The Zoo! (da jew!) Part I
Trip Start Mar 23, 2010
49Trip End Ongoing
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However, I digress. What I'm trying to say is that we've managed to make a few friends. One of the most interesting additions to my black book is a middle aged Korean couple from our neighborhood. I was approached by the mother, who was volunteering as a crossing guard near my school, and asked if I'd like to be "friends." This happens to me fairly often (Austin less so... probably because he's a guy) and I usually let the Korean in question have at least one date before I chuck them or continue the "friendship."
We aren't allowed to tutor here in Korea, or we'll be sent home
In this case, we were lucky to find a really interesting couple. The woman is a very active housewife, who has recently entered Universiadae Ajuma club, which is intensive English for bored ladies, and in only a few months, has boosted her English past what it was when she studied it in college. Which is really quite impressive. Her husband is the lone Gwangju Zoo veterinarian, and works at the Gwangju zoo near Jisan Village, adjacent to Family land.
After a few successful meet-ups, they decided to take us on a trip to see their Zoo!
We arrived via secret gate, though normally visitors reach the Zoo via small novelty train. The entrance is unimpressive and under construction, but it was a beautiful day and less hot than the preceding week, and so I was incredibly pleased
The poor conditions of many of the animals was partially salvaged for me by the love of our Zoo vet friend for them. He and his wife talk passionately about the state of the Zoo, and scheme for when he will be in charge, and drag the Zoo what westerners might consider acceptable standards. The man has written and published 5 books on the animals at the Zoo, often anecdotal stories about their specific lives and antics, and clearly really really enjoys his work. Which just plain makes me happy.
Our first stop was the elephants: all Asian from Thailand, with 9 adults and two new babies. One is still a secret, because it is refusing to drink from it's mother's teat and so being hand-fed by zookeepers. They usually keep the larger animal babies a secret for about a week until they're out of the woods (so to speak.) The first baby elephant was just named Wari, after the Zoo, which is Wari Zoo. Wari comes from a Chinese word meaning "the hill where cows graze" (rough rough translation.)
These elephants don't belong to the Zoo, but rather to a private owner who supposedly imported them from Thailand, along with two Thai handlers, who work at the zoo, and manage the elephants, including giving elephant rides, which we were happy to try
The owner plans to transfer the entire elephant troop to Busan at some point, which appears to be a soar spot with our friends, who are very fond of their elephants. It seems there was negotiation about the transfer, and while Gwangju Zoo was deliberating, the deal went down behind closed doors. So now they are understandably pissed.
Carrots were also available for elephant feeding, and we too turns getting snotty from vacuum muscular trunks and intermittently demanding "Ah!" of one elephant, who had picked up a trick somewhere. I could have stayed there all day, but we were on to the next animals, with lots to see... before we went, we received a hair from the elephant's head, which is apparently good luck.
Next were giraffes, of which the Zoo has three: a mother, a father, and a new baby. I think there are about 50 new births at the Zoo in the past few weeks, if you count the fruit bat and reptile babies-- which I do
It's been a busy few weeks for the Zoo Vet.
The adult male giraffe is named Millennium, (guess what, he's 10!) and the mother a contraction of pretty and giraffe, so roughly "Pretty giraffe." They used to live in Seoul, and bidders paid a lot of money for the right to name them. Today the baby's name eludes me, but at only a week or so old, it is already taller than me and eating well. Giraffes give birth one at a time... which makes perfect sense to me, as it must be hard to fit that neck in their strangely shaped abdomens, and curved spines. Something I've never actually noticed before is that they have 5 boney prominences on their skulls, not just two! The big two, one in front, sometimes barely visible, and two on the posterior of the skull, all topped with a bit of black hair.
to be continued... in Part II!