. They may be related to Aardvarks and Manatees, of all things. I should note that this little guy was probably short of a foot long, plus the tail. Hardly a giant!

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