The inocentes with special guests: animals

28 Feb

The more time we spend in Medellín, the smaller and smaller the city seems. A few days after our arrival it was intimated to us–a number of times–that this city has more of a “big town” feel to it. You often run into the usual suspects while out for a walk, partying in the Poblado or walking through one of the many, many malls. For professionals (eg: the ~1 billion architects we know) it must seem even smaller.

But despite its size there are still many exciting things to do here. I’ve covered a few in the past (Parque Arví, the Estadio, Parque Explora, etc)(you…you read those, right?). This Sunday, we found ourselves planning an outing at the Zoológico Santa Fe. Yup, we visited the zoo.

Normally, zoos are OK for me. I don’t go out of my way to visit them, but eventually–when you live somewhere long enough–you run out of ideas and you’re like “zoo me!”. This was the case senior year at Santa Barbara when I made my first trip to the small-ish zoo on the waterfront (RIP Gemima). I think Greg and I once went on a date at the San Diego Zoo, if I remember correctly. That was a monster.

So the San Diego Zoo = huge, the Santa Barbara Zoo = small. The Medellín zoo? Straight up depressing. Now, look, I go to zoos so I’m quite clearly not conflicted about animals being kept in enclosures for my viewing pleasure. I’m not morally opposed to it…until I think a little more about it and then, yes, it gets sad. But sometimes zoos can be magical places where you get to watch primates touch their privates and look at wild cats with awe, knowing that they would kill the crap out of you if it weren’t for that chain link barrier. They can be fascinating places! Magic places! Magically fascinating!

But during our tour of this zoo it was like one more depressing site after the next. The big cats are kept in enclosures that don’t seem much larger than our apartment in Boston, sometimes with two or three stuck in an enclosure together. There were a few ponds where turtles and birds coexisted…in fetid pond scum…which I guess is really natural? Excuse me, I just got back from throwing up. There was the elephant that pretty much kept its head in its house and its butt to the crowd for the duration of our visit. And then there were the monkeys.

Not being a primatologist (or any kind of -ologist)(Ninologist?) I generally refer to anything simian as a monkey. Except for gorillas, because you only make that mistake once (OR ELSE!). But in Colombia, if you want to talk about “monos” they are like “you mean micos” or “you mean something more proper and specific, simpleton” because there are many different species that thrive, here. So there were monkeys at the zoo–lots of them.

So many monkeys! Micos, titis, other monkeys, etc. And they were monkey-rific! Adorable little monkeys, doing monkey things like climbing, yelling, pulling at their privates, all of those charming things that monkeys do. And then there were the visitors, feeding things through the chain-link fences to the monkeys. “Hey little monkey, you wanna cheeto? You wanna cheeto, huh? Here you go!” or “Hey monkey! Hey guy! You want this? Aw, you think it’s food, huh? TRICK! IT’S A NAPKIN!”

Guys, don’t feed the monkeys! Of course they want cheetos; cheetos are delicious! But cheetos are bad for humans and probably even worse for monkeys. Stop. Stop it! Leave the monkeys alone!

…but I didn’t say anything, because gringa, please. I may have the gall to loudly mumble something like that in the US, but telling someone off in front of their children in a foreign country in a language that is not your own? That takes a special kind of stupid and while I am both special and stupid I am usually not both at the same time.

But the zoo wasn’t all bad. There were birds everywhere, and that is a thing I can get behind. Exotic birds like hawks and toucans were abundant in enclosures. There was also a bird enclosure with parrots galore (and peacocks, which to me will forever be “nice try, honking turkey”) and it was pleasant to walk through and listen to the bird song and feel them flit past you. And there were birds everywhere else, taking baths in fountains, roaming the grounds, hanging out in trees. Also, we’ve not talked about this but there are so many vultures in this city, and there seemed to be a fair amount of them enjoying the zoo (which is an indication of how utterly sad it was).

There was also a butterfly enclosure, but it was closed to the public so we missed it this time. But if it’s anything like the city itself, I know that when it’s opened there will hundreds of dazzling little mariposas, munching on papaya, shooting the breeze, hanging out.

So, if you aren’t big on animals and kind of want to see those arrogant jaguars taken down a peg, this is definitely the place for you!


ALSO: Carlos E. is filled with blooming banana trees right now. I am secretly dying to know what happens when these pink little nubs become full grown yellow delicious bananas; do people just take them? Can I take them? And when I take them, can I take the entire bushel or should I limit myself to one, solitary banana? I’m more of a one-banana kind of lady, but six foot, seven foot, eight foot bunch!

…my work here is done.


One Response to “The inocentes with special guests: animals”

  1. Lea Anthony February 29, 2012 at 8:46 am #

    Zoo.. A place of some wonder but also sadness for animals. At the very least they have food and shelter, but why does every large city feel they must have a zoo? I suppose in Columbia they do not realize it could be a sad zoo. Children come to feed Cheetos to the monkeys and that gives them some joy, they are just little kids.

    I love to walk outside into the front yard and feel the hummingbirds buzz close to my head. I think they are teasing me but know we feed them so maybe it is their way of saying thank you. I wish I knew.

    As always, love and kisses. Skype soon. Mom

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