from Deanna Travis
Publisher & Owner
Since I recently wrote about survival in the Sonoran Desert, it's only fair and fitting to title this one Oasis. We spent most of the day today, Thursday the 17th of November, in mild 70 degree weather at the Reid Park Zoo in metropolitan Tucson.
The Zoo, founded in 1965 with a collection of birds, prairie dogs, farm animals, and a few squirrel monkeys, has expanded to a 17-acre campus that houses hundreds of animals in naturalistic exhibits and annually hosts nearly 500,000 visitors.
We had driven past the zoo several times and today my husband Trav surprised me by taking me to see the zoo – and especially to see the giraffes. I had mentioned I had never seen one 'for real' but like most folks certainly had seen them on television or films. At the zoo today for a small donation of two bucks you received a couple (2) carrots and you could feed them to the giraffes. I only had two carrots and there were three giraffes, but there were other folks standing in line to feed them as well. The zoo staff gals asked that we please not try to touch them however as they just don't like being touched. I didn't, but the pull to do it anyway was very strong. You just want to know what they feel like.
I have to admit I fought back tears (I'm sure everyone would have thought the old woman was nuts) but these magnificent animals are just so incredibly awkward and beautiful at the same time and they have very long blue tongues! They love the carrots (I'm told they also like a special biscuit the zoo bakes for them.) These are Reticulated Giraffes from Africa and like all the other animals we saw at the Reid Park Zoo are in wonderful shape, obviously very well cared for.
There is a local fight going on regarding a new African Habitat which is expected to be open soon after the first of the year. The problem is the zoo now has two elephants, both female, one being an Asian, the other an African. Some zoo organization which advises zoos on various subjects has "suggested" it is improper to house elephants of different species together. These have been together for 30 years. What harm I ask? Perhaps as they increase their herd in the new area which is being built now that could be a factor, but since they aren't going to mate and have been companions for their whole lives what is to be accomplished? I really hope they are not separated.
There were other animals and birds I had not seen, especially a flock of Flamingos. I had seen them from a distance in Florida but here was perhaps thirty within touching range. Very neat!
There are two aviaries as well and that was just terrific fun. I told Trav I had laughed at the Roseate Spoonbills in the Bahamas. As fishermen we are quite used to seeing Great Blue Herons with their slow, very sneaky hunting methods, but the spoonbills are like clowns! They stomp their feet and sort of stagger along in the water. Trav explained they sweep the partly-opened bill from side to side so we really need to have stuff moving so they can wave their bills back and forth across the bottom to catch whatever is there to eat. When any small aquatic creature touches the inside of the slightly opened beak it snaps shut. Funny to watch for sure, and interesting to see them roosting in the trees in one of the aviaries.
There were a couple of outstanding things, which considering the size and range of critters and birds at the zoo is a bit of a comment of the wonderful job they have done. Watching the Anteater swing his nose as he walked past us, Trav looked at the hair on his legs and tail and said, "fly tiers would have fun with that." They walk on their knuckles with their huge claws folded underneath their feet.
Back to the outstanding, there are two black phase Jaguars. They are much larger than I had imagined, and when the sunlight hit them you could see their spots. One climbing around in the rocks and the other lounging in a tree, seeming to be happy, well fed in very nice displays.
The other biggie was a very large Mayan Tiger. Wow. He looked very much like a Siberian but overall chunkier and just more massive (if any tiger is more massive than another). We were standing in a small cave with a plate glass window, floor to ceiling, separating us. He looked right at me (I was staring at him) came up to the glass, sniffed me –there is an airspace alongside the glass – and then made a huffing sound a couple of times. Pretty exciting stuff.
My late husband JC said I was very child-like in some respects - no, not childish.
I really am blessed to be able to see, appreciate and enjoy so many things in nature especially with the honest curiosity and joy of a child. I do think it is a blessing, I'm afraid we lose so much of that as we get older. That somehow it isn't cool to go nuts over anything we see or to feel that sense of love and joy we were graced with as children.
When is the last time you had that? I do hope you are able to capture some of it again. It sure is a terrific way to live. ~ LadyFisher