Sunday, January 11, 2009

Lowry Park Zoo Visit

I joined about 9,000 of my closest friends at Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo today on $5 admission day. OK, so they might not have been my friends but they were close. A busy day for the zoo is 4,500 to 5,000 people, according to the employee/town crier standing outside telling people that they could not bring food or plastic bags but that water and soft drinks were OK.

The doors didn't open until 9:30 a.m. but I got there about 8:40 because last time I went on a discount day I had to park about a half-mile away and I deemed waiting better than walking.

I had my camera with me, including my 2X teleconverter, which I did not have on previous trips. Many of the shots in the slide show below were not cropped. A tripod or monopod would have sharpened the focus more but I was able to get much closer shots than I ever had.

The cheetahs were the most active I had ever seen them and I was glad that as soon as I got into the zoo, I went straight back to the cheetah exhibit, which is at the back of the park. I figured people would flood the places closest to the entrance first and slowly filter their way back. I guessed correctly.

Make a note. I was right. And it took less than half a month into the new year.

I have mixed feelings about the white tigers. They're certainly gorgeous and you probably got cute overload from one cub's brief venture away from momma. But I would would much rather have seen the more common -- although increasingly uncommon in the wild -- orange tigers.

Here's why: Although they occur in the wild, white tigers rarely survive because they have no camouflage. But they're enormously popular zoo attractions so this freak of nature is bred in captivity. On a visit to a sanctuary called Big Cat Rescue, which I hesitate to recommend because of the controversy surrounding it, our guide explained that all white tigers in this country descend from a single pair of tigers. That means they're horribly inbred and many are saddled with problems like cleft palates.

Worse, even if you breed two white tigers, you're still more likely to get orange ones than white ones. The orange ones are discards.

I feel bad for the cheetahs too. They don't have nearly enough space to approach full running speed. They don't need to run since they don't have to chase their prey but it has to be unhealthy for them not to exercise as they would in nature.

I didn't include any shots of it but most of the time I saw them, the cheetahs paced along an ivy and tree-lined fence bordering their enclosure. It took a little while to realize why. In the neighboring area, were some kind of prey animal probably too large for a cheetah to take down but the scent still had to be inviting.

According to this article, obesity is a growing problem among zoo animals. Too much food comes from too little work and the results are animals struggling with the side effects of carrying too much weight.

Sound familiar?

No comments: