(I took this at a great distance, through a chain link fence. Still, embiggen it. It’s a great photo for a small camera. Thanks, FC.)
Yesterday, Bud and Bruce and I went off to visit the Southwick Zoo in Mendon, MA. I always approach zoos with suspicion; the irony being that although I work in one, I’ve never been fond of the notion of captive animals and it’s difficult for me to witness them in small-ish enclosures when, you know, they should be free. Except of course, most all the animals in zoos today never have been and since man has so mucked up his relationship with the rest of the planet for years, now we are charged with the responsibility of caring for and protecting them in ways we wouldn’t have had to if we hadn’t decided they were here for our amusement and domination in the first place. But then again, it’s possible that early training in that direction prepares one well for later life. You never know when it might fall to you to decide the fate of one of the planet’s most magnificent species, like, say- polar bears.
Anyway, the Southwick Zoo is a private zoo plopped out in the middle of nowhere and they charge an outrageous admission (with no reciprocity to their fellow docents). Could be terrible, one would think. Surprise, surprise! Southwick Zoo is absolutely delightful in every respect. We ambled through the most gorgeous New England day, in a woodsy setting dotted with a sunny acre here and there and saw healthy, clean and, I dare say, contented animals at every turn. The place is spotless, the exhibits highly accessible and the broad scope impressive. It’s really a nice, nice place.
So, this baby white tiger caught my eye for a couple reasons. First off, we don’t have one at Lincoln Park- a youngster or a white one. We’re trying to encourage Molly to breed but thus far she has no interest in the fellow we’ve brought in for her. Also, this little guy was in the same enclosure with another young tiger so I assume they have been together since birth or very early on, because tigers are solitary animals except when they are breeding or very young. White tigers are a mutation linked to a rare recessive gene that occurs in about 1 in 10,000 tiger births, so they are striking and unusual, the subject of many myths. These kind of birth flukes often bring with them flaws and as a mutation, they have no place in a breeding population. Zoos that work in cooperation with the Species Survival Plan put forth by the AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums) do not breed them, period. Southwick Zoo is a member of the AZA and is involved with the SSP for the protection and conservation of endangered species but this lovely youngster is not one of them. While we were there he was lolling about in tall grass and chasing, yes, butterflies.
Okay, I admit to enjoying the petting zoo areas of zoos. For those of us who rarely get close to deer and sheep and goats, being mobbed by them for corn can be a real hoot. Bud has lots of deer but he really enjoyed hand feeding them, too.
(Yes. The other goat is pooping away.)
Southwick has a large deer park at the far end of the zoo, covering a vast wooded area that appears to go on forever. But the deer know right where folks come in, corn in hand.
Uncle Buck Bruce has all of the enthusiastic, happy genes that run strong in this family and not very many of the ones that tip us to melancholy. He’s fun to be around because he is intensely curious about the world and full of positive energy. This photo captures him well.
(On second thought, it might not have been such a good idea to use the hat for corn.)
(I always snort at folks who have their Blackberries strapped to their right hip, like a techno weapon.)
This silly guy was a big hit. While all the signs were warning against getting too close to the porcupine lest he get anxious and start whizzing quills, he was doing everything but yelling, “Me! Me! I’m hopelessly cute, too!” trying to win our attention.
(I left all the photos large today-sorry for the slow loading, but they’re fun to enlarge.)
We saw lions and monkeys and wonderful red kangaroos nursing babies and giant tortoises. I didn’t see a single zoo employee and when I had a couple questions there was nary a docent there. Actually, the place was pretty well empty considering it was one of the most spectacular early autumn days I can remember. That made our visit especially nice and relaxed. Southwick Zoo is seasonal, closing in October. I don’t want to even think where all these critters spend the cold months of the year, but for now, with all of them living in spacious natural outdoor habitats with none of those dark, dank buildings that sometimes populate zoos- well, they too seemed nice and relaxed.
Tonight we head back to the airport and part ways, Bud flying through Minneapolis and I go directly to Chicago. I know he’s had a wonderful time and I sense that he is strongly torn: he loves his wilderness home and misses his cats but he’s lonely there, too. He talks more about this isolation and loneliness now but I think he’s not ready to give up his independence. We’ll plan another visit for Thanksgiving and then he’ll come to Florida for a spell this winter.
*No surprise that Mz. Bonnie knows that Edgar Guest wrote ‘it takes a heap of living to make a house a home.’ I think they teach that stuff at the Cow College University she attended. On the other hand, she will, of course, know this one as well. Speaking of cow colleges, it must be a football Saturday…