Z is for Zoo.
In this case, the Stone Zoo in Stoneham, Massachusetts.
Mr. Magpie and I visited the Stone Zoo this past weekend, mostly so that he could see his beloved big cats, but we loved visiting all the animals, like this wonderful gibbon. She was a showoff and a flirt, and she played peekaboo around a corner with a delighted little boy.
I have a hard time with zoos; it's never easy to see animals in cages and enclosures. On the other hand, zoos like this one do the important work of conservation and education. For example, the Stone Zoo is part of Zoo New England, and they are involved in the Blanding's turtle research and monitoring project at Great Meadows in Concord, Massachusetts. Anyone who has read my blog knows how much I love Great Meadows--and the turtles we meet there. Blandings are a threatened species that have been on the decline since the 1970's.
I also love talking with the folks who work at zoos. As I watched these beautiful markhors, a man who works at Stone Zoo cut several large branches from nearby trees and fed them to the markhors. It was incredible to watch these endangered wild goats from India and Afghanistan climb nimbly down the cliff to eat their afternoon snack. Only 2,000 to 4,000 markhors still exist in the wild, and they are still being hunted for food and for their horns. Very soon the only markhors left will be in zoos like this one.
The Stone Zoo has cougars, jaguars, and snow leopards. The jaguars and snow leopards were sleeping, like most cats in the afternoon, but this one glorious cougar was up and about. In the wild, cougars maintain territorial ranges of up to 100 miles, so it is painful to see them in enclosures.
I got to spend quite a bit of time with this black-necked crane, who was very social and quite friendly, posing for photos and spending a lot of time examining the crazy woman who wouldn't stop talking and and snapping pictures and making bird noises.
For this, my last photo of my last alphabet post, I thought I'd share this shot I took of a Mexican gray wolf (yes, I was this close to her, but I took the photo through a glass wall). Like many of the animals at the Stone Zoo, Mexican grey wolves were hunted nearly to extinction. By the 1950's there were only a handful left in the wild. The Stone Zoo is involved in efforts to reintroduce these wolves to remote parts of the American Southwest.
Whenever I read stories about animals like the Mexican gray wolves or markhors or the countless other species on the verge of extinction, I marvel at how little care or understanding we humans have shown our fellow creatures. I live in a part of New England that is already densely populated by humans, yet each day I see new strip malls and developments flying up. Why don't we see that when a forest is gone, it is gone? When a wolf or a songbird or a snake or a turtle disappears from the planet, we are all left diminished by its absence. I've always found it funny that people who fight for the conservation of animals and wilderness and the health of the planet are dismissed by those builders of shopping malls and subdivisions as tree huggers, as if that is a derogatory term. Of course we are tree huggers! How can we not be?
Thanks for all your lovely comments and thoughts about the alphabet posts. I have been less than regular with posting and commenting lately, and you are patient and good to put up with me.