Roar n Snore

24 Mar

 

 

Lions. Tigers and Bears. Oh My.

I love animals …but I don’t think I am an ‘animal person’.

Don’t get me wrong, I adore my doggies (but not anyone else’s) and think elephants are very cute.

Last night I spent the night at Taronga Zoo, participating in their ‘Roar n Snore’ program. No…..get your mind out of the gutter.  It was a magical night. It was the animals that roared.  Yes, Jai may have snored. The experience involved drinking wine, a lovely meal, a night tour of the zoo followed by an early 6am morning ‘behind-the scenes’ tour.

Our tour guide Leon Burchill, lived up to our expectations. He was a part time zoo keeper, part time botanical garden guide….. but his main endeavour was his acting career. You may have seen him in Australian film’s such as ‘Samson & Delila, Stone Brothers or My Place’  ads such as ‘Bundaberg Rum” or many outback documentaries (see pic above).  He was very, very friendly but I just couldn’t help laughing (admittedly, at one stage out loud) at how he epitomised all respective stereotypes. Some key quotes “I just love flora and fauna- its my life”, “I miss the Giraffes & I know when I’m gone they miss me too” (ummm….Sorry Leon, harsh reality, but I don’t think they do), “The giraffe is so gentle, I can even stick my tongue in its mouth” (He didn’t…luckily)!

I couldn’t stop thinking about how much our Roar N Snore guides just absolutely love animals.  They literally lived and breathed ‘animals’.  They mimicked animal ‘chuffing noises’ and fed them dead mice foetuses. They spoke about them with such passion and referred to the animals with such affection  – even when they were fugly.  A great example of this was the Pygamy Hippo called Henni – it was this slimy, oily, massive hippo that sprayed faeces and urine over the walls to mark its territory each day. Kaz the Zoo keeper said “Yes, cleaning faeces off the wall (and my self) is a little dirty, but at the end of the day she is beautiful & I love her” . What the hell?!  These people were just ‘animal people’

I did a subject in university called Animals & Culture. For 13 weeks we explored the ways in which humans and animals interact.

Walking through the zoo, things I had learnt began to suface….

–       As humans, we visit the zoo to watch the animals, but are they too also watching us.
– We ‘wait’ at their exhibits to ‘do’ something. We want them to perform for us. If they don’t we get bored and walk away.

–       We judge them. Normally in one word. Chimp = clever, Fennick Fox = shift, Giraffe = tall.

–       The guides kept referring to behavioural enrichment (ie. Placing ‘bloodsicles’  (blood iceblocks ) on a high ledge, so the Lion would spend all day trying to reach it…only after 12 hrs would they lower it). To me this just reeked of human interference & reinforcement of human superiority.

–       Animals are smart. Just because they don’t have the gift of human language doesn’t mean they don’t ‘talk’. They communicate in their own ways. We sometimes forget that.

 

I’m by no means an animal activist or am I anti-zoo’s. I believe they do great work in animal conservation & research. Above all they are passionate animal people. I rare and unique breed in our society….but one that is very much needed.

All in all it was an amazing experience and I recommend it to anyone. It really opened up my eyes and made me appreciate the ‘flora and fauna’ around me.

Now please excuse me, I must go practice my Kookburra noises.

 

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