Thursday, September 8, 2011

"At The Zoo"

(Photos:  Woman feeding friendly goats at Central Park Children's Zoo yesterday.  Ducks huddled against the rain at the South Pond of Central Park yesterday.)
"Its a light and tumble journey from the East Side to the park
Just to find a fancy ramble at the zoo
But you can take the cross town bus if its raining or it cold
And the animals will love it, if you do." 
The above lyrics from the Simon and Garfunkle song, "At the Zoo" played out in real life yesterday, when deciding to use a rainy day in NYC to visit the Central Park Zoo.
Of course I had a ulterior motive for going to the south side of Central Park, but more about that later......
The light and mostly intermittent rain did result in keeping most visitors away, so it was really nice to walk around and quietly enjoy the variety of animals, mostly in as natural settings as could be possible within a city park.
Seals are always a main attraction at the Central Park Zoo.  Watching them zoom around the pool and occasionally climbing on the rocks to groom or pose for photos is a fun experience.
There is the Penguin house which is charming, the various types of monkeys in a large, outdoor enclosure and of course, people like the watch the polar bear ambling around in the water, mostly on his back, like Michael Phelps doing a backstroke.
I mostly enjoyed seeing the two red Pandas who it turns out are an endangered species -- only 2,000 of them in the entire world.   They are truly beautiful animals with their glorious red color, cute faces and plush, raccoon-like tails.  Apparently, they are very mellow and "slow" animals, preferring to laze in trees and munch on bamboo than engage in any strenuous activities.
The two red pandas are a young male who the zoo recently acquired and a four-year-old female.  The zoo is hoping the two will eventually breed, (as part of preservation program) though at present they are still working out their relationship.
The zoo created a gorgeous "Tropical Rain Forest" house that contains numerous exotic and in many cases, endangered bird species.   I have no idea what most of the birds are, obviously having never seen them before, but it is a fascinating place to just wander around and feel for a moment, one is in some tropical jungle with beautiful birds, including peacocks, flying all about.
I was not fortunate enough to see the "Snow Leopard" that wanders around an outside enclosure at the Central Park Zoo.  But, it was OK.
It is far more preferable that the animals have some semblance of a natural environment (even if we don't always see them) than to be imprisoned in cages, like lions and tigers were many years ago at Central Park -- usually pacing back and forth and going slowly out of their minds.
In short, the restoration of the Central Park Zoo represents monumental and great improvement over what used to be.  Its important that people visit and support the zoos and parks when they are actually striving to do something right.
From the main zoo, I also visited the "Children's Zoo" which is a short distance away and included in the overall, modest zoo fee.
This is probably the most fun part of the zoo, because people are allowed to feed designated treats to the goats, Llamas, sheep and pigs.  Goats and sheep are particularly social and run right up to you, begging for handouts.  The pigs yesterday, perhaps because of the rain, preferred to stay in their little barn, hanging out with visiting pigeons.
But, as noted at the top of this entry, I had other reason for going to the south side of Central Park yesterday.
That was to see if I could find any geese at all still remaining in Central Park.
When finally leaving the Central Park Zoo, I walked over to the south pond located near the 59th Street entrance to Central Park.
The last time I was at the Pond, (July) there were ten geese there.   A set of parents with three young goslings hatched in May and five other geese who I guessed were their grown offspring from a previous year.  At the time, tons of people, including small children were feeding the geese -- especially the cute goslings.  (What child doesn't love to feed baby animals?)
But, yesterday, it was a very different scene.
There were no geese at all.   The twenty of so ducks at the pond, were huddled on a rock, bracing themselves against the falling rain.
The scene made me think of all the bogus claims of how "feeding geese makes them stay!"
Were that even remotely true, there would be dozens of geese at the south Pond in Central Park.
As it was, even the geese who were generously fed by people over the summer, were gone.
I am still having no luck in finding out exactly WHY there are no geese in Central Park at a time there would normally be many.
I did receive a call back a few days ago from a Central Park Conservancy official, but even that yielded no answers -- in fact it only added to the confusion.
Caroline Greenleaf did tell me that Central Park employs a goose harassment program (which I already knew), but could not tell me the last time it was used.
Seeking to justify the reasons for its use, Greenleaf asserted that the geese "damage lawns" and interfere with human recreational use.
The conversation became a bit contentious then when I told Greenleaf that the geese very rarely graze on the park lawns even when plentiful in the park.  As matters are now, the geese don't even exist in Central Park.
"Is the goal of harassment, total eradication?" I asked.
"Central Park has never killed geese!" Greenleaf shot back defensively.
"I know that," I replied.  "But, if Central Park is chasing the geese out of the park only for them to be killed somewhere else, doesn't that make the park complicit in and partner to eradication?"
It was not a pleasant conversation.
And although Greenleaf promised to call me back with the information of when harassment was last used on the geese in Central Park, so far she hasn't.
The reason this is so irking me is that I cannot figure whether the few geese who were in Central Park as of a few weeks ago left on their own accord or were harassed out of the park.
Or, maybe their population has simply been so decimated in recent years that there are no longer many geese to "gather" and spread out all around New York City?
As already said numerous time, I suspect the latter to be the real reason there are no geese in Central Park right now, but it cannot be proved without an actual and accurate goose count in the city.
When saying the conversation with Ms. Greenleaf was "confusing," it is because she cited both lower and higher state goose numbers in the same conversation.
"According to E-Bird reports, the goose population is down all around the state." Ms. Greenleaf offered.
But, then five minutes later, "The DEC says the goose population is booming in the state."
Ms. Greenleaf then attempted to explain the contradiction by saying that "E-reports are not necessarily reliable because they depend on the observations of bird watchers and not everyone reports."
I personally don't believe that anyone actually has an accurate idea of how many geese are still surviving in New York State.
And even if they do, tens of thousands of the geese (assuming there are that many) can be expected to be blown out of the skies over the next three months.
The one thought that kept going through my mind yesterday, especially when in the exotic and rare bird house at the Central Park Zoo:
"One day we will have to pay to see Canada geese in our local zoos."
(Or, as singer Joni Mitchel put it:   "Put all the trees in a tree museum and charge the people a dollar and a half just to see them.")
"Something tells me it's all happening at the zoo.
I do believe it......I do believe its true."
Hmmm, humm, huummm."    --PCA

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