Wellington, New Zealand: The Bubble Boy of Birds

With Jess’ sister Jen in town, we needed to find something to do on Saturday afternoon that would give the younger Symons a feel of the city. We chose a trip to the Wellington Zoo.

The zoo was quite enjoyable. Although it wasn’t nearly as big as the one in San Francisco, it showcased a good variety of animals. We arrived around lunchtime, so almost right off the bat, we got to see some wild dogs being fed. A goat carcass was dragged into a separate area within the animals’ enclosure. The zookeeper who was organizing the luncheon talked to us about where they get the meat, how often they’re fed, etc, etc. Jen did a degree in Zoology so this stuff was right up her alley. When the gates of feeding area were opened, the animals — who had until then been running around the outside of the fence yelping and growling with anticipation — rushed in and tore the meat apart.

Next came the baboons. Now it seems that we arrived during the height of mating season, so all the lady monkeys were wandering around with giant red asses. And in front of the baboon enclosure was a large group of young students and a zookeeper who was explaining why they had such hilarious behinds. Then he grabbed a bunch of bananas and started tossing them, hail mary-style, over the fence at the monkeys.

As I pondered the monkey-social implications of having to fight for ‘rain bananas’ from some zookeeper/God, Jess and her sister giggled beside me while pointing at the baboons’ bright red booty. We watched them fight over flying bananas for a while then kept moving.

The next noteworthy stop was another monkey enclosure, this time the chimps. We got there just before feeding time, so as we waited for the zookeeper, we watched the chimpanzees. I saw one sleeping on top of a boulder that formed the roof of a shelter in the center of the area. He/She (his/her ass was large and red, but that doesn’t mean the monkey was female, maybe he just put a couple pounds recently … and another monkey slapped him very hard — and for the purpose of projecting myself onto this monkey, I’m going to go with he) — anyway, he was sleeping on his side in the same way that I usually sleep: legs bent slightly with the lower arm also bent and my head resting on my forearm. I immediately identified with the guy. After all, it was early afternoon and he had had a busy afternoon of playing on the fake trees and goofing around with his friends. Jess and Jen also found their monkey alter egos, but theirs weren’t as cool as Monkey Bj.

The zookeeper arrived with a box of fruit and gave us some information about the group of chimpanzees. One of them had recently given birth and sure enough, a tiny baby chimp was clutching the belly of one of the monkeys as they all moved around in anticipation of … well, more flying fruit.

And so the onslaught of orange- and apple-missiles began. But this time the zookeeper was actually throwing them to specific monkeys much of the time, first calling their names out and then chucking an orange at them.

The chimpanzee enclosure was one of the last stops on our zoo tour, but as we made our way to the exit, we passed the meercats, who were scurrying around their play area.

A plastic bag that another zoo visitor had carelessly left near the enclosure was blown inside and the meercats soon started playing with it. One of them quite ferociously laid claim to the new treasure and started crawling inside. Worried for his safety — because, as Meercat Bj, he would be inclined to wrap himself inside the cosiness of his new shelter and suffocate — we called the nearest worker and told them about the situation. Another zoo worker soon arrived and much to the dismay of the animals, removed the bag.

Before we left the zoo, we headed into a dark, indoor exhibit to watch a presentation on the Kiwi bird. For those of you who don’t know about Kiwis, they are an endangered species which once made up a large part of the ecological landscape of New Zealand, prior to the arrival of Westerners. Much like myself, they are characterized as ‘shy and usually nocturnal’. Also, once a male and female have bonded (a.k.a., ‘hooked up’), they tend to stay together in monogamy. But the best part is this: ‘During the mating season, June to March, the pair call to each other at night, and meet in the nesting burrow every three days’. And they carry on these ‘booty calls’ for up to 20 years!

As the zookeeper told us about these flightless birds, it became clear to me why their population is dwindling: they are the most fragile birds on the planet. First of all, the room we were in was extremely dark because they don’t like bright lights. We were asked not to use flash cameras because the bright lights freak the Kiwi out. And we had to be still and quiet because it didn’t like loud noises either. So … no bright lights, loud noises or quick movements, and don’t ask it intensely personal or foreward questions because it’s so shy. Jeez, no wonder the European settlers could pick these things off like clay pigeons.

On the way home from the zoo we stopped by Victoria Hill (or Mt Victoria, really can’t remember what it’s called), and took some pictures of the area around the city.

Next we headed to the bowling alley and played a game while getting something to eat. Then Jess took her sister to the airport for her trip to see her boyfriend in Rarotonga while I met up with relatives for some coffee in the city. Jess and I reconvened at her apartment, then headed back to the bowling alley for another game, some food and drinks at a bar.

The next day I left Wellington for Brisbane.

Stay tuned for more evidence of my distinct ability to gain employment in other countries, and why I would see Jess much sooner than I thought. And check out all the pics from Wellington here.

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One comment

  1. that gorilla cracked me up; he looked extra content just lying there. that bird sounds weak as hell, you should have totally taken a picture of that thing.

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