I'm not a zoo person.
Until only a few years ago I was bonafide and self-glorified non-animal type of person. Sure animals were cute and I've always liked the way Disney films made characters out of all sorts of species of animals, but I was actively not an animal person. I've never had a pet and I would never choose to go to a zoo, for example.
A slightly contradictory element of this decision was that even though I'm not an animal person, I'm not oblivious to animal rights and I was actually slightly uncomfortable with the dynamic of a zoo, in terms of how right and wrong it is to keep animals in this way, even if they are endangered species.
But then my Mum and Dad got chickens so I started to think chickens were nice enough, and more recently I've started to like dogs. Yeah, dogs are ok. And I do think that monkeys, elephants and tigers are fun to watch. So there has been progress.
So why did I prioritise a day during my Sydney stay to visit a zoo?
Because a local insisted it was a very good zoo, one of the best in Australia, and well worth going to and when locals recommend things so passionately I take it seriously. Fortunately for me and for Taronga Zoo, it was worth taking seriously.
It's not like there was anything new or astonishingly different about Taronga Zoo. There were animals, there was information about the animals and the conservation work that the zoo contributes towards and there were lots of staff walking around in khaki shorts with more pockets than uses.
Yet there were other elements to my day that made Taronga Zoo a bit different.
It is excellently designed so you can navigate all or just sections of the extensive zoo with ease, there are jaw-dropping views of Sydney in the background and there is a great variety in the animals you see with an expected but expertly executed focus on Australian wildlife.
My favourite sights were the lazily adolescent tiger cubs, the above giraffe gossiping to a bird perched on his enclosure fence, the Russian gangster resembling Silky chickens, the chimpanzee who ate her own poo and when an Emu walked across my path, literally stopping me in my tracks...
I loved seeing children's unadulterated excitement at exploring and discovering animals. You don't see kids that excited often enough.
Alone, I joined in silently, fascinated by the koalas who did, well, nothing but sleep, but they did this very well.
And I also loved catching rare glimpses of animals acting as they would in a more natural and native environment like this seemingly well organised gathering of chimpanzees.
Maybe I really did miss out by not being an animal person? Ah well, thanks to Taronga Zoo I made up for that a little bit.
I took a many more photos during my visit to Taronga Zoo. You can see more of them on my Flickr. For more information about Taronga Zoo visit their website. It cost $44.00 (AUD) for an adult ticket when I went in January 2012 and proceeds from ticket sales and donations are essential to helping the Taronga Conservations Society.
Frances M. Thompson
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