Sunday, 30 September 2012

All of the Animals

I got one of my birthday presents today. I knew what it was, at least on paper, but today was the day. It was a ticket to the Zoo and brunch afterwards and I have been impatiently waiting for today for nearly a week now.

I know what you are thinking, “Big deal! I’ve been to the zoo before and although nice, it isn’t something to wet your pants over.” Normally I would agree with you, but the Calgary Zoo opened a brand new Penguin exhibit a few months back and I hadn’t made it yet. When Louise and I hitch hiked west in the seventies, we stopped for a while in Vancouver and I spent many very pleasurable hours watching, laughing and communing with the Penguins that were living in the Stanley Park Zoo. I don’t know if that zoo still exists, but I hope so because if it can give anyone else half the joy that I found there, then it is worth the effort and expense.

Not only did we get to see the Penguins today, we had a backstage pass to see the Penguins! We were taken on a tour of the cold rooms, medical and food prep areas. We saw how the food is prepared (just thawed really), how the vitamins and medicine would be delivered. We went into the food storage freezer which is kept at -20° C and saw the fishcicles. They make fake ice blocks for them to play with and the dedication of the workers is quite simply amazing. Each Penguin is known by name and their diet and medication is posted on a big white board in one of the rooms. There is a Penguin called Ray, named after Ray Charles because he has cataracts on both eyes. He will get and operation, but first the handlers have been getting him accustomed to being fed by hand while they hold his beak. This way, when he needs eye drops after the operation, it won’t be traumatic for either party.

We also got to stand in the enclosure and take pictures of the different Penguins and have our picture taken with the stars of the show. I am and was speechless! I could have stayed there and gone native; although I imagine having a fat, naked old man swimming in the pool would have a negative impact on attendance.

If you live near a zoo, there is a strong possibility that this kind of thing is available to you. I am aware that everyone doesn’t share my affection for Penguins, but the backstage passes are available for other animals. I don’t think you would want to stand in with the lions or tigers, but it just might be something you could give to your wife or boss. We did the same thing a few years back with Spike the elephant when he got a stainless steel cap on his tusk. Louise was working at SAIT than and they made the cap which enabled Spike to live a normal life. I saw Spike today and he was getting medieval on a tractor tire, eventually breaking the chain that held it in the air.

I have been one of those bozos that would complain about the cost of going to the zoo. Back in the old days it was cheap to go to the zoo. Well, back in the old days the animals were kept in simple cages or enclosures and the focus was on the people instead of the animals. I can’t begin to guess the costs of this Penguin exhibit, but it isn’t cheap. I won’t be saying that kind of crap anymore, because the zoo is doing a tremendous job and the dedicated zoo workers are more than likely working for far less than they deserve. Especially Nicki and Nicky our two lovely tour guides.

I would like to thank all of the animals.

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