Thursday, June 19, 2008

Long Walk Number 2: Feral Cats, Rabbit-dogs, and Aquatic Rat-beavers

There are few things more depressing than a fucked-up, run-down zoo. After visiting the San Francisco zoo with Layla and the maxi-rockers a few years back, I felt a nagging sense of shame for even partaking in what was an extremely sad spectacle. And then, of course, a tiger escaped from its enclosure, wreaking havoc and having its revenge. Yeesh.

For some reason (maybe it was the ridiculously cute TV commercial for the place?), despite the warnings that the Buenos Aires zoo would be one such place, we paid our 14 pesos each, which promised to allow us admission to the reptile house, the aquarium, the subtropical jungle, AND a boat ride in a lake, and gave ourselves over to the olfactory cacophany that was the municipal zoo.

We had spent the morning wandering in Parque Tres de Febrero, which was still lovely even in the winter drabness.

So first order of business was a snack. And since this guy was closed:

We settled for the requisite fast-food veg option: papas fritas.

The tone was set by the first exhibit we visited: the "subtropical jungle." A series of small glassed-in enclosures in the freezing hallways around a dying indoor "forest" (which had no animals), the place was painted with the worst "jungle" murals the world has ever seen outside a third-grade classroom.

We decided to move on and pushed our way through some slimy plastic sheeting back to the outside world, where were were promptly greeted by herds of mangy deer in every direction. All over the zoo, they were selling "animal food," and you could feed basically anything in the place. So the deer just followed people around their enclosure, begging to be fed.

Sadly, we had to leave Bambi behind:

When we were promptly assaulted by this thing:

I thought, "Oh, look! An otter! How cute!" But upon closer inspection:

and upon discovering that we were surrounded by hundreds of them, we sort of freaked out. When I saw one fighting with a feral cat in the middle of a flock of mangy-ass ducks, I almost threw up. Turns out it's a coypu. The dutch call it a "beaver-rat." That's about right. And they were fucking everywhere.

With my level of freaked-outed-ness climbing, we decided to head toward the birds—how creepy could they be? And then we saw this:

That's an OWL ON A LEASH. And some giant, freakish rabbit-dog creatures (which we later learned are maras—no, not MS-13. Patagonian Hares.) And these, of course, we also everywhere.

In fact, the zookeepers seemed not to care at all when a family of humans cornered a family of freakish rabbit-dogs and chased the baby around for a full three minutes:

They were too busy adjusting the band-aids hiding their facial piercings to help this hapless little critter while a three-year-old chased it around shreiking "conejito! conejito!" Eventually, the zookeepers got bored, picked up the little baby rabbit dog, and tossed it back to its mama mara in the bushes.

So, back to the feeding frenzy:

Maybe he was pissed that he didn't get hand-fed all day every day, but this hippo was looking at us like he wanted to pull a San Francisco:

By the time the visit was over, much like this kangaroo,

I totally needed a drink.

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