First things first: I’m very sorry for the delay of several days in posting this, but I had a very good excuse: we’re back at the Zoo!!! Members were allowed to walk back into the Toronto Zoo with timed admission tickets for a temporarily modified unidirectional route on June 27, so naturally I booked every single day of the seven – and even went back for a bonus eighth yesterday, July 4. As a result, I have been exhausted for virtually every minute I have been home over the past week, and I would have already created this post had I had more than two days’ notice of the opening. I am so, so happy now, and here’s a special bonus for this post: I have some brand-new photos of Mr. Partington and the rest of the mob, taken in the past couple of days! Thank you all so much for your patience. And now, without further ado, here’s the Calendar Post for July, 2020.
In my May blog post about Stevie, I spoke of the thrill of having the kangaroo walkthrough open again last year after being closed while the giant pandas were in Toronto. This being the year of Covid-19, I’m not sure it will be open for general walking through this year, but it is one of the Wild Encounters and, as of July 4, guests can once again pass by the perimeter fencing to see the macropod mobs. Last year, however, I spent a great deal of the summer amongst the roos and wallabies – at first waiting for Tori’s joey to start venturing out of the pouch, but eventually because I had pretty much fallen in love with every single one of them. Over the past 12 months, though, the demographics have changed a fair bit, due to a few deaths along the way (older or ill roos, they weren’t really a surprise). In one case it might almost have been a weird blessing in disguise, as one of the kangaroos we lost was Josie, who was the mom of Sydney, the youngest before this month’s celebrity roo – Mr. Partington – was born. As a result, Sydney – who to that point had been very clingy with her mom – began to spend her time with Tori and Mr. P, latching on to her as almost a surrogate mother and observing how she raised her new son. And now that Sydney has become a mom herself, it already appears to me in the few glimpses I’ve had of her that she is a lot calmer and self-assured than she might have been had Josie still been around.
The toughest loss for me, personally, was probably the very least surprising. Meribah, the oldest of the mob at (I believe) 24 years old, was humanely euthanized in early February of this year, as her quality of life had severely diminished over the winter. When I first began visiting the roos in early July last year, she would often not be far away from Tori as both were kind of isolating themselves from the bustle of the mob, albeit for very different reasons. When I squatted down to take shots of Tori in the shade by the rear fence and gate, I would generally be able to turn 180 degrees and spend some quiet time with Meribah right afterwards. She seemed to enjoy these sessions, as she usually would relax a bit deeper into the grass and turn her ears towards my while I quietly spoke to her. When Sarah and I did our first Kangaroo Wild Encounter near the end of July, I was so busy shooting photos of everyone else that I nearly missed my chance to feed any of the mob myself. When it was my turn, most of the usual suspects had no appetite remaining, so I looked around and spotted Meribah in her usual place at the south end of the exhibit, in the shade. I asked if I could feed her and the group leaders said I could certainly try, but they weren’t sure if she’d take it. As you can see from the above photo, she was more than happy to take the treats I was offering her, in much the same way I was able to be the only one who fed Stevie last year in our later Encounter.
Meribah was the first of the mob I was able to touch, as well, though not that day but on a later visit. She was soft and quite woolly for her age, and actually seemed to enjoy the contact every bit as much as I did. As the summer progressed and Mr. Partington became more active, I found myself spending less time at her end of the exhibit and, therefore, less time with Meribah. I kept my soft spot for her right up until the very end, though, and when the Zoo set up a special set of Wild Encounters on Australia Day on January 26th of this year (with all proceeds going to help the recovery from their devastating bush fires), I grabbed one of the slots, thinking it might well be the last time I would ever see my friend, and it was. I even managed to get her to stand up and wobble over to me, but I could tell she was very weak. She was gone 10 days later.
But this post is more about celebrating life and birth – the new arrival of a precocious little boy roo early in 2019. From my very fist visits to the walk-through I was able to view at least a piece of the joey’s anatomy (most often a leg or tail) protruding from the opening of Tori’s pouch, indicating that it wouldn’t be very long before the entire beautiful little creature would emerge and show himself to the world. When he finally did begin to spend significant time out of the pouch, I was one of the very first to discover that he was, in fact, a boy, as he had the interesting trait of extending and withdrawing his tiny penis every time he nursed from his mom. I didn’t see this as I was taking the photos but I noticed it pretty quickly when I was tweaking them at home and reported my findings immediately to the Keepers and the Comms Team at the Zoo. Another Keeper had thought he had seen a similar thing happen, so I was basically confirming his suspicions. Once his gender was established, it was a couple of weeks before he received his name. Most of the roos at the Zoo are named after Australian towns or cities, with very few exceptions; however, for the new lad they decided to honour a long-time Australasian Keeper who had just retired: David Partington. I had heard the baby was going to be called “David;” when they unveiled his official name it turned out to be Mr. Partington. Ironically, as luck would have it there is a very obscure town in Australia named “Partington,” so it all turned out very well, indeed!
Speaking of that little penis: the photos above show it off in all its glory and, as I shot this month’s eventual winner seconds after this picture, he was pretty erect in that one, too. So I, um… ahem … “removed” it from the photo I went with, simply because I really didn’t know who might have an issue with it hanging on their wall. Here was how the shot looked before the “tweak:”
One day in September, I arrived at the walkthrough before it opened to the public. While I was leaning on the fence beside the gate, I spotted this little brat antagonizing his mom and his Auntie Sydney. I quickly shot a video with my camera that wasn’t particularly steady, but I had to set up quickly so as not to miss the moment. I showed it to a couple of the Keepers (on the camera’s viewing screen” and they urged me to send it in to the Comms Department, which I did. They took it and edited it brilliantly – even adding a funny soundtrack – and posted it on their social media feeds. Here is the finished work:
As I mentioned off the top, I have been able to grab a few shots of the mob in the past few days: some taken during a Wild Encounter I did on Canada Day, and some taken, as a nice bookend, on Independence Day from the outside fence. I’ll post a couple of the best here now for you:
My other favourite (#1 now that Meribah’s gone) is Jeff. Jeff is a derpy, carefree, older gentleman (I think he’s the oldest roo in the mob at the moment) who I absolutely adore. I make a special point of looking for him whenever I visit the roos; I never have any trouble finding him. Here is a small collage of my favourite shots of Jeff over the past 12 months (my favourite is where he is photobombing my shot of Simon and Foster!):
Well, I do believe I could write pages and pages more about these guys, but I should probably save some stories in case another one is featured down the road, so I’ll end it here for now. Thank you for your patience and thank you for reading! Next month: a shot which is rarer for me than it should be, given how often I try to grab exactly this pose. We’ll step away from Australasia for a bit… but, geographically in the Zoo, not too far away at all.
I’ll leave you with another mosaic of roos shots and wish you a happy July! Try and stay cool!