Zoos. I like going to them, I like going to them with children (NB: other peoples) (NB NB: With their parents as well. Or their parents permission), I like going to them alone in foreign cities, I sometimes get very sad in them, but, in many places, where the ‘education and preservation’ message is more prominent than the ‘point and stare and throw junk food if you like, we’ve not given them anywhere to hide or room to get away, so feel free’ message, then zoos are nice things to visit.
Particularly, I discovered in the case of San Francisco Zoo, when it is feeding time, and quiet.
Feeding time for the bears in SF Zoo is the best I’ve ever seen. Maybe I’m prejudiced: I really like bears, but this is how it works.
There is a viewing area that, for the minutes approaching 11am, has some nice green grass and a large-ish pond with some fish swimming around in it, with a pane of one-way glass that segments the pool and allows you to see all the way underwater, and overwater, and for the animals to see nothing but each other.
I really hadn’t thought about why the fish might be looking nervous.
“Hello fish!” shouted the children and adults standing by the glass. “Oh! Look at his little mouth! It’s going up and down and up and down, and his little fins are flapping, and…”
Well, they weren’t much longer.
It is more realistic a hunting scene than if they just flung dead fish substitute at them – though of course only so much as me hurling tasty cat treats to different corners of my living room for my cats rather than getting them to eat them from my fingers.
The bears hunt the fish. The bears kill, dismember, and devour the fish. It was thrilling to watch. Well, I thought so. Some of the other five-year-olds in attendance also. Some of the mothers, I think, were not so keen.
But I love bears. And I have never been so close.
After his fish, the bear went to get another course. There were various pieces of fruit floating around the pool. The bear got a pear (which was delightfully Dr Seussian of it) and brought it back to the point it had eaten the fish. It ate the pear.
It is as close to a bear paw that I want to get, now. Unless it is the pastry called a Bear Claw, made with maple syrup and pecans and things, in which case I am prepared to get closer.
But I don’t think I will get a pet Grizzly after all. I have decided.