As yesterday was the first nice day in weeks, Dave and I decided to go to the zoo.
(Note of Karma here, because the LAST nice day we had was the one I posted about earlier, where I have the laptop in the backyard. Since then, the rain had been SO bad, the MINISTRY OF DEFENCE was on alert -- apparently, several days straight of heavy winds and rain can cause serious flooding, as well as small landslides. No worries about us, though, as the most part of our rain-related distress was having to walk to work in it. On the bright side, though, Dave and I are now both able to sleep through the ruckus of winter rain, sounding much like endless handfuls of small pebbles being thrown at our windows.)
So, the moral of the story is, I'll avoid bragging about the weather in the future. ;-)
The Wellington Zoo has been a place I've been wanting to go for awhile, partly due to the great ads they have. So, I took Dave on a surprise date, and we went.
One of the neat things about going to foreign zoos is getting to see not only new animals, but often some really familiar ones, too. The first exhibit in the zoo at Rome's central park, Villa Borghese, was a gleefully familiar beast -- the Canada Goose! There weren't any Canada geese here in Wellington, there were some otters, ducks, ostriches, and even a bear. The bear, however, was a Malaysian Sun Bear, which is quite different from our bears. He was smallish, sleek-furred, very skinny, and had a tongue that was probably over a foot long! (For digging bugs out of tree-burrows, apparently.) Very weird... I had no idea there were bears so different from our big, fat, shaggy ones. ^_^
We also saw the Australian versions of both the pelican and the magpie. The pelican was, no joke, as big as Dave, and his bill can hold 13 LITRES of water at any given time. The magpie I had seen before, on a roadtrip, and had wondered whether such a gigantic bird could still be called a magpie. From beak to rump, he's easily two feet. Including the tail gets you another six inches or so. Another interesting difference is that, while both magpie species are cheeky birds, this one has a lovely call. How did we get jipped? ;-)
There were a ton of beautiful creatures to see, but not all of them in cages. Tuis -- New Zealand's national bird -- were everywhere, and we got to hear their very strange calls. (Here and here are some examples...) There were so many sounds in each call, from door-squeaks to flute ditties to video game blips and bleeps, it was hard to believe that all the sounds came from one species.
Other than that, we saw some wild dogs from Africa being fed. In spite of being made minorly ill, I still applaud the fact that they were fed proper carcasses, whole. We got there after they'd been working at it awhile. It had been possibly a kangaroo or a possum. It was nice to see that humans running a zoo would respect wild animals' proper, natural state of eating, but I wasn't unhappy to leave that exhibit behind.
Some animals were more cooperative than others when being photographed. The Red Panda had nothing to do with us at all (all we could get was pictures of his butt), whereas our Sun Bear friend was a downright diva. Another flirt was this green parrot, who came right up to the bars when I got close. Then again, given the "Watch out, he bites!" sign on his cage, it might not have been to say "hi". ;-) Still, he was very cute.
There were a series of riots at the chimp house (which Dave would always rush back to go see), a great view of the city, zebras, lions, tigers, baboons, giraffes, and even a rare form of Australian sheep. Dave made up funny stories about some of the animals, and even enlightened me with his interpretation of the Egyptian heiroglyphs outside of the baboon grounds -- apparently, the story is that of "The Pharoh's Sacred Underpants", to which he is pointing.
It was a great time, but my favourite part was this particular peculiar duck. After walking around for the whole day, we were almost completely ignored by the animals. (Naturally, this is what should happen... but one always dreams of having that moment between oneself and a beautiful creature...) Anyhoo, we make our way to the aquatic birds section, and walk by indifferent ibises and aloof kookaburras, then arrive at a rather large but seemingly empty cage allegedly holding the Mandarin Duck. I spot him waaaay at the back, but then become totally shocked as he barrels straight for us!!! I don't think I had ever seen a duck run before, let alone run AT me, but it was a scream. He then talked to us, posed up a storm, and followed us around a bit. What a darling.
So, totally exhausted, we ended the day with a large bowl of fries in the attatched cafe. What a great time!