Sunday, March 9, 2014

Zoo, Glorious Zoo

For weeks now, Little A has been begging to return to the Zoo. I first took him last year, on a day when there was no school, and he thoroughly enjoyed himself. We returned, with Big A, in January, but it was pollen season and itchy caterpillar weather, so Little A took home a bad rash on his face that lasted nearly two weeks as a souvenir. Still, that didn't deter him from wanting to go back.

The City Zoo has an elephant, two zorses (cross between zebras and horses), and a pair of hippos. This is the total of their wild animal collection.  Not very impressive, but clearly enough to delight a six year old with no expectations.

Given the distance though, and the traffic on a weekend, I opted to take him this time to the petting zoo, which he'd also visited once before, many years ago. We went on a Sunday, right before lunch.

At this children's zoo, little had changed since our last visit. Thankfully, they added some animals - two Humboldt penguins in an air-conditioned enclosure with a shallow paddling pond. Little A loved watching them. He was barely interested in the pair of tigers, the sleeping leopard, the jackals, and the lioness, but the colourful parrot delighted him as well. And when the tortoise was allowed to roam free, he spent a few moments trying to help it move faster by pushing, deciding if it could be ridden, and trying it out as a step stool to better view the penguins.

This visit made me realise how this children's zoo is really not designed for their enjoyment. Apart from the rock-hard concrete floors, the glass-fronted enclosures are designed in such a way that the very visitors for which this place was designed - young children - could not see into them properly. The large fake wood barrier was exactly at their head height. Terribly poor design. We weren't the only visitors who had to take turns holding up our 6.5 year old so he could see into the enclosures.

On the second level are the farm animals - sheep, goats, pygmy pigs, a Shetland pony, and rabbits and guinea pigs. A family of meerkats slept in one enclosure, huddled together. Best of all, as we sat for a snack, and Little A's lunch, a tiny black lamb trip-trapped up to him and made friends.

This morning, when he got dressed, Little A handed me the word card printed "zoo." I told him he had to go to school today, but that I'd speak to the teachers about organising a field trip, and that it would very likely be to the zoo.

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