Friday, October 9, 2009

Not A Typical Day at the Zoo

Last Saturday we were allowed behind the gates of a very unusual zoo. The Smithsonian's National Zoo has a research center just about four miles from our home and each time we have passed the large imposing gates I have had the urge to be able to see what is kept within them. Last weekend they held their annual Autumn Conservation Festival which is the only two days each year the gates are open to the public.

Red pandas
It was very well attended and had lots of fun, educational an tasty booths. I had spent the last day cooking and baking so that we would have a wonderful fall picnic. The atmosphere was very family-friendly with kids of all ages seeing animals that they have never seen. The grounds of the center are so beautiful with well-cared-for lawns and beautiful buildings. I have always loved that the Smithsonians have such beautiful buildings. It would be very easy for the buildings at the research center to be strictly utilitarian. But the buildings give you the feel that you are at an old vineyard in the wine country of Italy.

North American bison
We had our very first look at the Red Panda; they must not like mornings because they just relaxed the first time we watched them. When we saw them again late in the day they were putting on quite a show as the chased and tumbled over each other. The center had information sheets about the animals so that people could become more informed about what they were seeing. These beautiful mammals used to thrive in Asia's mountains feeding on the bamboo forests. But over the last 50 years the population has declined over 40% making them an endangered species.

David, the teen, is always hungry so he was ready for our picnic lunch almost as soon as we got there. We had sausage and apple hand pies, maple and oatmeal cookies with apple cider. We had cookies left over and gave them to a parking attendant that was having a hard time with a screaming woman who didn't like where she had to park at. While Rich and I finished our meal David collected some of the beautiful fall leaves that fell from the tree we were eating under.

Clouded leopard cub
We climbed up a long winding hill to see the Bison. These big animals were not afraid of the people who came up to their fence. They would come over to the fence to get some grass to eat then retreat to the top of the hill. After laying in the grass for a few minutes they would lumber back down the hill to get more grass. The sheer size of the Bison didn't intimidate David who tried to slip his hand through the fence. The Bison were just a couple inches from us and I kept thinking about how thunderous the ground must of shaken when they were able to roam free in the early years of our nation.

The walking was taking its toll on Rich so I got some water from the hospitality tent. The coordinator came to check on Rich a few minutes later and this gave us the chance to hear some of the future plans. They are hoping to advertise better next year and hope to open up the center more then just the 2 days each year.

David and his horse friend
Our last stop was at the clouded leopard cubs. Here we had to stand in line for a few minutes, but they were well worth the wait. These two little cubs rolled, tumbled and chewed at each other in play.

We saw lots of different animals in between, but these were the highlights—except for David who had to be pulled from the horse. As David was talking to the horse he sneezed on David—gross! But, for David it was cool.

1 comment:

rita said...

I miss your blogs. Wondering how the three of you are doing these days.