I was doing nothing suspicious at all when I ran across a Reuters report about a papier-mâché zebra that escaped a zoo and required the efforts of 150 zoo workers, police officers, and fire fighters to capture it. This happened, of course, in Japan. If you had to name a country likely to have a papier-mâché zebra escape a zoo and require the mobilization of a hundred and fifty people there's really no logical choice other than Japan, except for Singapore, the United Kingdom, Canada, Hong Kong, Australia, Italy, and Germany.
This particular zebra escaped the Ueno Zoo in Tokyo, and it was no mere accident: it happened during an annual earthquake drill used to train zookeepers on how, following an earthquake, to keep animals from doing anything which results in news reports starting ``and sadly''. The question is how the zebra knew the timing of the earthquake drill. Perhaps it's observed the pattern in the last several years and knew this would be a moment when matters were their most confused.
Perhaps it's learned to recognize earthquake sirens. I assume there are earthquake sirens even in the zoos. They would need them so the giraffes will understand what is happening when the ground starts shaking, causing zoo patrons to scream in alarm, and then huge waves travel up their enormous necks, causing zoo patrons to point and laugh. You wouldn't want the giraffes to take that personally. Plus this way they have some warning before their heads start wobbling. Obviously, the papier-mâché zebras have picked up the signal.
The Reuters article featured just over a minute of video footage showing the zebra -- staring glass-eyed and unblinking -- meandering around in its two pairs of pants and rubber boots, in some form of park while unafraid children made appreciative sounds whenever it did something particularly interesting. Most of the interesting activity was ambling away from or kicking at people who seem to be zoo-related. At least they were groups of people wearing orange jackets and white helmets with various Japanese words written all over the clothes. It might have been people gathered in costume for recreational purposes, but that probably would have had costumes with less Safety Orange.
Eventually the people whom I sincerely hope were the zoo folks brought in a van and a team with a tranquilizer gun. It's not easy to tranquilize papier-mâché, as anyone who ever tried that project where you blow up a balloon and then cover it in slimy, glue-suffused newspaper to create your own globe has discovered. Even with careful petting it'll be slightly lumpy, creating geographic anomalies around the withers, if zebras have withers, or the Río de la Plata basin, if you carry on trying to make a globe. Papier-mâché excited by the earthquake sirens and the leap to freedom after years behind cardboard bars becomes a mighty opponent, and I don't blame the tranquilizer team for taking the shot from a distance. You don't want half-drugged, half-panicked papier-mâché zebras chasing after you. I'm scared just by the concept.
The zebra staggered a while and finally came to a rest on its side, where a team of at least seven Safety Orange-jacketed people swept over it with netting. I'm impressed by this synchronization, since I can't manage to handle bedsheets with just one other person, specifically my father, without it ending up with confusion and often shouting, and bedsheets are much less complicated than nets. I suppose the zoo teams are made of people not so closely related to one another.
All together I suppose it was a satisfactory day: the papier-mâché zebra got a fun afternoon; Tokyo children watched with delight as this rare natural wonder was first surrounded and then shot, wrapped up, and carted away; and despite the unexpected escape zoo and zoo-related people got to practice how to manage an animal escape. The next time I have any sort of escaped papier-mâché ungulate -- whether zebra or not -- I'll give the Ueno Zoo in Tokyo a call. But they're probably getting called for that a lot these days.
Trivia: On 29 February 1936 Ralph Lowry, construction engineer, formally turned over Hoover Dam to chief engineer Frank Crowe. The next day Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes formally accepted the dam and powerhouse. Source: Hoover Dam, Joseph E Stevens.
Currently Reading: The Day The Bubble Burst: A Social History of the Wall Street Crash of 1929, Gordon Thomas, Max Morgan-Witts.