Posted by: Paul | September 9, 2010

Conversations with a Two-Year-Old: Want Go In There!

Now the Goddamn Summer Holidays are over, Adam and my routine is getting back on track. As the kids are all back at school it’s once more safe for us to return to the Zoo, and we spend a very pleasant morning wandering around – for the most part, entirely alone in the quiet pathways and enclosures, enjoying the warm breeze. At least I am. Adam is, as usual, stomping around like a mad thing. On the way past the Leopard enclosure, I note the time of ‘Leopard Training’ and wonder what it entails.

First port of call is the Cherry Crowned Managabeys, or ‘MONKEYS!’ to Adam. There’s a huge outdoor enclosure but we spot one quiet family group in the indoor enclosure, sitting right by the windows, and pop in for a look. The baby makes Adam laugh by jumping off a high beam, hitting the glass with arms outstretched and sliding slowly down. Seemingly for Adam’s amusement this process is repeated several times, before the Daddy – a rather large, threatening looking Mangabey – squares right up to me on the other side of the window. I wonder how thick the glass is.

Next are the new Lions. The zoo unfortunately lost a couple of Lions in the past 18 months to old age, but they now have a handsome new group – two females and a majestic male, looking every inch the King of the Jungle from atop his perch, surveying his territory. Adam doesn’t stay here long as he spots the Meerkats across the path, and we spend at least ten delighted minutes watching the almost unbelievably cute babies playfighting. Mum and Dad look on, from the top of an upright log. Simples.

After covering at least half the territory Adam begins mumbling about going home. On the way back we pass by the Leopards just as the keepers are opening up for the ‘training’. This, it turns out, is in order to get them (today the female) to accept foreign objects into their enclosure without ripping them to shreds, in order to pacify them for medical examinations without tranquilising the cats. Of course it’s done by teaching good behaviours via rewarding them with food, and the female Leopard emits a delicious low purr, one of the most beautiful sounds I’ve heard. If you have never heard a Big Cat purr, it’s quite something.

‘Do you like the Leopards, Adam?’
‘Yeah.’
‘Can you hear her purring?’
‘Want go in there.’
‘What? You can’t go in there, she’d eat you for lunch in about two bites.’
‘Want go in there!’

There’s just no reasoning with children.

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