Have you ever seen children’s eyes light up when they see a giraffe almost face to face? Observed their eyes widen as they glimpse the submerged body of a teenage alligator? Watched their eyebrows rise almost to their hairlines when a usually shy black bear leaves its shelter to strut all the way over to the observation glass just so that it can be oohed and ahhed over? Listened to their giggles erupt as the never-before-seen sun bear comes out from beneath its bushy canopy to sit and stare up at the multi-hued faces peeking down at it? Chuckled at their applause as 3 siamangs swing along a tightrope and then balance on the tightrope with arms splayed as they run into their cave? Heard the sharp intake and slow outtake of their breaths as they drink in the almost iridescent coat of a Malayan tiger? Disengaged their faces from a glass that they stare down at the wide girth of a mother rhinoceros and her 3-month old offspring? Trembled at their squeals of mingled delight and fear as the head of a large boa constrictor sweeps across the glass in pursuit of them as they move onto the next reptile display? Joined them in a game of trying to spot the hidden reptiles?
I was such a child that day - returned to the wonder of observing the animal kingdom at the Virginia Zoo in Norfolk. My nieces and nephews excitedly shuttled me through the Zoo so that I could share in the pleasure of showing me everything, reeling off facts about the exotic creatures - some known and some unknown. It seemed that almost all the animals had come out of hiding just so that I could look at them - except for the lions. My nieces and nephews were able to see previously elusive animals on this latest venture. The sun bear, a solitary animal, came out of hiding and we had a stare-off before it returned to its shelter. The red panda had never been outside its box during previous visits but I spied one as it climbed a tree to rest on a high limb. The children, who had already run off, came back to see the much more peaceful version to its animated counterpart in Kung Fu Panda (Master Shifu).
I can’t remember the last time I’d been to a Zoo. It was probably Animal Kingdom in Orlando, Florida. What a pleasure it was to revisit a place that always manages to ignite my childlike excitement! The highlight of my visit was seeing the powerful rhinoceroses, close enough to apprehend their size, and increase my fascination with and respect for the mother whose offspring had been born at a whopping weight of 125 pounds! Wowzer!
When’s the last time you went to the zoo? What’s your favourite animal?