Monday, October 26, 2009

The Berlin Zoo

On the Friday of my conference in Berlin, I skipped out to go to the zoo. Zoos are always a little sad, because you look at the tiny space allotted to these animals that should be out in the jungle or on the plains... But if this is one way to introduce people to the animals, make them feel a connection to the animals and ultimately care about the fates of their brethren in the wild, then there is some good to zoos. I've been to a number of notable zoos before, but each is unique. Here are some photos and descriptions of the highlights of my visit to the Berlin Zoo.

One of the first exhibits we visited was the elephants. I've seen elephants before, of course, but we had a good time watching these ones. While we were at the elephant exhibit, we saw a lovely red fox--not a legal resident of the zoo--strolling by some bushes along the walkway. The elephants noticed it as well. The two adults pulled in close on either side of the baby elephant, and they began making threatening sounds while slowly walking towards the fox's location. The elephants needn't have worried, for the fox was separated from them by a deep trough like the rest of us, but I wouldn't have wanted to mess with those elephants if I were the fox, anyway.

Leave our baby alone, puny fox!

I'd never thought such a thing was possible, but the Berlin Zoo had a very impressive collection of chickens and pigeons. Really. I didn't take many pictures of them (why would I take a picture of a chicken or pigeon at a zoo?), but here are some chickens. Yes, they are chickens.


The Berlin Zoo has more monkeys and apes than any zoo I've been to before. They have a huge monkey house complex, with some fun and photogenic apes. This guy looks awfully anxious. I kept looking, but I never did figure out what he possibly could have been looking at so nervously. My guess is he was seeing through the planes...

I see... I see... Death, coming...

I spent a good amount of time watching the gorillas. They are so human-like, it's kind of disturbing seeing them in a cage. The thing is, when they make eye contact with you, you can feel them thinking--considering and assessing you. Unsettling (zoom in and you can see she really is looking at me).

What are you looking at?

Otters are my favorite animals, so anything otter-related is of great interest to me. This is the first tayra that I'd ever seen.


Speaking of otters, here are some adorable Asian small-clawed otters (the smallest species of otter).




The thing that really stood out to me about the Berlin Zoo was that it was so obviously NOT IN AMERICA. By this, I mean that they had exhibits set up in ways that you would NEVER SEE HERE. Consider the lion exhibit: Visitors stand behind a waist-high railing located approximately 5 feet away from the lion cage. And the cage is not thick glass but thin wiring with wide spacing almost worthy of a collapsible dog kennel. And the lion sits right up against the cage, with a bit of its mane fur sticking through. It looked so calm and friendly. And soft. How I would have loved to run my fingers through that nice, thick mane. Nice kitty...

My point is, had I decided to, I could have hopped over that railing and stuck my hand into the cage in two seconds. Any stupid kid could have done the same. In the U.S., some idiot would have done just that at some point, then sued the zoo after getting their hand bitten off. The liability is just too great. I couldn't believe how much trust the Berlin Zoo had in the practicality of its patrons. It's quite refreshing, really.

Along the same vein, here's an adorable tapir we saw. Yes, it is halfway out of its pen, with only a short stretch of grass between the pen rim and the sidewalk in the foreground. Unlike lions, I don't think tapir pose any sort of threat to zoo visitors, but the zookeepers would still probably rather not have to chase it down. We stood there for a few minutes cheering on the tapir--You can do it! Come on! Just a little hop! Yeah, almost there. Go!--but moved on when we concluded that those who had designed its exhibit must have carefully calculated how high they had to make the pen so the tapir couldn't lift itself out. But it has time to work on that upper-arm strength...

So close, yet so far away...

And last, we have Knut. The famous polar bear who not only has his own song, but he still gets his own celebrity zoo pen separate from the other polar bears (I wonder if he likes that). He's not so tiny and cute as in the YouTube videos, now that he's almost three years old. And he was kind of covered in green scum (algae of some sort) when we saw him. But there he is: the famous Knut, der kleine Eisbär.

11 comments:

Hezabelle said...

FUZZY CHICKENS! So cute!

Eleni said...

I wish I'd gotten a clearer picture of those guys. The caging didn't help, of course, but also the girl I was with seemed less impressed by the fancy chickens and was pushing to move on. But they look so soft, like a plush toy.

Sebastian said...

Ah, the joy of Europe, where our actions/inactions are actually our own responsibility.

Where when someone bangs into us with a trolley in the supermarket, _we_ apologise. In America, you litigate. God bless.

Why are otters your favourite? You're a closet Redwaller aren't you?

Eleni said...

In America, a trolley banging into someone in a supermarket would be a big problem, likely causing serious injury or even death. And what's a trolley doing in the supermarket, anyway?! Definitely worthy of litigation. (Sorry, it's a terminology thing :P )

Not a closet Redwaller! I announced my appreciation for the series right there in my second blog post ("my tweenage introduction to the world of fantasy... I owe it so much" is what I said of it). But I think maybe I liked Redwall all the more because I already loved otters. That can be traced back to a report on otters I did in second grade, and I fell in love.

Grath FTW.

Sebastian said...

Well, they are certainly very cool. I can't think of many other animals that would make better 'favourites'.

Tigers maybe, or those big rabbits that are so fluffy that you can't see their limbs, eyes or face -- love those.

We have trolleys in our supermarkets... what do you have? Power-assisted wheelbarrows?

Eleni said...

Did you know that sea otters are one of the few animals that use tools? They use rocks to break open the shellfish that they eat, usually favoring a particular rock that they carry with them. They also have the thickest fur of any animal, with up to 1 million hairs in one square inch!

Can't argue about the tigers. Not familiar with the fluffy rabbits.

We have shopping carts. Trolleys are a form of public transportation--a tram, perhaps?

Sebastian said...

Yar... we have trams. Carts are usually something powered, in the UK at least (golf cart).

I guess because it comes from horse-and-cart (with the power source).

But it's all much the same I guess...

I had no idea otters use tools! That's pretty damn advanced. And furry.

Eleni said...

Is a horse a power source, or just something else that has to push or pull the cart? Interesting theory, though.

Anyway, yes, sea otters use tools. Clever, furry, and cute (even if you've seen it before, it's worth watching again :).

Sebastian said...

Gawd... you've turned me into an otter fan...

Eleni said...

My work here is done.

Jill said...

cute animals!