So we went to the zoo.
I can't quite decide what I think about zoos. Is it right to keep animals like that, in unnatural surroundings? The first animals we saw were the elephants (my favourite) who were roaming around a dry mud pen. All I could think of were the elephants I have seen in the wild: in Ghana, where I heard them first charging down the hill breaking trees as they went; and in Zambia, where they frolicked in the river and wandered through local villages. There they lived in green, luscious land, covered in trees and vegetation and with lots of space to roam.
Is it right to keep them in a zoo?
Then again, at Chester Zoo (which was where we went!) they invest a lot in local conservationists, people who give their lives to providing the right environment for animals to prevent extinction. A lot of the animals we saw are endangered or threatened, and there is an argument that keeping them in a zoo means that we don't lose that genetic gene pool.
Surely it is right to breed these in a zoo?
Whatever the arguments, I still love seeing animals moving and prowling. My daughter and I were fortunate to see the jaguars whilst my husband and son were still inside (tee hee!), and spotting the cheetahs was a delight. The lions were stalking their cage, yawning and stretching before settling down for an afternoon snooze. The butterfly house was a delight: the colours, the lightness and the joy of seeing so many fluttering around our bodies.
But the biggest surprise relates again to our Zambian experience. It took us nearly a week's holiday in Kasanka National Park before one of the guides pointed out a sitatunga antelope to us. We saw its head poking above the marshy grass from miles away (or so it felt: the only real sighting of it was through binoculars). We were elated to have seen such a rare breed of antelope! Yet at the zoo: there was a field full of them. Not much marshland for a marsh-dwelling animal, but nevertheless a field-ful. My husband and I were delighted by them (unlike our children, who were more excited by the zebra on the other side!)
It was a fantastic day out: a day in glorious sunshine was just what the family needed! And even inspired my writing gene, as I was reminded of the children's story that lurks at the back of my mind involving some of these...
Maybe now I'll get round to writing it!