When I was a teenager, we lived on the seafront in Cowes. The road was a short distance in from the waterfront but a side street led down to the sea itself and you could walk along from there in either direction, either along to Egypt Point or in to the town center. The railings that stopped you falling in to the sea (if standing up was not something you could manage on your own) were mounted between a series of posts and, on one of these posts, there was a sculpture of a lion. Clearly weathering had taken a toll on this lion but repairs had been carried out over the years. When I was there last year, we took a walk along this same stretch and it was great to see this familiar old fella still guarding the shoreline.
To be fair, the lions are pretty flexible when it comes to affiliations. When the White Sox went to the World Series, they wore White Sox caps. Bears helmets and Blackhawks helmets don’t cause a problem since there is only one team for each sport in the city unlike supporting one or other of the baseball teams. However, the lions do appear to be fans of whichever team is winning! (For those of you not familiar with the lions, they flank the entrance to the Art Institute of Chicago and they get into the spirit if a team is doing well.) By now, of course, we know how it all worked out! Let’s go Cubbies!
Nancy came across a place recently called the Exotic Feline Rescue Center. Located near Terre Haute in Indiana, this is a facility that takes care of large cats that have been mistreated or are no longer able to be looked after where they are. They have over 300 large cats, a large proportion of which are tigers but also with many cougars, some lions and a smaller number of a variety of other cat. They do not breed the animals, nor do they trade in them. Instead, they are available to provide a home to cats that need it to allow them to live out their lives in comfort.
We arranged a trip for a few days to include a visit to the Center. They provide tours to visitors. The tour covers one part of the Center and will get you close to approximately 100 of the resident cats. This is not a zoo. The tour is escorted and you are very close to the enclosures. However, if you touch the enclosures, your visit will be over. The cats are the other side of the fencing and any bits of you going through the fence are easily chomped! You get a great close experience but you mustn’t abuse the opportunity.
Being close means the animals really do react to you. The lions will roar if they hear Harleys revving up, keep an eye out if a tiger turns away from you because it is probably about to spray you and, while the fences are there, they can get a little excitable. I was squatting down taking a picture of one of the tigers when it decided to charge towards me and jump up at the fence. It certainly got my attention!
The tour we took was led by the guy who started the whole place. He was very friendly and keen to explain how it worked and how they kept everything running. On our tour were a few people who have been there several times. if we were closer, I would certainly visit frequently. The pace was such that it was easy to take pictures as we went around so these shots will give you a good feel for what we saw there.
The place was great. The work they do is very important and the tales they tell of how some of the animals came to be there are quite appalling. They are always in need of donations so, if you are looking for something to support, you could certainly do worse than these folks. Well done for all they have done and good luck in keeping it all going.
Getting lion pictures at the zoo is not too tricky. Getting them doing anything requires a bit more patience. The middle of the day is not when they are terribly active. Sure enough, when we first passed by, they were both asleep at the back of the enclosure. When we came back, the lioness was on a different spot and the male was awake in the middle of the enclosure. If you have ever watched lions, you will know that they roar in a way that makes them look like they are blowing smoke rings. Lots of teeth in the shot are usually the result of a yawn.
That was what I was waiting for. A sleepy lion is bound to yawn before too long. Unfortunately, lions are not like people and they do not yawn sympathetically if you do. Trust me, I have tried this. Either lions are not supposed to do this or they are sociopaths like people who don’t yawn when prompted. Imagining a lion as a sociopath is probably not that much of a stretch really. Anyway, patience was rewarded and we got a yawn. Lots so teeth! Thank you…
Whether it is the weather or whether it is some subconscious thing, it appears that we get lured to the zoo at Halloween. The weekend weather forecast looked very promising so we thought we pop out to Brookfield to see what the animals were doing. It was only when we got there that we realized that, being Halloween weekend, everyone was there in costumes.
This triggered something from our recollection that we had done the same thing last year. Let’s go to the zoo when everyone else is planning on being there and all dressed up! (I will leave my thoughts on Halloween for another post I suspect.)
As it turned out, the center area of the zoo was very busy but the rest of it was no busier than most weekends. The sun was out and the animal were active so it was a good time to go. We got particularly lucky with a couple of things.
I have never seen the kangaroos move before. They have always been lying down taking a nap when I have been there. Sometimes, this is tucked up against the wall for extra shade. However, this time they got up and fed for a while and even hopped across the enclosure. That was a big plus.
Next we arrived at the brown bear enclosure and the staff were seeding the place with vegetables for the bears to find and feed on. Consequently, we got a couple of grizzlies rummaging around the enclosure for a long time. Given their love for dozing this was a result. I guess the polar bears had already been fed since they were out for the count.
The lions are always a stop for us. The male was lying down and looked like he was falling asleep. A lion roaring has a very small mouth shape which doesn’t look like much. A lion yawning, on the other hand, has a wide mouth and lots of teeth. A good photo opportunity! A little patience and we were rewarded with a big view of fangs! As an aside, lions are not empathetic creatures since we tried yawning a bunch of time to try and induce a yawn but to no effect!
Out last stop was the leopard. Normally another one having a nap when we are there, this time he was also on the prowl. We only had a few minutes before it was time to lie down again but even so, this was better than normal. Not a bad day out!