Monday, January 5, 2009

Animal Attacks!

For the past two weeks, I've been on a mostly-vacation. A mostly-vacation means I managed to get six out of seven days off each week and only work Tuesdays. It was grand.

What I would like to share with you is the terrifying experiences we had last week at the Racine Zoo on New Year's Day.

Let me start by saying that the Racine Zoo has long been one of my favorite zoos because I don't often have the time, small fortune and energy to do Brookfield, or the patience to deal with the traffic and parking surrounding Lincoln Park. Milwaukee is nice, but it feels too old school to me. Racine is the underdog of local zoos. Costing only $4 to get in and offering free parking, it's economical. While you can get through the whole zoo in an hour or two, you have the benefit of many more up close and personal experiences with some surprisingly exotic creatures. It's always a thrill.

With half the animals off exhibit due to the extreme cold, we expected a half-empty zoo. What we didn't expect was for the animals on exhibit to be so bloody bold.

The fennec foxes were sleepy, but adorable.

The turs were outside, but only three, and they were eating and paying little attention to anyone save for an occasional glance with a mouth full of food.

The penguins, though perfectly suited for the cold, were in a glass enclosure and squawked at us, but we could not hear them or get any pictures.

Then we visited the tiger. The Amur tiger is always a highlight, but today he was particularly active, pacing and growling, acknowledging the few people who passed his enclosure, or just sitting in the snow looking tough.

I strolled on to check out the very playful lynx next door to the tiger. Gorgeous girl, she is.

After a few minutes, I noticed that Boyfriend Extraordinaire lagged behind, watching the tiger through the window. Then I heard the tiger growl and my Schwee yelped. When I turned to look, I didn't even have the wherewithal to lift the camera and shoot.

There stood B.E. at the window and the tiger was inches away, on his hind legs, swiping repeatedly with alternating paws at the window, as if trying to knock B.E.'s head off.

I repeated "Holy crap!" about four times before I remembered to take a picture. By the time I did, the tiger decided he'd had enough and wandered off.

B.E., on the other hand, managed only to snap three shots: a blurry tiger forehead, the sky, and the ground. He knew there was a barrier between them, but for a few moments his senses were fooled into believing he was going to be eaten by a tiger. I'm sure it didn't help that the night before we'd been up late watching a program on Animal Planet about man-eating tigers of the Sundarbans.

The interesting thing was a few minutes later, the tiger did it again, and this time I was ready.

However, the tiger's attitude softened a little and then he wanted some neck rubs.

Once the tiger quit attacking and then rubbing on B.E., we made our way through the rest of the zoo, and on our way out, we noticed that there were kangaroos and wallaroos hopping around the Walkabout Creek exhibit, which had been empty when we visited earlier. Without a clear knowledge of the difference between the kangas and wallas, we just called them all 'roos, which might have been a precursor to our second animal attack at the Racine Zoo that day.

The cool thing about Walkabout Creek is that you're walking on a paved path with little more than dangling ropes to keep you on your path, and the 'roos pretty much have the run of the place.

Okay, let me point out the difference between the wallaroos and kangaroos, because this is going to be key.

Wallaroos are f'ing adorable!

They have faces like bunnies, tiny little T-rex hands, and bounce around on big thighs and feet, with a thick, furry tail for balance.

And they have big dark eyes, so dreamy, and long whiskers that jut out of their eyebrows, mustaches and beards.

Very snuggly! I want one! Or three.

Kangaroos, on the other hand, look a little less snuggly. In fact, they look more like they want to beat the living crap out of you for calling them a 'roo, and then piss on your remains, all with a quaint Aussie accent.

That look totally changed my view of kangaroos being the deer of Australia. Deer don't look at me like that.

So, anyway, we walked all the way around Walkabout Creek with 'roos scattering whenever we got within 10 feet of them, which was okay because it's fun to watch them hopping around. We got all the way back to the swinging doors out of the enclosure and turned to take one last look at the 'roos bouncing about, when a kangaroo decided to give us a send-off.

From all the way at the other end of the exhibit, this 'roo got it in his head to come after us.
Photo taken by Boyfriend Extraordinaire.

In the blink of an eye, he'd cut the distance between us in half, and he was still coming fast.
Photo taken by Boyfriend Extraordinaire.

Now, 'roos seem like peaceful creatures and they don't have massive fangs or weigh 800 pounds, yet, the menacing way they look at you makes you think they could mess you up before you even got your head wrapped around the fact that a marsupial half your size was kicking your ass.

This one was coming fast, and he didn't look like he wanted to cuddle.

I said, "OHMYGOD, Schwee, he's coming for us! He's going to get us! Schweee!"

And, me being me, I squealed in terror and instinctively scurried over to B.E. for 'roo defense.

When I moved, the 'roo froze. It was like he expected us to be frozen in shock over the concept of being attacked by a 'roo, which is a huge upper hand when you're about to kick the ass of something much larger than yourself. The element of surprise always helps. I do believe that me moving over reminded the 'roo just how small he was, and that if the two humans defended themselves, he could stub a toe or something equally irritating. So, he sat about 6 feet from us, right where he stopped, and tried to look nonchalant.

B.E. tried to assure me that he meant no harm and wanted just to shake my hand. Uh-huh. And I bet that tiger just wanted to give him a hug, too.

Suddenly, the 'roo turned and hopped off. But I took one last shot of him standing at the other end of the enclosure, eying us threateningly, and then I promptly left that exhibit.

You see that look? Shake-my-hand, my ass! He was going to mess me up!

Consider yourself warned. If you see tracks like this in the snow, watch out!

And that was the best $4 trip to the zoo ever!


Travelin' Tracy said...

What a great visit to the zoo. We are lucky here by DC, because most things are free. So our zoo is free, but you have to pay for parking...unless you take the metro. I went once to the zoo with my husband last year, it was fun to watch all the primates. The tigers can not get that close to you in our zoo...very exciting and super scary!

Leelu said...

I didn't get a chance to say it before, but that's freakin' awesome. :D

Kate P said...

That photo with the tiger was unbelievable! And I do believe that 'roo was about to "go Sean Penn on your ass." That is a lot of thrills for $4.

librarian nervosa said...

I suppose you want an apology! Yes, those kangaroos have really strong hind legs and claws so they can rip each other open - I kid you not. You should see them fight - it's not pretty. The little ones are wallabies. Beautiful pictures and great value at that zoo.

Cheers from Tassie xxx

Amanda (the librarian) said...

I love your illustrated stories! Great photos. Thanks for sharing.

Mary Ellen said...

Is it wrong that I totally want to be chased by a kangaroo now? It is, isn't it?

Happy Villain said...

Ah, they always stick you with parking if the zoo is free! Isn't that cool about this zoo? That you can get so close. I love that!

Indeed, tiger attacks are awesome.

OMG, you're so right. That 'roo looked totally like Sean Penn! Eesh.

Librarian Nervosa:
I was SOOOO hoping you'd read this and chime in about the 'roos. I figured they could do a lot of damage; thanks for the confirmation. Next visit I will wear armor. :) Cheers!


Mary Ellen:
You know, as intimidating as it was, it was awesome. I wouldn't trade the experience except maybe for a chance to pet one of the wallas. :) Thanks for being like minded.