Saturday, August 8, 2015

At The Zoo

  Works been slow and I have some time off coming so I took the afternoon off Wednesday and went with Kathy to Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines where we met Matt and his girlfriend. I hadn’t been to any zoo since the kids were little. I don’t know where Blank Park Zoo ranks among nationwide zoos. I found a site called ‘’ that rated it 123 out of 251 zoos in the country. It seems like a small zoo and probably doesn’t have the widest variety of animals but the people who work there seem to care about the animals, it is undoubtedly the best zoo in the area, and it was a pleasant way to spend an afternoon.

The animals were sluggish at the Blank Park Zoo...

  Even though it wasn’t especially hot most of the animals seem sort of sluggish. There was a big netted pen of Japanese macaques (or snow monkeys). The little macaques bounced around while the adults just sat around grooming themselves and each other. In another pen a pair of lions slept through the afternoon close to the nearby snow leopards. The featured attraction was a pair of rhinoceroses that were also sleeping. The giraffes and camels would probably have been lying around except they spend most of their lives standing up. There were many different exhibits of birds, monkeys, and fish that were fairly active with the activity prize going to the seals and otters that continually swam and splashed in their water.

...but things perked up at feeding time!

  I’m hardly unfamiliar with the animal kingdom with my own little household zoo consisting of two beagles, a cat, rabbit, cockatiel, pleco, and a turtle. One thing that always perks up our animals is feeding time and when it got to be feeding time at the zoo the ‘wild’ animals perked up. The first animals we saw get fed were the tortoises. There are four that patrol a grassy area including 70+ year old tortoise Barnaby. Barnaby weighs 500 pounds and was shambling slowly around the pen but when the zookeeper came out with some romaine lettuce Barnaby stood up, stretched out, and followed the zookeeper all around his yard as fast as his legs could carry him to get some of the lettuce.

  After Barnaby and the rest of the tortoises had eaten we went to watch the penguins. There were about two dozen penguins swimming and hanging around. The zookeeper came over to the penguins with a bucket of fish and a bucket of water and sat down to feed the penguins. There were a couple of dozen penguins and they crowded around the zookeeper, who started throwing fish at the penguins. The penguins eating the fish reminded me a lot of Daisy and Baxter getting their beef stick treats. They would try to maneuver the fish down their throats and work it down without even a swallow. If a penguin dropped a fish it would head back to the zookeeper to get more fish instead of picking the fish up. The zookeeper would pick up the discarded fish and wash them in his bucket of water before finding a willing throat for them.

Snow leopards like milk and Sea lions like fish!

  After watching the penguins it was time to watch the sea lions. They were swimming laps but it was still a few minutes until feeding time so Kathy and I looked at the snow leopards one more time. While we were there a zookeeper came by with a squirt bottle and the snow leopards shook off their lethargy and started prancing by their fence to get the attention of the zookeeper. The zookeeper told us the squirt bottle contained milk which was the snow leopards favorite treat. The female snow leopard wanted that milk so bad she banged against the fence, forcing her snout through the fence so hard she cut her mouth.

  Soon enough it was time to see the sea lions get fed. The zookeepers came out with a bucket of fish and started making a clicking noise with a device. The sea lions swam over and started flopping around doing tricks to the clicking noise. It seems the clicking noise is praise for the animals (the zookeepers also made the noises by the tortoises) and the food is an extra reward. The animals learn tricks and to let the zookeepers examine them so any health problems can be found out as soon as possible. The sea lions performed some simple tricks, ate some fish, and we were on to finish our trip to the zoo.

There is a herd of Wallaby in the Australian exhibit and giant red parrots are in the Amazon Rain Forest walk-through.

  We saw wallabies, lemurs, an aquarium, a flock of pink flamingos, and a mockup of the Amazon rain forest. In the center of everything was a troop of prairie dogs in their own raised area. The prairie dogs were nonplussed by all the people milling around them. Their coolness made then my zoo favorites next to the tortoises.

Finishing up with the pink flamingos and the very cool prairie dogs...

  After a quick bite to eat Kathy and I headed home to our own zoo. There were dogs and turtles to feed and dogs to walk. I had a great time at the Zoo and it was interesting to see how food motivates all these animals. The only thing I didn't like was how hard it was to get pictures through the fencing and netting but after seeing Jurassic Park I didn't even think of complaining. I thought most of the animals seemed bored but if it was me I’d rather be bored and well fed than have a full live fighting for survival.