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Lazy Sunday – Part 1

I had meant to write this yesterday, but the defining part of a lazy Sunday is that you’re, well, lazy and aren’t doing things like updating the blog. But I have a good excuse for spending yesterday pretty much flat on the couch all day – I had a busy Saturday.

First off, Saturday morning was reserved for CockadoodleZoo (don’t laugh, the National Zoo is masterful at coming up with semi-rhyming event names), a special early-morning and behind-the-scenes look at the zoo for FONZ members. Last year I went on my own (and took lots of pictures, some of which can be viewed at Flickr – see the Caviodea’s Photos sidebar), and I guess my enthusiastic tales throughout the year of leaping lemurs, Asian small-clawed otters catching a morning snack of crickets and normally reclusive Mexican wolves lapping up the water in the pool right by the fence conveyed the intense level of my enthusiasm properly, so that on Saturday morning I was not the only one to get up workday-early instead of sleeping in.

Although, to be completely fair and to avoid giving the wrong impression, this current boyfriend (for whom a name shall be found after consultation with the concerned party) was not in the picture at the time of CockadoodleZoo 2005 and therefore simply not available to go with me, although I’m sure that he would have gladly come had he been around.

Anyway, back to the zoo. In general, early morning is a good time to visit a zoo because most animals tend to be active towards the morning and evening hours and spend much of the middle part of the day sleeping or hiding or both. The Mexican wolves for example have eluded me pretty much every single time I’ve been to the zoo, with the exception of my two early morning visits, as they tend to spend the day hunkered down in the upper part of their exhibit, resting in the shade.

So, CockadoodleZoo offers a chance to see the early morning activity of the animals while also getting a glimpse at the work that goes on behind the scenes. And of course, because the zoo knows that to keep its supporting FONZ members’s wallets open those members need to be entertained, the staff makes an extra effort to ensure the animals in question are, in fact, active. In the case of the River otters that were the first stop on our visit, this meant live goldfish.

First off, there was one solitary silver goldfish (yes, I know but I can’t help that they’re called goldfish even when they are not in fact golden) swimming in the otters’ pool. At this point the otters were still waiting eagerly in their den, behind closed doors, so the fish had the water to itself. At first I wondered whether it had somehow gotten into the pool by mistake but the volunteer at the exhibit explained that it was there as a treat for the otters. I don’t know if this had also been explained to the fish but at times it did seem to be eyeing the thick glass that separated it and the water from us with a view to escape.

Next, with the anticipation on both the otters’ and our side of the exhibit mounting, the keeper appeared with a large water jug, such as are used for office water coolers. Into this, she poured some water and then about 6 or 7 live goldfish who, while apparently somewhat disoriented at first, calmed down quickly into acceptance of their new situation (from plastic bag to larger plastic bottle) and spent a few moments serenely floating in the container balanced on the edge of the otter pool. And then things rapidly got worse for the fish.

The two otters were released, scampered immediately to the water cooler, in the process knocking it into the water, and proceeded energetically to go after their bottled snack. We had a nice view of the underwater action, and were able to observe that one of the otters was much more adept at getting a fish out of the rather small bottleneck than his companion, although both of them scrabbled and tumbled and somersaulted through the water, snouts continuously nosing at the small opening. I’m sure for the fish it was a horror movie, as they kept disappearing one by one, but as spectators we were hopelessly torn between the cuteness of the otters vying for their treat and the morbid fascination of seeing tiny little potential household pets eaten alive. What a show.

There was an especially tense moment when, while trying to extract fish #2 from the bottle, the otters came across the silver free-range fish swimming without benefit of a plastic shield. Immediately a high-speed water chase ensued, with the silver fish making valiant attempts at leaving the water altogether and escaping certain death at least once when we had already given up on it. But in the end the otters proved nimble, agile, and dexterous of claw and snout and ate that fish too. However, for all their prowess at handling the bottle of fish, the otters weren’t entirely successful: when we checked back towards the end of the morning, the water bottle still bobbed in the pool, and two hardy goldfish remained inside, possibly arguing over which of them should venture out to check on the others. The otters were nowhere in sight.

 

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