The very first glimpse I got of the babies was actually a fluke. The brand-new Wildlife Health Centre was being prepared to be open to the public on the Canada Day weekend last summer, and before that happened there were preview days – first for Staff and Volunteers, then two days for Members leading into the weekend.
I used to especially love wandering around the Zoo with my camera in the wintertime, either after I had finished a shift or on an “off-day.” Often I would have a meal bar with me for lunch and I would pop into a pavilion to eat it while my camera lens defogged. I discovered quite quickly that the very best place to do this was in the free-flight aviary of the Americas Pavilion, for in those days the plush-crested jay made its home there and would always come and join me while I ate.
I’ve been blessed more than once to have my hands on the head and haunches of both Vishnu and Ashakiran, and I can tell you they feel warm and quite malleable to the touch, especially near the folds.
When I led tours at the Zoo, I enjoyed catching sight of a peacock (usually, but sometimes a peahen) on the roof of a building such as the African Rainforest Pavilion (seen here) or at the back of the Indomalayan Pavilion. I would then turn to the students in my charge – who most often had not noticed the bird – and ask them if they thought peacocks could fly.
The drive-through portion of Parc Safari features only herbivores and no meat-eaters of any kind. This made the experience rather like being on a farm, or perhaps an exotic petting zoo.
From the very beginning, Kiko hit it off with Mstari (and Twiga) which is terrific news, because their genes are very important to the North American breeding program (known as the SSP: Species Survival Plan). Any offspring they produce will be very important to the future success of the Masai species in AZA-accredited Zoos.
When I drive into the Zoo’s parking lot, I patiently wait for them to cross the road. Sometimes I lean out the window and say, “You guys do realize you can fly, right?” but that’s just a running joke between us. When I exit my car and head into the Zoo proper, I find myself always saying “hello” to the nearest geese. And I worry about them in the winter; not to the point where I have ever fed them myself – I stop short of that – but on the bitterly cold days I do keep an eye out to see if any are particularly struggling.