Seventy at Seventy

Life Begins at 70

[11] You Can Come Too

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You Can Come Too – A Blog about Zoos and Zoo Animals

Maybe it’s about zoo animals or maybe it’s about a particular place, Bristol Zoo Gardens or maybe it’s about a day out at the zoo.

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I used to love zoos – long, long ago. Back in the sixties no one worried about how animals were kept in zoos and they generally had all the expected large animals.

I have memories of early visits to what was then called Regent’s Park Zoo in London. As in zoos all over the World, you could then see at very close quarters elephant, giraffe, rhinoceros, hippo, lions, tigers, zebra, various antelopes, chimpanzees and polar bears. They were standard and you expected every zoo to have them.

Even as late as the nineties you could see most of these still. But since then have gradually disappeared from zoos. Some of the larger animals can now be seen in Safari Parks – free roaming rather than caged. We now know much more how much animals suffer from being confined and for many people the idea of keeping animals in zoos is very outdated.

Because I like watching and photographing animals I am ambivalent about zoos. I tend to assume that those who keep zoos understand what they are doing and treat the animals well. They concentrate now on what we would call ‘lower’ forms of animal life. Bristol Zoo has its aquarium, reptile house, insects and butterflies.

Bristol Zoo

I have a few memories of this zoo. In 1999 I made a detour and stopped there briefly while walking from Land’s End to John O’Groats. I think there were still two elephants there then.

It has changed like all zoos. I think I have been there two or three times more recently so this time I knew what to expect. Gone are the elephants, the polar bears and most of the large animals. But they still have lions and a gorilla.

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A Trip to the Zoo

As a sort of birthday treat and to help this blog along I decided to have a day at the zoo. I checked on the Internet, even checked weather forecasts a few days ahead and booked my transport and entry online.

By the time the day came the weather forecast had changed a bit. It was not at all good. At least, I thought, the zoo won’t be full of lots of other visitors.

I set the alarm and was early. The train ride from Cheltenham to Bristol was unexciting and I waited outside for my bus to the zoo.

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It was not the best time to arrive in Bristol. I was too early to use my bus pass and rush hour traffic made the bus trip very slow. But as predicted the zoo was empty when I finally arrived there. There were no queues to get in!

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In view of the forecast I went round some of the bits I remembered without even looking at the map while the weather was still good. I left the flamingo enclosure straight away when I heard lions roaring but the King of the Jungle was never in good view. Their enclosure provides enough undergrowth for the lions to stay out of sight. When they did emerge the plastic glass, which now protects us, was too dirty for any useful photographs. I’m not sure that these animals were happy at the zoo.

The order of the day was of dark areas, where pictures were difficult, and animals hiding away from the autumnal weather – and even some sections closed for the winter. I didn’t see any bats in the bat enclosure and my first real sightings came in the Reptile House. The good thing about reptiles is that they are cold blooded and so they keep very still but it was n ot good lighting.

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Dwarf Crocodile, Gila Monster and Spiny-tailed Lizard posed for my pictures.

I visited Bug World to see some of the larger and more colourful of insects.

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Here are a Goliath Beetle, a Sun Beetle and a Jewel Beetle.

For comparison, this little Poison Dart Frog is about the same size as the Goliath Beetle.

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I was disappointed with the monkey areas. I suppose the weather was not very African so the monkeys stayed inside and did nothing. The poor Gorilla had a large area to roam in including Gorilla Island. But he sat inside munching his breakfast salad forlornly. I think he was lonely.

I will come back later to some places I visited twice but I made the right decision a bit before eleven o’clock to stop for coffee in the large tent erected while the main restaurant is being refurbished.

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I had had the best of the weather for the day.

Butterflies

I missed these out on my first circuit as the exhibit opened at 11:00 but it was the obvious place to go when I started off again as it was now raining.

The good thing was that it had some very nice pretty butterflies settling very close. One settled on my arm for a minute but I couldn’t manipulate my camera with one hand to photograph it!

The disappointing factors were: there were only two species, only one very large species; they folded their wings on landing; and it was so hot and humid that the camera tended to mist over.

Here are the two species.

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It didn’t rain all the time and after the butterflies I revisited a few places.

Aquarium

The fish were a bit too fast inside their plastic containers.

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This little mudskipper kept very still for me.

Zona Brazil

The animals were still waking up for my first visit but they were had come out into the open and were a bit more lively later.

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Tapir and Capybara.

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And a Little Agouti.

Penguins and Seals

I knew this was going to be my favourite enclosure. You could get near to the animals in the open – and they kept very still.

African Penguin and Fur Seal.

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But that wasn’t all in this enclosure. There were Eider Ducks making their very recognisable call sounds.

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And there were Inca Terns!

I don’t know what stopped them flying away but they perched on the rocks and preened themselves almost at touching distance. I think these were my favourites of the visit.

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Without getting philosophical about the definition of zoo animals I will end with pictures of two visitors, free to come and go as they choose.

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You will see Pigeons everywhere, almost throughout the World. They are one of my favourite birds because they come in such a variety of plumage patterns. (I may even do a blog just about Pigeons.)

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This squirrel was so engrossed in what he was eating that he wasn’t bothered by me taking pictures.

Just in case you were wondering, there was a later spell of heavy rain (round about lunch time,) but it cleared up and was dry for my return journey by bus and train,

 

For my title I could have used for used another biblical extract from Genesis where God said to Noah: ‘Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee by sevens, the male and his female: and of beasts that are not clean by two, the male and his female.’

But instead I have to look to one of my memories from the sixties, Julie Felix.

Going to the Zoo, written in 1970, is probably for children. It starts:

Daddy’s takin’ us to the zoo tomorrow; zoo tomorrow, zoo tomorrow

Daddy’s takin’ us to the zoo tomorrow; and we can stay all day!

It has the equally memorable chorus:

We’re goin’ to the zoo, zoo, zoo; How about you, you, you?

You can come too, too, too; We’re goin’ to the zoo, zoo, zoo.

 

Author: Alan

Retired, currently living in Cheltenham.

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