It was my birthday the other day and my girlfriend and I went to the National Zoo. If you’ve never been I can hardly recommend it enough. Its very nice and most importantly free.
Its not perfect though. My biggest problem with zoos, aquariums, and museums is they are frequented by idiots. There’s always some dolt around with no clue what they’re talking about despite big signs with clear lettering right in front of their faces. Unfortunately this does nothing to stop illiterate troglodytes from hooting and hollering about the garter snake they just mistook for a boa constrictor.
Speaking of dumb apes we some orangutans as well. One of them was named Kyle. Isn’t that the worst fucking name for an orangutan? I have to imagine they let a 6 year old name it. There was also one named Bonnie which is also dumb but it made me laugh since that’s the name of my mother.
One of the orangutans had an infant which was pretty cute. It was just a tiny red hairy thing and resembled my beard if it were an anthropomorphic creature. The little guy(?) must have been a tough nurser though because mom’s nipples were about two inches long. She looked like she had a pair of pinkie fingers dangling off her chest.
After the apes it was off to the elephant house where I learned quite a bit. Did you know an Asian elephant weighs 250lbs at birth, and at a year old tops out at 650? I didn’t think that was much weight gain for an animal that tops out of 12,000 lbs but I guess it makes sense considering an elephant’s diet which is nothing but roughage. Also, elephants take several dozen dumps a day (each the size of a soccer ball) and piss an ungodly amount (another fun shit fact I learned at the zoo is that sloths relieve themselves so infrequently that any given time roughly 30% of their mass is waste). There were visual aids on the premises, and one was a large cylinder filled with pachyderm turds (or boluses if you’re a dignified sort). I assumed they were fake but upon further inspection noticed some streaks on the glass. They were the real deal! Imagine having that as your job…collecting poop all day to put on display. I imagine if that didn’t make you question your career choices nothing would.
Hard to believe but the huge piles of feces on display wasn’t the highlight of my visit. That would be the reptile house. Full disclosure, as a kid I wanted to be a herpetologist but was too dumb to get through the math and chemistry. The DC Zoo has all sorts of wonderful snakes, lizards and crocodilians but if you ask me the crown jewels of their collection are the Aldabra tortoises. Aldabra tortoises are another species of giant tortoise (picture a Galapagos tortoise but living on islands in the Indian Ocean). I had the pleasure of visiting their native islands (the Seychelles) while in the navy, and I was more excited to feed those tortoises than a Kardashian sister is to hop on a rich guy’s penis.
Something I didn’t know was apparently you can train a tortoise. These colossal testudines spend part of their afternoons hanging out in a yard gnawing the grass down to nothing, but at the end of the day are brought inside. Their keepers condition them to respond to the sight of a red disc. When the tortoises touch their faces to the disc they get a bite of carrot, and are pied-pipered back into the reptile house. After witnessing this spectacle I feel as if I owe all turtledom an apology because I previously assumed tortoises weren’t much more than empty-headed sentient rocks.
After the tortoise wrangling demonstration I had a talk with the zoo keeper, and rumor has it you can own Aldabra tortoises legally. Once I got home I looked up breeders and sure enough I found some. Most are in Florida (big surprise) and will sell you one for around two grand. At the time of writing I haven’t been convinced not to dump half a month’s salary on one of these magnificent creatures, and if I’m ever rich you can rest assured I will be moving out west and opening the world’s first tortoise centric dude ranch.