A Morning at the Zoo

Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, people who are heavily involved in the crazy hobby of pipe bands on occasion take a time out to do something completely unrelated to either a pipe band or to their work, whatever that work might be. One would think there might not be time for doing anything other than pipe bands or work, especially during “pipe band season”, but I have seen it happen. In fact, I have experienced it!

In May of this year the Calgary Zoo was fortunate enough to acquire four Giant Pandas, temporarily. Two are somewhat less giant than the other two, as they’re still considered cubs, and none of the four is actually very large; in fact, they’re all smaller than a North American black bear. At least I think that’s the truth. Perhaps I should actually do some research to find out whether I’m lying or not. Regardless, they’re called Giant Pandas. The name does beg the question of whether there are actually pandas that aren’t giants? Again, obviously some further research is necessary.

As part of the program of having these Giant Pandas at the Calgary Zoo, Breakfast with the Pandas was offered. When I read about it, I thought to myself – what could be more fun? After all, I love breakfast, and I want to see the pandas. So I went online, booked my ticket, told work I’d be a few hours late on the day for which my ticket was valid, and headed for the zoo, for the first time in well over a decade.

Obviously it was a beautiful, cloudless morning, which contributed to my excitement about seeing the pandas. (And about breakfast.).

And what a wonderful time I had! After I showed my ticket at the admission gate, I was greeted by a very noisy peacock. The sounds it was making reminded me a bit of my cat Maisey’s “Wake up, Ann!” noises, – but that’s a whole other story. Obviously the peacock wasn’t feeling very threatened by me, which is good.

Breakfast was buffet-style, and the buffet was filled with lots of delicious offerings, including pastries, fruit, eggs, bacon – all the goodies one could ever want for breakfast.

There were probably two dozen people in the restaurant also having their breakfast and looking forward to seeing the pandas. Part way through our breakfast, a zookeeper gave a bit of a speech about animal conservation, and then told us all about the Giant Pandas.

Some Fun Facts that I learned:

1. Pandas poop forty times a day. Seriously, forty! Apparently this is because all they eat is bamboo, which obviously contains a lot of roughage. As in, that’s pretty much all it is – roughage.

2. Pandas have very strong jaws and jaw muscles. In fact, their jaw muscles are among the top 5% in the world. Crazy! Also in that top 5% are American alligators, jaguars, and bull sharks. Isn’t that incredible? Apparently pandas need these strong jaws to eat all the bamboo. But I’m pretty sure that if you were to annoy a panda, it would be quite capable of chewing your arm off without any difficulty.

3. The zookeepers don’t go into the the enclosures with the pandas. This amazed me because the pandas are just so cute, you’d think the zookeepers wouldn’t be able to resist giving them a little scratch under the chin – but apparently not. See #2 above.

4. Female pandas only ovulate one day a year. This means they can only get pregnant during a 72 hour period in a full year. No wonder they’re having trouble keeping themselves alive as a species!

5. Pandas have been on earth for two or three million years. Panda fossils have been found in Burma, Vietnam, and eastern China. Which again begs the question, how have they remained alive so long?

But enough of my fun facts, and down to the interesting stuff – photos of the pandas!

Above is the adult male, hanging around eating bamboo. Then these next two photos are of the male cub, also hanging around eating bamboo…

Until he got so full that he had to take a nap.

But then the female cub entered from stage left, wanting a bit of the bamboo action…

Trying to be ever so sneaky so as not to disturb her brother, but alas, she wasn’t able to quite carry it off!

The two seemed to be having a good time sharing the bamboo, and even playing a little game of peek-a-boo with it.

The female adult panda didn’t come out to play while I was there – apparently she is the most shy of the four. Or perhaps she’s simply not a morning panda, as it was still only about 7:45 a.m.!

I went back to see the adult male again. He had his own enclosure, away from the cubs. Still eating bamboo, but then later stretched out on his back for a little snooze. So cute!

Obviously, I really enjoyed my “Breakfast with the Pandas” experience. The cost of the ticket included a full day at the zoo, but unfortunately I had to head off to work at some point. I was however able to do a bit of a walk around and visit some other animals before my zoo morning was up.

One of the tigers was putting on a show… well, maybe not a “show”, exactly, but he was doing a lot of pacing. I wondered if he was looking for his breakfast, since all the humans and the giant pandas had already eaten, so I wasn’t about to give him a “here kitty kitty” scratch behind the ears or anything!

There was also a baby camel! He put on a display of galloping, which was absolutely adorable.

His parents may want to seriously reconsider their hairstylist though. Maybe not the best look for spring. Just sayin’.

I visited with just a few more animals – the giraffes, the hippo, and the zebras, and along the way I saw some ducklings too!

And that was my morning at the zoo! It was a great way to do something just a bit out of the ordinary for me, and to learn about Giant Pandas, and to have a fabulous walk through some fabulously kept gardens and to visit some other animals, all before work. I highly recommend it!

The moral of the story is this (at least as far as I’m concerned) – take the time to do something different with your day whenever you get the opportunity. It might be great, or it might be less than what you hoped for – but at least you can say you did it. And that’s a great thing!

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