Saturday, September 15, 2007

Day Thirteen -- Back in the car

This morning I left my aunt's house and headed for Toledo. But on my way out of town I stopped for a brief visit with my mom's best friend.

From Detroit down to Kentucky it's apes all the way. Shortly after noon I was at the Toledo Zoo. It's a very impressive place, but hard to navigate for a first timer. Suddenly I had a lot of sympathy for the visitors who get lost at the Oregon Zoo.

As I tried to find the primates, I saw a set of barricades to manage the crowds expected to line up to see the baby polar bears -- except there was no one there. I strolled into the exhibit in time to see one baby and mom get shifted inside and twin babies and their mom shifted out. They had three babies within a month last fall. All are now getting pretty big.

When I finally got myself aimed in the correct direction, I crossed the bridge over the highway to the larger section of the bifurcated zoo. There I quickly found the first of the primates. A young colubus monkey was chasing a young Allen's swamp monkey around a mesh enclosure. The smaller swamp monkey was managing to stay ahead of the colobus, but the colobus looked like he was not just playing around. I suspected that the swamp monkey had probably instigated something. Sure enough, when the colobus left to join the others of his kind, the swamp monkey started scrapping with an adult from his own group. Looked like maybe he was being weaned.

When I went to see where the young colobus had gone, I discovered him playing with an infant, all snowy white. Baby polar bears, young and infant monkeys. This zoo sure had a lot of births. And there were more to come, including a white-cheeked gibbon youngster.

When I got to the ape building I saw people crowded around a glass corner. An old male chimp was sitting close to the large window and began displaying. A tall Amish man (with beard) had his face and arms pressed up against the glass and the chimp (Harvey) had to respond to the challenge. An old female (Fifi) kept coming over to Harvey to calm him down. (This is Harvey to the left.)
If visitors look closely, they can see that Fifi is carrying something. It's a plastic alligator, about 7 inches long. Apparently she has been carrying it for years now since she lost her former mates and was moved to this zoo (if I remember correctly what I read). There are only the two old chimps now. Their space is relatively small but pretty complex.

Further on were the orangutans. I stood for a long time watching a family grouping: big dad, mom, a four-year-old and a one-year-old. Above the exhibit some staff came and began treating the orangs to some pudding. After the pudding had been passed out, the four-year-old stole the one-year-old's pudding container. Mom immediately went after the juvenile delinquent and was going to administer some justice until dad started paying attention. When all had settled down, the thief retrieved his stolen pudding.

In front of the orang exhibit is an interesting enrichment device. A shower head is installed above the visitor walkway, and the orangs can push a button in their exhibit to administer a shower to the public. It didn't happen while I was there. I wonder how often they do it.

Further on there was a large (10-member) gorilla troup that apparently had only recently been blended together from two troups. No little babies but plenty of youngsters. A lot of apes in one zoo. I explored the rest of the zoo and saw that they had African elephants, including a youngster still housed with his mother.
On the way out, I found a volunteer -- I hadn't seen any except for the two in the polar bear exhibit. Apparently they have a rather small volunteer corps, only about 80 (she was guessing), not including the teens. That's not many for such a large zoo. No wonder I didn't see any more on the grounds.

I left the zoo shortly before it closed at 5PM and decided to try to find a place to stay in the Toledo area rather than driving further along on the way to Columbus, tomorrow's destination. In my AAA guidebook I identified an area that had several budget motels and was easy to reach from the zoo. Got my first choice -- and there are plenty of restaurants within easy walking distance.

I guess it's about two and a half hours to Columbus. Better get to bed.

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