Opening day was upon me, and I had my gear all picked out, and I was ready to see some amazing things. My camerawoman, Sophie, and I went through the checklist to make sure we had everything, and we headed to the Promised Land.I’m talking, of course, about opening day of Southwick’s Zoo in Mendon, MA.
The air was a little chilly on Saturday, April 16, but it was also filled with excitement. We had barely crossed the threshold into the zoo when we had kangaroos hopping around to our left, capybara to the right, and even an albino wallaby. We took a few peeks at the animals on the way, but our immediate destination upon entering the zoo was the petting zoo, where I actually turned into a little kid again, as seen above and to the right.
From there we headed toward the giraffe, for whom I had a surprise. But before we got there a terrific sight confronted us; an albino peacock was displaying its prominent tail, which almost made me fall to my knees. The girth of its tail was shocking to see in person. It took a little while to tear our eyes away form the avian titan, but once we did we moved on to the giraffe area. To our dismay the giraffes had just decided to hang out inside for a little while.
Luckily there were many other exhibits to visit. A spider monkey befriended us, and we spent a while chatting with him. He’s a very interesting character, with lots of good stories to tell. He made us promise that we would visit him again before we left. How could we refuse?
Walking past the rides was one of the most difficult things I have ever had to do, but tigers, lions, and an African leopard named Mowgli awaited us just beyond them. Tigers and lions seem large when you see them on TV or in a picture, but something is lost in the translation from seeing them with your own eyes. These animals are massive, the tigers growing up to 550 lbs! It was awesome, and a little unnerving, to be standing so close to these massive specimens of the wild. The habitats were set up so that viewers can stand in between them, with tigers on one side and lions on the other, impressive company to keep.
Mowgli has his own special habitat that was designed and built over the last 3 years. Project Mowgli involved 20 seventh graders who helped to make the habitat production possible over a 6-month period. I must say, they did a great job: Mowgli has lots of room to move around, including a maze of branches to clamber over.
The zoo continued to give us more and more interesting habitats to look at and before I knew it, it was closing time. We walked back toward our friend the spider monkey, and there right in our path was the giraffe habitat, with both giraffes out. Giraffe surprise was allowed to happen, and then it was off to say goodbye to our buddy.
Written by: Erik Alvarenga
Thank you to Betsey Brewer and the Southwick’s Zoo staff.