austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,
austin_dern
austin_dern

Don't be taken in by his welcome grin

Sometime last year, if I remember correctly, the Jurong Reptile Park renamed itself the Jurong Crocodile and Reptile Paradise. This seemed to me ominous, as places only add words like `Paradise' to their names when it is not fitting, and so I'd never been. But we were looking for something to do, and it was a bus, MRT, and bus ride away, so we tried taking it in.

The Jurong Crocodile and Reptile Paradise is this somewhat seedy, private-zoo affair with an assortment of snakes, turtles, crocodiles, false gharials (I think they're just as good as the real thing, and won't contest what they want to call themselves), and iguanas, surrounded by many ``closed for repairs'' exhibits. The crocodiles were a pretty relaxed, laid-back bunch, some rather stylish and cute considering they were just laying in place. The best exhibit was the iguanas, who have this nice enclosed ``Iguana Kingdom,'' with a sidewalk through a grassy patch and some ponds and buckets of greens you can buy (S$2.00, honour system) to feed them. They've figured out the buckets, and gather around them. spaceroo bought a bucket and was soon surrounded as he tossed out leaves; he barely escaped with his life. Many times he was in danger of being bumped on the shins by one.

Over at a catfish pond spaceroo tried feeding them fish food (S$0.50, honour system) from a bag, and that went well enough for the fish. For me, a suicidal bee took offense at me, and stung my left little toe. This was a clever bit of maneuvering, too; he got a point where the strap of my sandal would hit my toe, so I could get a renewal of pain every step for a half-hour or so. After this we took the fish food back to the ponds in the Iguana Kingdom. The fish and turtles there -- including a huge one that had a couple normal-size turtles in its orbit -- appreciated that, and an iguana bumped my shin.

The high point of this affair was the Crocodile Wrestling Exhibit. I'm not sure what to call it. It started at a little 70s-style amphitheater with cement-and-wood-ring seats to hold a couple hundred people, and an aquarium tank with four crocodiles, who, like all crocodiles, look like me about five minutes before the alarm goes off, only even less likely to move, laying on the center platform. As the warmup the speakers blared ``You Are My Sunshine,'' covered so that -- I swear -- it sounded like the Macarena, which left the audience, frankly, stunned. The crocodiles didn't move.

Then this poor fellow went out and irritated them, poking them with a bamboo pole or dragging them around by their tails until he could do stunts with them. This let him do various feats like pick up the smallest one, or put his head (briefly) into the largest one's mouth. It's an impressive show, certainly, but there's an exquisite sadness at this person taking a substantial risk of being maimed or killed to earn the awe and appreciation of 15 people.

The whole tour didn't take long, so we went next door, to the Jurong Bird Park. This is run by the same group that runs the Zoo and Night Safari, and while it's not big it's exactly the spiritual opposite of the Reptile Garden. It's big, bright, spacious, well-maintained, and unavoidably cheery, even before accounting for the 1,000 new loris they say they added recently. They do have an enclosure with a lot of lovely, incredibly colorful lori-model birds, along with dozens of people wandering through taking pictures, offering food, and trying to follow all the action in the very noisy enclosure.

So we spent the rest of the afternoon finding incredibly vibrant birds and photographing them where possible. A local curiosity was the Jurong Waterfall, a 30 meter waterfall claimed to be the largest man-made waterfall in the world. It may or may not be, but the place was surrounded by cockatoos and parrots and kingfishers and glossy starlings and many other beautifully colored birds. When I get the pictures downloaded I should have desktop folder fodder for months to come.

We couldn't get any good underwater pictures of the penguins swimming, because the room was dark and the plexiglass misty. But it was lovely. Among other curiosities was a replica of some Malaysian sort of tree (I took a picture of the display panel, but don't feel up to digging it out of the camera right now), and a simulated mist to give people the feel of being in a rain forest. Singapore does a lot of strange things, but that's a new one on me.

Trivia: Voyager 1, during its pass by Jupiter, oscillated about every 76 seconds. Source: Jupiter, Reta Beebe.

Currently Reading: The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, Diana Wynne Jones.

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