I went to the zoo a few days ago. I got a Sno-Cone. Sno-Cones are the sort of thing that seem exciting at first but then you sit down with one and you think, I spent three bucks on this? Mine kept melting and dripping onto the picnic table I was sitting at.
But I like the zoo. I don’t know if it’s on purpose or not, but at the Phoenix Zoo you have to do a lot of walking to see not a lot of animals (so it makes for good exercise if nothing else). I don’t mind too much because the animals have large habitats instead of little cages or fenced-off yards or anything like that. They’ve all got plenty of room to … do whatever it is that animals in zoos do. And there are unusually large squirrels all over the place, as there’s ample room to frolic. The meerkat exhibit was full of squirrels. I didn’t see any meerkats. Maybe the squirrels, hopped up on Sno-Cone juice, ate them all.
When you first get in to the zoo, if you keep going straight ahead, past the carousel, you get to a little African savanna area with four or five giraffes, a number of alarmingly large birds (not emus – I’m talking vultures), and a few odd ungulates. The giraffes are terribly curious, especially the younger one (little guy, probably only 11 feet tall). It kept looking around at all the people on the other side of the fence as if he was thinking, “Oh, look, they’ve got humans on display today. I love those things.” I got some really good pictures. I like to spend a bit of time at the Savanna because from there, it’s a good five-to-seven minute walk to see another living creature if you head to the left. And that’s assuming you can spot one of the bighorn sheep on the mountains. I saw one once, when I was on the road on the way home.
I have been to the zoo probably eight times in my life. I have wandered from one end to the other and I have seen almost every animal on exhibit, with one notable exception: I have never seen a bear.
If their website can be believed, the Phoenix Zoo is home to at least one spectacled bear. I learned all about spectacled bears from watching “Go, Diego, Go!” at my last job. Something tells me they don’t actually talk in real life and would be more apt to rip Diego to shreds (this is the only thought that kept me going during my 100th viewing of the DVD). Anyway, according to the zoo’s map, the spectacled bear exhibit is in between those for the anteater and the capybara (world’s largest rodent!). I have been by the exhibit several times. It’s a nice little patch of land with lots of trees and rocks and vegetation, but something seems to be missing, or at least it’s been missing the times I’ve checked.
I have never seen a bear.
I have spent the better part of 20 minutes scouring every inch of the enclosure. I have walked by at different times of day. I have checked for signs that the exhibit was closed. And I have never, not once, seen any signs that there is indeed a bear living there.
I have a theory about it, actually. It’s a very nice enclosure, as I’ve mentioned. I’m sure it wasn’t cheap. So I think that the zoo poured a lot of money into putting it together, and then when it came down to it, they didn’t have the money left over to get an actual bear to put there. So it’s been empty all this time, and they think that no one is going to notice, that people will just figure the bear is in the back or napping somewhere and no one will be the wiser.
Well, Phoenix Zoo, you’re not fooling me. I’ve never seen a bear, and I’m not going to be satisfied until it’s been proven conclusively that there is indeed a bear in all that foliage. I want proof, Zoo people, and when you’re ready to give it to me, come find me. I’ll be the one by the Sno-Cone stand taking pictures of squirrels.