Thursday, August 25, 2011

Oakland Zoo

Another guest post by my lovely and talented wife, K. Her website for her spiritual direction practice can be found at Sleep on the Hearth. She also blogs on spiritual matters.

During the summer, members of the Oakland Zoo can enter the park at 9:30, half an hour before the kids and strollers and cell-phone talkers storm the place. This morning I took advantage of the early-entry perq of zoo membership and headed straight for the bat cage, which is similar to the Bat Cave, but...different. I didn't take any photos of the bats, because my view was blocked by the mesh of their enclosure, but I will simply say: wow. One of them ate a slice of watermelon while I watched, then stuffed the rind into his mouth, making a giant pooch in his cheek that he shifted from right to left as he munched. To get an idea of how cool these animals are, try a Google image search for island flying foxes.

I understand that people have qualms about keeping exotic animals in zoos, but many of the animals in this zoo were rescued out of much worse situations. Ting Ting, this Malaysian Sun Bear, was kept in a cage for the first ten years of her life until she was sent to the San Diego Zoo. Even after spending time in bear-friendly circumstances in San Diego and then in Oakland, she exhibited stress behaviors like pacing and circling. But the docent who spoke with me said that Ting Ting almost never paces or circles anymore. The three Oakland Sun Bears have the biggest Sun Bear enclosure in the country, and to my untrained eye, Ting looked pretty darn relaxed. (I hardly saw the other two, who are sisters. They were busy investigating a giant pile of logs and branches that their keepers added to the enclosure to keep them entertained.)

The two tigers at the Oakland Zoo "worked" in a circus until 1999. They were housed in 3' x 6' containers when they were not performing or training. Given the alternatives for some of these animals, I'll support the zoo any day.

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