Saturday, October 30, 2010

Polar Bear Plunge, Seriuosly! 北极熊玩斗

We always take a left to the "tiger" route at the zoo.  It was not so much a routine but a natural inclination. Today however, I handed a map to the new boyscout, and asked him to lead the way.  He set a course by turning right, up all the way to the back of the zoo where we normally do not reach, and we were richly blessed by this little adventure and veer from routines.

We made a short stop at the old elephant mesa (with a new name "Urban Jungle") to feed the giraffes and waved back at some friendly (awake!) koala bears.  Then we were off of the beaten path behind everything that was familiar.  Camels and tree kangaroos  greeted us on the sides before we arrived at a brand new (well, to me anyway) elephant odyssey, where we exclaimed at everything except the namesake animal.   A young jaguar pranced among branches and grassy paths that led to a pond, where she stopped to lap up a drink.   A majestic lion paraded with his impressive mane puffed up against the outside walls of his cave.  A bold eagle spread its wings wide,  perhaps to have it cleaned by a younger subordinate,  or to showcase a hospital manner for photo seeking visitors?  California native rattlers lay nearby and motionless, just beyond the sight of the giant birds of prey (hopefully!).  

Now we were just steps away from the polar bear plunge, and as soon as we walked in, we saw that the exhibit had seriously lived up to its name today.  Two full grown bears were holding each others' fat paws between their razor sharp teeth, slipping off rocks and diving into the pool of ice cold water.  They emerged to grab hold of each other once more, one managed to push the others head down all the way until he was completely upside down.  The head standing bear leaped up to bite the others' paw again and dragged him off against the glass where their massive bodies were pressed flat, dripping wet, white against black skin, covering 10-12 audiences wide in dropped jaws and dollar sized eyes, cameras flashing like paparazzi chasing another drunken teenage celebrity.  Almost as fiercely as they were frolicking, they suddenly separated in pin drop silence.  Before we knew, the larger bear was holding a carrot with both paws and sitting with his back against the glass munching on it like a baby.   A fresh salmon was to follow as a proper main course, enjoyed slowly, playfully and methodically.   He bit, tore, tossed, caught, dug, flip, dove, twist, and turned the meal and himself dozens of ways and dozens of times,  now above and then under the water, now sitting and then standing, now chasing and then munching, he put on a beautiful, chilling, scary, and entertaining show for the stunned yet appreciative audience. 

We walked out of the exhibit nearly dazed, thinking nothing could top that performance today.  Of course we should have never doubted.  The four months old baby panda ("cloud" something was her name), climbed up 35 feet above ground into a swaying tree branch, and settled there for a nap.  Mom and dad were both up and active taking a leisurely stroll across the bamboos and over the rocks.  Of course, this is not to mention the exotic birds, water foes, zebras, deers, monkeys, gorillas, and the perennially adorable meerkats, just to name a few, among dozens of photo ready creatures who generously showed us their best sides and flashy smiles.

Sometimes we forget that we live next to a world famous zoo that is full of life yet still constantly improving and renovating.  I am so glad I remembered on this "wintery" day to stop by and make a visit to these endearing animal friends.


  1. You have been lucky to see so many animals in action. When I visited two summers ago, I wasn't much impressed by the because many of the cages were empty for some reason. I enjoyed walking through the bird's sanctuary whicn somewhat resembled the rain forest. After reading your article, I do want to visit the zoo again,some time soon maybe.

  2. They renovated the zoo quite a bit, and I was very lucky and blessed to have come upon all the animals right after the innovation, on a cool winter day, right after lots of rain. They were so lively and enjoyable to watch, I highly recommend it - make sure you visit the new exhibits. I arrived at around noon which is feeding time, that also triggered many of the "shows" we saw.




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