5 Continents in 7 hours
Jun 14, 2010
|A visit to the second largest zoo in the world
The plan today was to take the train into Toronto and see the sights. Another plan aborted. A woman at the campground told us there would be plenty of parking at the train station, but both lots were full. You would have been hard pressed to park a motor scooter and we had an RV. The choices were: return to our campground and call a cab to the station, or do something else today and go to Toronto tomorrow. We decided on Plan B and headed for the Toronto Zoo, which is nearby and has a world class reputation.
We normally prefer to see our critters in the wild, but a zoo will work if it’s a good one. The Toronto Zoo is as good as they come. It’s the world’s second largest zoo, second in size only to the San Diego Zoo in California. Having now seen both zoos I like Toronto’s zoo best, even though we never saw some of the animals. When animals in a zoo are given so much room they can hide from you, you know it's a good zoo. We did see most of the animals, and we did not begrudge the others their time to themselves.
The good news is, the grounds are spacious, ingeniously landscaped and beautiful. The bad news is, the grounds are spacious, ingeniously landscaped and HUGE. We were greeted at the gate by an elderly volunteer who cheerfully asked us, “Are you ready for a long walk?” That was at noon. Seven hours later we were worn out and relieved that the zoo was finally closing. We had to leave, but we took with us some good pictures and some even better memories.
The zoo is laid out in geographical areas, with animals grouped together that way instead of by species. There is no ‘snake house’ or ‘monkey house’ because snakes are found everywhere, and monkeys live on several different continents. Snakes and monkeys from Africa are in the African area, while snakes and monkeys from Asia are in the Asian area. It makes perfect sense to put animals where they best fit in. Why didn't someone think of it sooner?
Grazing animals have compounds so large you sometimes don’t see the residents at all. Wherever possible, compounds are landscaped to minimize or eliminate fencing. Natural looking moats allow you to look directly into a habitat. The more agile or dangerous an animal, the deeper the moat. Big cats and bears have the deepest moats, and inconspicuous electric wires provide a final barrier.
Many of the zoo’s inhabitants could not survive Canadian winters so these have indoor pavilions where they can be housed and protected from the weather. Some, like the gorilla families, come in at night even in the summertime.
Gorillas always attract a large crowd and while we watch gorillas, the gorillas are watching us. What’s behind that brooding expression and those intelligent brown eyes? What do they think as they stare back at us - and do we really want to know?
The lowest animal on the food chain has a natural dignity our own species often does not possess. Seeing animals and people in close proximity can be an embarrassing reminder of that fact. Toronto Zoo is large enough that it spreads the people out. This works to the advantage of all the species. We’ll see people enough tomorrow. Today was for the animals and while it was a long day - it was also a very good day.