austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,
austin_dern
austin_dern

So they can wait for you, you won't be gone that long

Our Monday morning plans were to deposit our bags with the front desk to watch for a few hours, check out, go to the Zoo, and return to pick up our bags and then put off as long as possible our going our separate ways. bunny_hugger was flying home. I was to take the train. We wanted to see cute animals first. This took us naturally again to the Woodley Park/Zoo-Adams Morgan station.

We set out from the station boldly remembering we'd forgot to look up its length yet again, and walked in the direction we remembered seeing a park with a lion statue the other day, and realized we weren't any too confident we were going in the right direction. Once again my iPad came to our rescue: it established we had set out in the wrong direction and we had to turn around. Soon we were passing landmarks that looked much more familiar. By the time we got to the 7-Eleven just across the street from the entrance we were positive we were near the entrance.

We're lingerers, I've said a lot; we keep finding interesting things to look at. For example not only did we find squirrels but we found a sign explaining the squirrel population in Washington, which after being pretty near driven to extinction was revived with imports. This may not be as imagination-capturing as restocking the bison herds from the Bronx Zoo, but hey, squirrels.

I was up for seeing anything at all; bunny_hugger hoped to see the Naked Mole Rats, which gave us some direction for our wanderings. They were in the Small Mammal House, so naturally, we followed this little trail explaining how cheetahs and other big cats hunt and the challenges they face. We didn't realize on the trail that we were not supposed to just stand atop a rock but also see the antelope sign target they'd painted, which shows how poorly we'd do as cheetahs, I suppose.

Anyway, with that settled, we went directly to the first food vendors we spotted since we were hungry and had figured we could eat at the Zoo. And we could, too, although it was under the watchful gaze of at least four species (by bunny_hugger's count) of birds not originally native to the mid-Atlantic region. And a grackle kept close watch on the cheese wrap and the Boca burger. Well-fed, then, we set off into the adjacent gift shop because once again my camera batteries had worn out. I also picked up a keychain compass which might be theoretically at all useful as a compass, sort of, as part of my ongoing effort to make my keychain actually stand out in some way.

So, having eaten and gift-shopped and with the Small Mammal House our target and the awareness that we had a deadline, we set off for the pandas. Well, we couldn't really come all this way and not see them, could we? And we did see them. One of the pandas was laying back chewing up a tree branch with that sort of joy that doesn't really come across in giant pandas because they always look on the verge of weeping. The other was laying across a rock so that from one approach it looked like it was doing the ``Kilroy Was Here'' figure.

They're cute and all, but we really spent time looking at the props and toys and miscellaneties within the panda house, such as a packing crate apparently used in the 70s to ship giant pandas, or news articles trying to tactfully explain the sorry state of giant panda mating habits. We also went looking for the red pandas, not just out of a sense of fairness. They were obscured, however, behind a partition which explained that due to changes in their behavior associated with the mating season they were not on exhibit at this time. Maybe the Zoo wanted to spare parents having to explain what was going on to their kids, but I can't see how that explanation would be better, really.

Once again we set off and this time we really did get down to the Small Mammal House, which wasn't far off and which was to have a live animal exhibit in not too very long so we'd be able to use that as the last event for the day. We hadn't quite got the location of the talk understood right, but were able to locate it by virtue of one of the house attendants going around telling us where to look. I think we were the only adults not accompanied by children looking on at a not overly tense echidna, but we do that sort of thing.

This isn't to say we needed guided attention to find interesting animals. We were able to locate the Naked Mole Rats on our own, happy to say. We also found a Prevost's Squirrel who was dedicated to putting on the sort of show you normally associate with cartoon squirrels. But the lead squirrel --- the first one in the House, as we walked along --- was not just jumpy but prone to getting up front against the glass so you could almost get a photograph before it dissolved into a blur.

There weren't any rabbits, a small-mammal oversight bunny_hugger has noted all zoos suffer from and I think she's right. The only rabbits I can remember in zoos were in the Children's Zoo Petting Areas, sometimes lumped in with guinea pigs. Guinea pigs weren't in the zoo either, although a few cavies were, hidden high atop the rock faces. I don't think of guinea pigs as a climbing species so looking up to see guinea pig-oid species is a weird and vaguely unsettling procedure.

We could've spent the whole day in the zoo. Really, we could probably have spent the whole day in the Small Mammal House, and the whole week in the Zoo, but the clock continued on towards the end of the morning and we sadly admitted that it was time to return to the hotel, gather our bags, and be ready to go back home.

Trivia: The Detroit Free Press began as the Michigan Gazette. Source: The Wonderful Writing Machine, Bruce Bliven Jr.

Currently Reading: Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution, Simon Schama.

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