Saturday, October 4, 2008

Not Quite the Same as a Game Park

A number of months ago, about a mile from our house, we saw a large sign appear labeled "Zoo," with an arrow pointing down the road.

We were intrigued. There's never been a zoo in Dar es Salaam, and the arrow pointed down a road that didn't lead to much.

So yesterday, since there was no school, we decided to be adventurous and find the Zoo. The signs led us through a village, down a bunch of very bumpy, very dusty dirt roads, to what looked like someone's house.

It was someone's house. And the Zoo was in their backyard. A very, very large backyard, mind you, but a backyard just the same. The owner and his family live there. When we arrived, their laundry was hanging out to dry and they were just finishing lunch.

We did a little negotiating over the price (think you could do that at the San Francisco Zoo?), and since we were the only visitors there, the wife and her little boy showed us around.

It actually was more than we were expecting. They had a few zebra, wildebeest, a baby crocodile, two lion cubs (repeatedly labeled "Lion Curbs" in the brochure), some gorgeous birds and a few other things. The cages were all hand made but sturdy, and the animals looked relatively healthy. All of the animals were native to Tanzania. I asked our guide how they got them.

"We have trappers," she said.

Oh. Got it.

Wildebeast. Not quite the same as seeing them in herds of hundreds out in the wild.

Loved seeing all the birds up close, though it was a little depressing to see the gorgeous birds of prey in cages too small to fly in.

These were my favorite. Gigantic land tortoises. I think they are native to Zanzibar Island, since that's the only other place I've seen them before. They are enormous, very gentle, and very old (can have longer life spans than humans).

Too bad we didn't get Daddy in this picture. Could have been our next prayer card!

At the end of the visit, Gil asked Grace what animal was her favorite.

"Minnie," she replied. Interesting, considering our Jack Russell wasn't at the Zoo.

Actually, I think her favorite was a little monkey that fascinated her.

"Mommy," she said. "He's talking to me!"

"Really? What's he saying?"

"He's saying that he wants to get out of this...this...[looking up and down at the cage]...this basket!"

You're right, Grace. I think that's what he was telling you.

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