Gary Conkling Life Notes

Mostly whimsical reflections on life

A Great Day at the Zoo

Any day at the zoo is wonderful. A day at the zoo with your granddaughter is sublime.

Ten-year-olds like Ava bring curiosity and unbridled enthusiasm that adults lose through life. Seeing animals and exhibits (and other zoo visitors) through the eyes of a young girl is pretty eye-opening.

We picked a day to go to the zoo when temperatures were predicted to reach 105 degrees. (Ava lives in Scottsdale, so the temperature didn’t seem abnormal.)

The weather didn’t disappoint, but strangely the heat wasn’t a negative factor. The Oregon Zoo has lots of shade. We went early so we the temperature hadn’t peaked. And the threat of excessive heat kept most people away. We had the zoo almost to ourselves.

For whatever reason, the animals were active, even the lazy lions. The pride prowled and preened and posed for pictures.

Nora the polar bear put on a show, performing paw stands and batting around some kind of a brush next to a viewing window.

The harbor seals frolicked, the elephants strutted in their new enlarged Elephant Lands and the mongoose interacted with people, like our granddaughter, who stuck their head up a plastic bubble in the middle of their exhibit. The chief chimp shouted an angry chimp rant. It even seemed like the giant python opened his eyes to spy a possible lunch item to squeeze staring at him through a glass window.

Many animals took siestas. Lance the crocodile hid in the lower corner of his cove. The black bears slept like rocks on rocks, the painted dogs hid and the cheetahs zoned out. Jack the bald eagle majestically surveyed his slice of forest without a flinch. The animals in the petting shed were AWOL. So was Paiute the cougar.

Without crowds and distracting food outlets, which were closed because of the heat, you could traverse the entire zoo with ease. We found enough shade near the fruit bats to eat lunch.

We viewed with sadness the hippos that were lounging on their concrete beach. They will be shipped somewhere else soon so the rhino exhibit can be updated and expanded. The rhinos were sleeping in the shade in the rear of their current exhibit.

The flamingos stood in a kind of one-legged salute, as if they were surprised anybody showed up at the zoo in the extreme hot weather, including them.

Buttercup the giraffe enjoyed the warmer temps by galloping around in his pen as a zookeeper fired a water gun at them to cool them down.

The sun bear was out of character and hung out out of the sun.

Eddie the sea otter and a pair of river otters, always show-stealers, were up to their usual tricks, twisting and turning as perpetual water clowns.

The penguins seemed to have the day off, as they just stood around.

Dozer and Shelly, the tortoises, gorged on sweet potato chunks.

The naked mole rats were, well, naked.

The Keeper’s Notes at each exhibit made it easier to relate to animals. Signs throughout the zoo reflected the legacy of devotion to conservation. The Oregon Zoo’s contributions to elephant conservation is legendary. It has contributed to a greater understanding and the survival of many species, including the California Condor.

We were sweating and thirsty by the time we finished trooping through the Great Northwest exhibit. On our way home, we stopped at Sonic for frozen drinks.

The day was summed up by Ava who hugged her Nana and Papa at the end of the day and said, “That was a great day at the zoo.” It certainly was.





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