Post # 225 Don’t Feed the Animals

March 10, 2014 at 5:16 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Partner/Spouse and I went to the zoo yesterday.  We’re members now, so it was merely a matter of showing our card and walking in.  Felt kind of nice, like we were part owners of the place.  There’s a natural flow to the zoo that lends itself to walking and observing.  I won’t bore you with all the animals and birds we saw.  But it did remind me of an experience I had in Laos, many years ago.

You may recall from one of my many posts in the past that I loved the country of Laos.  It’s a place full of paradox and warm lovely people.  Food is unexpected and quite good.  This was the place where bugs are sold on the street as snack food:

The Rule 01

while other bugs are a deep fried delicacy:

The Rule 02

Those are deep fried crickets, by the way.

After the picnic where I was actually served those deep-fried morsels, and ate two of them with gust, several of us went on to a local zoo.  The zoo itself was rustic and dusty and featured local animals primarily.  I was struck by two things: first, how humanely the animals were treated in such a poor country; and second, how completely natural the animals’ living areas were.  The pens were designed so that the animals felt as though they were “in the wilds” and so there was very little interaction with the tourists.

Once, while in China, I got to visit a Panda Bear Orphanage.  It was designed not only to care for the animals, but to show them off at their finest for the tourists.  It didn’t happen for everyone, but my group got to interact with the animals directly.

Pandas 01

This one was still a baby, weighing in at about 40 pounds.  He’s chomping on an apple to keep him distracted from the fact that I’m not his handler, but he didn’t seem very upset by being on my lap.  He turned my jeans brown from the dust and dirt in his fur.

The same thing happened in Laos.  We got to interact with the animals in ways that the normal tourists weren’t able to.  At one point, a few of us were allowed to ride an elephant in a circle as they were exercising him.  My jeans got just as dirty from riding the elephant as they did from holding the panda.  I have pics somewhere that I’ll share when/if I stumble across them.

The zoo in Laos was a real pleasure to be in.  They took pains with what they were creating, wanting to show people they cared about the animals, not just for the animals.  As I said, I got to interact with the animals in ways I never expected to.

It’s almost a universal rule in zoos that I’ve been to nearly everywhere that you don’t feed the animals.  The handlers and vets assigned to each animals watch their charges closely to make certain they’re getting the right nutrients and not getting fat.  Animals that aren’t in the wild will still eat as though they are, which means that will eat everything they can get their jaws around since they don’t know where or when their next meal is coming.

While at the zoo yesterday, we saw a little caiman.  A caiman is a dwarf crocodile.  We went into the underground exhibit to see him/her who was hiding out in a corner of the pond area.  All we could see were the eyes.


But later, we were walking over an overpass and I glanced down and saw the caiman exhibit from above.  I could see the little guy waiting patiently.  He hadn’t moved a single muscle except to breathe.  In a flash, I was transported back to Laos where I was at the zoo, also on a bridge, and also looking down at a bunch of crocodiles who were also looking back up at us.

Crocs look malevolent.  The have an intense, unblinking, unwavering stare.  They don’t look away from their prey unless they’re distracted by an attack, or bigger prey.  They looked up at us and hissed like snakes.  It was creepy.  Then, a little man with a covered basket came along and spoke to the locals we were with.  For a dollar, he would cut up a chicken carcass into quarters and we could feed the crocs.

I gave him two dollars.  Leaning over the bridge, I slowly dropped these dead, denuded birds one by one into the waiting jaws about fifteen feet below me.  It started simply enough.  The first one dropped directly into a mouth which plunged away into the dark water with its prize.  The second landed in the water a few feet from any animal and suddenly the water erupted into a mass of struggles as each croc tried to latch hold to the meat.  Over the next several minutes, I dropped bits of bird down and watched the ensuing minor battles.  It was fascinating, and all I could think was how happy I was not to be in river full of those things.  I don’t think Tarzan would have made it out alive.

When I was done, I looked up into the eyes of one of my teammates, and grinning said, “That was cool!”

“Dude, you’re whacko,” he replied.

We didn’t feed any more animals, but that was enough.

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