Thursday, August 18, 2011
Some of my favorite things - monkeys & big cats
When my friends and I take our kids to the DC zoo, we don't have to stop to pick up a map because I already have it engraved in my head and know where all the animals are. When I go on vacation, I go to the zoo. This is all in preparation for the safari I'll go one one day. I want to be sure I know the difference between a bongo and a waterbuck and a Chapman's And Grevy's zebra. During this vacation, we've gone to the zoo in London, Antwerp, and Madrid.
My favorite animals, in general, are the monkeys and the big cats, so I really do judge whether I like a zoo based on those exhibits.
In London, we came across the Emperor Tamarins. These long mustached miniature monkeys are going on my list of favorites (think the little wise creature in Kung Fu Panda). They were in London's rainforest and also in Antwerp. They are very cute!
Antwerp has a major focus on their "Chimps in Antwerp" section. Maybe a dozen or more chimps, along with gorillas, macaques, baboons, and other small monkeys. They have a variety living enclosures. There are some open areas you can walk through and search out the tamarins. Of course the gorilla houses smelled like any other, hold your breath before going in.
In Madrid, visitors can purchase animal food for some of the animals. We bought food to fee the flamingoes and monkeys. I like this "interaction" between visitor and animal, in theory, because it's fun for the kids, but some folks skip buying the "food" and throw whatever they want. We saw some people throwing candy to the gibbons and who knows what, including trash, to the baboons. It's unhealthy for the animals, and of course the trash just looks a mess. (This also goes for the people who feed the ponies at Assateague, too.)
We weren't given any instructions of which monkeys to feed, except from the monkeys themselves. The gibbons are obviously accustomed to being fed b/c they put their hands outside of cage and wiggled fingers for food, like humans! and made a call noise. The kids threw the food, the gibbons caught it. We also threw food to the baboons, because I don't know if "fed" is the right word here. Madrid has about 100 baboons in a large stone den area. When you throw food into the den, it causes the baboons to screech and fight for it. They were very wild and aggressive, interesting to watch but sometimes a bit unnerving.
None of the zoos had particularly interesting big cat exhibits. Either they don't have any or we missed them in London; I think Madrid doesn't have any. In Antwerp, they are building a new area for their lions, so they were not on display. The tigers had their own area, complete with a moat to keep them in and little children out. Jags and leopards could use a new spot, they are still in the old style cement & bar cages.
As for aquariums - most zoo aquariums aren't that spectacular, but more of a necessity to cover the aquatic animals. Most exhibits are little more than regular fish in regular tanks. Even DC zoo's aquatic animals (octopus, etc.) isn't that fancy either. If you've gone to the National Aquarium in Baltimore, the Atlanta Aquarium, or Atlantis in Bahamas, you can skip the aquarium at the zoo. (The London Zoo, however, gets historical points for being the first zoo to have an aquarium and for giving the aquatic exhibit it's name.)
They all had admission charges - averaging about 15€ per person, so I experienced a bit of sticker shock at the ticket booth. It made me appreciate my FONZ membership at the National Zoo in DC (which is free for everyone) that much more.