I miss going to the zoo each week. It was one of my favourite activities when we lived in the city. Actually, other than the grandparents, I’d have to say it’s pretty much one of the only things I miss. (Well, that and water that just magically appears whenever I turn on the tap). I just love zoos. I’m pretty sure I enjoy them more than the kids.
So, since we had to come down to Adelaide for an appointment, we have to do something while we’re here. What could be better than a month at the zoo?
My ideal day at the zoo involves sitting at one animal for the morning, and a different one for the afternoon. Sometimes I may see one animal in a day at the zoo, sometimes three. But I don’t just rush around the zoo trying to see all the animals. I’d just prefer to see a few well, rather than seeing all of them. I have a feeling that maybe this could, possibly, irritate someone else. In fact, we did have an au pair who quit after spending the entire day with us watching the orangatangs at Melbourne Zoo.
I begged, pleaded and cajoled Jarrad into letting me buy a zoo membership. This was really good of him to let me do this. Not because zoo memberships are particularly expensive. They aren’t. Actually, they are generally really good value for money. Any who, Jarrad will usually agree to a once-a-year zoo trip – no more. Preferably less. However, he has finally come around to my way of visiting the zoo, which is to sit there and relax in front of a single animal for hours on end.
(Note: zoo memberships are pretty much all reciprocal around Australia. So if you join any zoo as a member you’ll have access to all of the other zoos except for the Irwins’ Australia Zoo and the one in Canberra. Melbourne Zoo is probably the best value for money. They don’t charge anything for kids under 16 to be on the membership. The first adult is $85, and the second adult is $75. Not bad for a year’s worth of zoo entry.)
First up is Adelaide Zoo. In my opinion, it really didn’t fare too well in comparison to Melbourne Zoo. There was no dedicated zoo car park, so even with a membership we were still paying $10 for 4 hours parking outside the zoo. Not happy. The idea of the membership is supposed to be to make it free to visit the zoo. It’s not free if we’re having to pay for parking (I know, Melbourne Zoo has completely spoilt us as they have a very large, free car park for zoo visitors). However, grumbles aside, it is a zoo. And did I mention I love zoos?
The first thing I wanted to see were the two pandas that the Adelaide Zoo rent from China at the price of 3 million per year. I’ve never seen pandas before, and to say I was excited would be an understatement. When we got to the zoo on the first morning, we headed straight for the pandas.
Well, behind the glass enclosures, two pandas slept. And slept. And slept. Even I got bored fairly quickly. I think it was the second or third day there before we actually got to see one moving about. To say it was adorable would be an understatement. They were just as adorable moving around as I had imagined. They really did look like big living teddy bears.
So, did Adelaide Zoo meet expectations? Nope. I was quite disappointed. Melbourne Zoo has so much written information at each animal that you can learn a lot about the animals. There are also many more “Meet The Keepers” opportunities. We found that even when we did meet the keepers, that their ability to answer questions was limited. For example,
“The Barbary Sheep look so much like goats. Are they closely related?” The keeper’s response was, “Ah, I’m not sure.” (According to wikipedia, they are in a subfamily of ruminents called goat-antilopes, meaning that they are just as closely related to goats as they are to sheep.) Thank god we had an iphone with us to google the kids questions!
Next question? Peter asked, “How old are the lambs?” The keeper told him they were about a week old. Jarrad pointed to the sign, that said the lambs’ date of birth. It quite clearly showed that the lambs were three weeks old. At that point, we gave up asking her anything.
At the meerkat enclosures, a keeper who resembled Paris Hilton crossed with the Irwin family, was no better. We asked, “How do you stop the meerkats from escaping?” ”How deep can they dig?” She couldn’t answer either of these questions. Actually, when six-year-old Lucy asked her if they were carnivores or herbivores, she couldn’t even answer that question. Luckily, 10 year old Peter jumped in with, “They are omnivores, Lucy. Do you remember that day at the Melbourne Zoo when we watched the meerkats kill and eat a little bird that landed in the meerkat enclosure?”
Another day we stood in the avery for hours. The keeper came in to feed the birds while we were there. She was great. She chatted to us for ages, and along with another couple of visitors, we all bemoaned the fact that a noisy group of school kids were screeching in delight in the neighbouring parrot avery. It meant that the shy birds, including the lyrebird, would not come out to feed. However, she suggested that we came with her over to the parrots who she needed to feed, too. Peter, Susan and Lucy were so excited when she asked, “Where are those kids I was talking to before? Do you want to come here and feed the cockatoo first?” They actually got to hand feed the black cockatoo, while the rainbow lorikeets flew around.
The children’s zoo reminded us more of a petting farm than a zoo. The guinea pigs, chickens and goats were obviously so accustomed to children petting them that they almost seemed oblivious to the kids. Eight year old Susan was sitting down watching a few kangaroos lazily grazing on the grass, when to her delight a quokka jumped on to lap. It nestled in to her, and showed no signs of moving at all. Even when we needed to leave as it was closing time, it still didn’t want to budge. It just sat there, ignoring Susan’s gentle attempts to move it.
My favourite way to spend a day at the zoo is to sit and observe at a single animal for hours on end. However, there was an animal we moved on from rather quickly. As we approached the baboons, we were delighted that there was a male and female close to the glass. Jarrad waved at the nearest one, which happened to be the female. The male was NOT impressed to have another male waving at one of his ladies, even if it was a male of another species and separated by a pane of glass. It promptly jumped on the female’s back and proceeded to sow his wild oats, as the female squealed and screamed. He couldn’t have lasted more than half a minute, but Jarrad and I looked at each other in horror, dreading the questions that our kids were going to ask.
“Daddy! Daddy! Make it scream again! That was so funny! Why did it squeal like that?”
As we quickly moved to the next animal, I muttered quietly to Jarrad, “I can’t believe that the kids have absolutely no idea what they just saw.”
“Oblivious.” He agreed. ”I wouldn’t have waved at it if I’d had any idea he would react like that!”
It was great to spend the week wandering around the zoo. There’s something so relaxing about sitting at a zoo, just watching the animals. At closing time one day, Susan said to me, “I love the zoo, Mum, but I do feel so sad that the animals are stuck in captivity. It must be so horrible for them.”
“Do you really think so?” I asked her. We launched in to a long-winded discussion about the role that zoos play in conservation and protection of animals. I think she felt a lot better about it after that.