Edinburgh Zoo

17 Mar

Despite living in Edinburgh for six months now, it was only today I first graced the Takir enclosure with my presence.

I’d never even heard of Takirs before today, I’m ashamed to confess. Apparently there’s a new baby Takir just days old in there. Mum was still too protective to let us get a peek. No wonder too… the wind was out in force, taking cruel pleasure in whizzing round the hilltops.

The Takir hasn’t been studied much, ‘cos it lives out somewhere cold high up in mountains in Afganistan and places like that, so these ones in captivity are letting us get a window into their world, and hopefully preserve a diminishing species. This new baby is only the second to be born in the uk, so it sounds like some kind of worthwhile zoo-innovation.

Most of the animals had more sense than me today – they stayed warm and cosy in their own bed, just watching the wind fly past. Me, I had to go and enjoy a full internal-organs detox… tho’ at least I did take precautions to avoid wind-in-the-head syndrome.

The animals sensible enough to stay in bed were frustrating. (At least with the anteater we got a tantilizing glimpse in a distorting mirror… which was just confusing more than anything!) It was good, though, to be surrounded by so much greenery and growing things. The animals were almost a bonus, and even the unapetising smells were almost palatable.

Of all the animals, I was jealous of the Great Owl the most. (Actually it was a Great Something Owl, but I can’t remember the something so it will have to just be a Great Owl.) It *was* Great – a massive ball of comfy looking feathers sitting contentedly on a branch. And no wonder he was content… he has a pretty place to live!

I would so happily live in his enclosure… ok, maybe not live, but have it as my garden, or something. It was just so gorgeously perfectly rural-and-wild yet naturally orderly. Just as we were about to move on, I took one last look, with wistful eyes…

The pigeons next-door to the koalas were also noteworthy. Not that pigeons are really a very exotic kind of bird usually, but these ones were. Well, firstly, after the cold outside, it was luxury to stand in a perfect-temperature room, but that’s just a silly aside. Secondly, they were massive as pigeons go, and had a few pretty-shape feathers… and just all their plummage was the most stunningly glimmering blue.

But actually, what was really noticable about them was that they are clearly trusted by their keepers. When you first walk in, it takes you a few seconds to find the glass… then you realise there isn’t any! No cages, no barriers, nothing. The birds are just free to walk right over and peck off your hand. They didn’t tho’, more’s the pity! I’d have loved to stroke their glimmering blue.

The koala was just asleep, so he didn’t count. He wouldn’t even *breathe* for us, to prove he was alive. Cuddly things usually koalas, but this one decidedly unimpressed me.

The squirrel monkeys got voted the favourite. At one point when I was about 11, I was convinced that one day I’d have a pet monkey that would sit on my shoulder pirate-fashion as I went about my life. That dream has never truly left me, though I would now concede that in fairness to monkeys, being pets is probably not really their ‘thing’. So those cute wee squirrel monkeys just had to be favourite, being an unusual green colour, with characterful white faces. And just the perfect size to sit on a shoulder…

We saw a grey squirrel too, but that fitted more into the category of wildlife than zoolife. The prize for most puzzling though, would have to go to the wild rabbit. It was definitely a wild rabbit, and definitely not a baboon, so it was quite amusing to see the wee chap happily nibbling on some leftover fruit in an otherwise empty enclosure. The baboon next door seemed decidedly unhappy, but I don’t think we could exactly blame that on the rabbit, though he was accused of it. “Innocent until proven guilty” must remain my motto. Just because he’s been caught committing one crime does not automatically mean he has committed others too…

On the topic of immitations, there was a bit of that nonsense going on: the wolves looked like foxes, the coloured gundogs painted hunting dogs looked like hyenas, and the zebras looked like horses. But then, zebras always look like horses.

In this country that is. Seeing the zebras depressed me. It was only when I saw them standing there that I got my most vivid flashbacks to Kenya. The zebras there were so pretty. And they would (sometimes) obligingly move off the road for you when you came past. And gaze curiously at you as you took photos. And not look like horses, but look like a real live animal in their own right that you’d never dream of associating with anthing less worthy.

There was a sign beside their enclosure saying “safety in numbers”… hardly the most sensitive comment to make to the measly 3 that were around. And it didn’t even seem to ring true either. On safari, you’d only ever see about eight zebras at a time, and most of the time it was just one or two on their own.

Well, not quite “on their own”. There were a good few thousand wildebeaste keeping them company. It was just so much more real seeing all the animals mingling together… and the zebras achieving their safety by making sure an ugly wildebeaste or two was behind them – just to cover for them in case of an ultimate sacrifice being required.

So, when I saw the zebras standing there with a whole field to themselves (just like horses would have over here), I didn’t like it… I wanted them to be rubbing shoulders with a topi or two, and blending in seamlessly with a clan of wildebeaste.

But no… the wind blew me off my feet, reminding me that I was definitely in Scotland. Not clammy and sweaty and dry and sunny enough to be Kenya!

Despite not being in Kenya, it was still a very enjoyable five hours of my life. My thanks to Sarah for the idea, the company, and the lunch πŸ™‚

Ps: Just in case anyone’s worried (and I would be, in similar circumstances) there *is* a lion-post on the way. I couldn’t possibly neglect such dear creatures!


Posted by on Saturday, March 17, 2007 in selfish



4 responses to “Edinburgh Zoo

  1. Grant

    Sunday, March 18, 2007 at 12:49 am

    Good stuff. So did you venture any further along into Corstorphine to check out your potential future habitat? πŸ™‚

    I live about 5 mins walk from the zoo so I go there quite a lot. The last time I was there I passed the painted hunting dogs just in time to see them rip the internal organs from some unidentifiable carcass which had been flung to them, which was nice.

    The polar bear depresses me a fair bit. He lives on a pitifully small concrete island surrounded by a moat and never looks very contented. Still, at least he’s not being made to advertise Coke!

    I could spend all day looking at the big cats (minus the lions, I’m afraid – they look a bit scruffy compared to the smaller, sleeker big cats). The jaguar is really impressive.

    It’s funny you should mention about wanting to have a pet monkey. Ever since I got to hold a tiny monkey when I was at primary school I’ve been fascinated by them and for years I wanted one as a pet. I think it would be fine as long as you put it in a nappy (and an amusing waistcoat and fez combination, of course). I’ve got a photo of me and my monkey somewhere – I’ll dig it out.

  2. Angela

    Sunday, March 18, 2007 at 8:59 pm

    I think everyone has wanted a monkey as a pet at some time or another haven’t they? It’s their fingers that do it for me, and their grumpy old men type faces πŸ™‚

    All this reminds me of the best zoo-type place I’ve ever been to. In France two years ago we visited “La Vallee des Singes” ( or “Monkey Valley”. It’s a park is made up of a series of islands and on each island there are one or more species of monkeys roaming free, crossing you path, eating food out of your hand – it’s fantastic, there are next to no cages and not a fez in sight but the monkeys seem happy despite that πŸ˜‰

  3. Grant

    Friday, March 30, 2007 at 11:36 pm

    I just watched “Pirates of the Carribean”. It is without doubt one of the worst films I have ever seen but it was saved somewhat by the fact that there was a little monkey in it (and in a waistcoat too, no less!) Such a shame that when struck by moonlight he turned into an evil skeletal monkey of the living dead. Pity.

  4. justmerach

    Monday, April 2, 2007 at 6:54 am

    Hehe, the monkey is the best!


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