Wednesday, October 19, 2011

North Carolina Zoo

Entrance to the Africa
section of the zoo.
By Saturday the 15th, the sun was out in full force, the air almost hot in addition to being constantly humid.  A neighbor, Caroline, asked if I'd like to go see a simulcast of the MET opera Anna Bolena at a theater near Raleigh. I'd seen some videos of operas in movie theaters and thought that's what she meant, but I was just thrilled by this production. It was like being at the Santa Fe opera with front row seats, and possibly even better than that. We could see every facial expression, enjoy the beautiful voices of the was fabulous and I would recommend it to any opera fan! For those not interested in Opera, this technology is also available and frequently used to show simulcasts of Broadway shows like Cats and Wicked. It's like being on the stage with the actors.

Big silverback in the gorilla enclosure.

Caroline recommended the zoo if I wanted a neat place to get in my walking exercise and see some very cool things. The state zoological park in Asheboro is an incredible attraction. To begin with: it's huge. They have animals from two continents; North America and Africa, with plenty of room for expansion to add the other continents sometime in the future. Walking, to see each exhibit, covers fully five miles. The day was as perfect a day as anyone could wish for. Temps were in the high 70s and low 80s, the sun shown, clouds periodically drifted by, the animals were active and interactive with people in some cases. The zoo is inside a mature hardwood forest where one is constantly being lightly pelted with tiny acorns. I spent all of Sunday afternoon there, and returned on Monday for another leisurely walk to catch the exhibits I'd missed. One of the surprising and impressive things about this zoo is the number and quality of the artworks. There are sculptures all over, murals on walls, and many kiosks with video and audio story telling going on to enhance the overall zoo experience.

Very muddy African elephant.
As a big fan of zoos, there are few animals I'm unfamiliar with, but this zoo surprised me. They had Red River Pigs from Africa, and a display of white albino alligators, plus many reptiles and amphibians I've probably never seen. Big animals like elephants, rinos, ostriches, and gazelles were housed in an huge wide open field. People followed a path that had viewing platforms interspersed along one edge. Ditto for the North American section where bison and elk shared a pasture.

Snake mural at the entrance to the Sonoran
desert exhibit.
As a native New Mexican, I was almost laughing out loud at the poor bull elk in rut. Compared to ones I've seen up close personally, he was pathetic. Every now and then, in the fall, a couple of friends and I go up into the Valles Caldera west of Los Alamos, NM, and hang out in our sleeping bags up under the pine trees on a moonlit night to watch the elk battle it out. It is important to be protected by the trees, else one of those giants might step on you. They get awfully focused on the other bulls and don't watch where they tromp around. Their mighty trumpeting is magnificent and when they lock antlers and try to throw each other down, it's something to see. Those bulls are three to four thousand pounds with antlers bigger around at the base than I can wrap both hands around.

Chimpanzee sculpture
At the edges of the pasture, signs said to stay back away from the fence, it's mating season and the bull elk is aggressive. What I saw was a skinny looking bull with a very small set of antlers with only 4 points! His bugle was about as impressive as the one Houston Martinez used to make swinging around a corrugated hose......The two cows completely ignored him until he slowly (shyly?) made his way over to them, then they all laid down in the grass together in the shade.

Brown bear
The zoo closed at 5:00 when I was on the other side from where my car was parked. I hopped one of the trams that traverse the two "continents". On the way out, over the bridge that leads across a swampy area next to the lake, I hung around a bit to watch the animals in the lake. There were large black fish, big greenish turtles so round they looked like watermelons with legs, little turtles that swam fast, and lots of frogs in the water and up on rocks near a bank of cat tails. In the trees were a few cardinals, squirrels, and crows. The sun hung low over the forest at the edge of the parking lot as pinkish clouds floated overhead. A lovely day, in every way.

Red River pig

Baboon and baby

Fake Yellowstone geysers,
nice display at the bison yard