Sunday, February 04, 2007

A Day at the Zoo (and reading the fine print)

The previous week was somewhat busy, and Sunday promised to be a three event day, so SJD and I decided to stick close to home on Saturday. We slept in late, made french toast for breakfast, and then got around to making plans for the day. And what did we come up with? The Accra Zoo!

I was a bit surprised to learn that Accra had a zoo proper. Actual living animals housed and cared for. Off we went to see for ourselves.

After a few minutes of getting lost, refound, lost and eventually rolling into the empty parking lot, we were greeted by, no not a ticket taker or even a human dressed as a chimp, but what appeared to the grounds keeper. He walked around back of the ticket kiosk and proceeded to exchange C10,000 for a stack of entry tickets. We were either the only two people at the zoo, or in fact, it may have been closed for the day, or forever. Not entirely clear. We entered anyways.

First stop: Animals on the mend exhibit. A few species of monkeys, a bird or two all recuperating from various ills or abandonment. Not exactly the most cheerful place to regain some strength, but probably safer than the wild. The animals are locked in cages (sometimes) with a few branches, platforms and waterbowls for entertainment. The padlock on the cage below was actually unlocked.

"Hey fuzzy, why don't you give that pad lock a jiggle and make a run for it."

Second stop: Large Chimps Lucy and Martha. Lucy and Martha reside in separate very sturdy cages, perhaps for good reason. When we approached, Lucy and Martha were minding their business - picking at their toes it appeared. I waited patiently for a minute or two for one them to swing from the trapeze or move, or something...anything frankly. Sure enough, a young boy pushing an empty wheel barrow, running actually, and making quite a racket came around the corner. He completely lost control of the wheel barrow and sent it crashing to the pavement on it's side. The commotion certainly got things going a bit in the chimp cage. Lucy and Martha both charged around their cages, swinging from the ropes and tires. I watched. The boy, for whatever reason, simply left the toppled wheel barrow and kept running. I continued to watch Lucy really violently swing her trapeze bar hard against the roof of her cage.

Had I been reading the posted signs a bit more closely, I would have perhaps clued into what might happen next.

I sort of saw something out of the corner of my eye and flinched an instant before feeling a nice THWACK on my shoulder! Yes, Ms. Martha seemed a bit displeased with my presence and decided to share her breakfast with me. Bananas likely. Boy, it would not have been quite so alarming if they had been fresh bananas still in the peel. Do I need to go into more detail? Ok good. Let me just say that for a girl AND a chimp, she has an incredible arm. Well, I did scream and jump around a bit before being escorted off to the nearby water hose for a quick clean up.
SJD, from that moment on, made sure I clearly understood all the other signs in the zoo.

The rest of the zoo trip wasn't nearly as exciting, thankfully. It does house a modest population of lions, ostriches, snakes, turtles, raptors, rodents, and small antelope all appearing healthy, if a bit eager to get to their newer home.

The Accra Zoo is moving to a new location up near Kumasi. A zoo helper napping outside the refreshment kiosk mentioned that some of the animals were being housed temporarily at Achimota Forest Preserve until Kumasi is ready. Something makes me want to go up to Achimota FP, but something also says, "just stay far, far away."

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