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Sunday at the Zoo

Last night out attempt to venture outside was foiled by the torrential downpour (thank you sopping wet neighbor guy, for warning us that our umbrellas would be only laughable in the storm – it’s raining sideways, he said) but today we did manage to leave the house. And were rewarded with bright sunshine and cool winds and a zoo overflowing with children. You had to pay extra attention to where you stepped, to avoid tripping over all the little kids raptly nibbling on their ice cream cones, entirely oblivious to anyone and anything in their path. Ah, sweet frozen dairy product daze, how you focus the mind on the zen of licking.

Anyway, the animals were quite active too. The prairie dogs were out in full force, ignoring the crowds clustered around them at near touching distance and happily munching straw. The prairie dogs were munching the straw I mean. The humans had licorice and ice cream cones and such to munch on. The woman next to me was on the phone, explaining how they had ended up at the National Zoo in DC and how they would have to come back because, my gosh, you just can’t do the entire zoo in one day. Imagine that! I bet the prairie dogs hear this all the time. The one I was looking at twitched his tail and reached over for another blade of dried grass.

We then followed the low rumblings of a lion’s call to Tiger and Lion Hill and were rewarded with a young male lion pacing by the moat and expressing himself quite audibly every now and then.  Lion roars, even without the full force of a lion’s temper behind them, are impressive. This young male was rolling his Rs and giving shorter growls, in between plopping down and playing, extremely, well, cat-like, with a large piece of wood and rolling himself around. Was it Spring fever? Was he mad about something or just feeling his oats? Was he bored and trying to entertain himself or calling to other lions? Your call, ’cause he’s not telling me.

The tigers were three to an area and looking very regal. Stripes are so cool. One of them was interested in something in the moat’s water but also clearly repulsed by the alga-covered liquid he was being murkily reflected in. At one point he lowered himself close to the water’s edge, bent his head toward it and then opened his mouth in what I have to read as disgust. It looked like he was spitting at it, blech. He declined to touch the surface and opted instead for stretching out next to his companion to cultivate his disdain of the water.

Even the wolves were visible, pacing their enclosure at mid-level in almost plain sight instead of skulking only at the top level, as far from people as possible. Last time I got this close to the wolves was at 7 am during the Morning at the Zoo visit. I learn from this that some days you get lucky and can see the wolves without getting up at 5 am but if you want to catch them drinking only 6 feet from your camera, you have to be an early bird. So to speak.

The beavers were busy digging for roots under a large rock in their yard. No sitting up in the cutest manner possible today, obviously because I had brought the camera this time, but he (or she) did stop for a quick photo op. Thanks. The ducks that come to nest in the beaver’s pond every year had a pile of fluffy little ducklings on display. If you’ve never seen a pile of ducklings all snuggled up together, I highly recommend it. So very cute.

Finally, we swung by the Elephant House because I cannot go to the zoo without visiting the capybaras.  They’ve had them separated for a while now and I wonder why. Maybe the brothers get territorial. One of them was chewing his way through a large pile of hay and I get so happy every time I see them.  The best thing about standing by the capybara cage (apart from the capys of course)is hearing people’s reaction as they walk by. Most people have no idea what capybaras are and usually don’t know what to make of them at all. “What is that?” “They’re like giant gerbils.” “Looks like a huge rodent” – indeed, capybaras are the world’s largest rodent. I usually refrain from correcting people when they are speculating wildly because it’s fun to hear what they think they are looking at. Priceless, those animals. The humans, I mean. Although I love the capybaras a lot too.

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