Saturday, September 15, 2007

Catching up

When I last wrote I was on my way to Pontiac to visit my aunt (who is actually my cousin). The last family member of her generation, Helen is 92 years old. She's rather frail physically but mentally she is all there. The two day visit was filled with stories about my dad and grandparents and other family members. It was a break from email and the internet.

Shortly after I arrived, we drove out to visit family graves and then went out for an early dinner. Thankfully, my younger cousin Carol did all the driving, which was a welcome rest for me.

On Friday I went to the Detroit Zoo (which is actually in Royal Oak) hoping to be able to see Bahati, the young male chimp who spent a number of years at the Oregon Zoo before being transferred to Detroit. I was lucky to run into one of the keepers who gave me an update about Bahati and some hints about how to find him in the large outdoor exhibit.

The one-acre island has a grassy moat, and the troop members spend much of their time down there -- out of sight of the public. The keeper pointed out a female who was in estrous and said Bahati would not be far behind. Sure enough, he showed up trailing her. I spent quite a bit of time at the chimp exhibit and managed to spot the pair again later as she led him out out of the moat and then around to the other side. Just look for the bright pink chimp bottom and then count to ten.

I figured I should visit other areas of the zoo, where I spent many hours of my childhood. The old bear grottos, which were so innovative in their time, are still in use, but grass and bushes soften the concrete and gunnite area. Much more attractive and more interesting for the animals. I walked into an arctic exhibit and eventually found myself walking through a glass tunnel under the water. Seals were swimming overhead. Someone said that sometimes the polar bears could be seen there.

It was starting to get quite cold and the sky was darkening. I'd planned to leave by two o'clock, and on the way out I made a detour back to the chimp exhibit. Just in time. The five members of the troop that were outside were traveling across the rise of the exhibit. The sexy female was in the lead and Bahati was bringing up the rear. I managed to snap a few more pictures before they all disappeared again.
Oh, and a strange thing I saw at the ape exhibit: Opposite the chimps is a gorilla exhibit. The females were inside and I could see a large male outside, leaning against the window. Past him I thought I caught a glimpse of a baby gorilla. When I went closer to investigate, I saw that it wasn't a baby gorilla, it was an adult mandrill. From what I could see it was actually in the same enclosure as the gorilla. I have to write a note to the zoo and ask about that very strange pairing.

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