A playful two-month-old grey wolf pup is spending time in the Children’s Zoo nursery at the San Diego Zoo. The 23-pound pup, named Shadow, is in the process of completing a 30-day quarantine, after which he will live at Wegeforth Bowl and serve as an ambassador for his species.
Animal care staff members are introducing Shadow to various smells and sights, which will help prepare him for his new role as an animal ambassador. Keepers working with Shadow will give him items such as ficus browse to smell and chew, ice cubes to chase around or cardboard boxes to climb on. The young wolf can also see guests visiting him at the nursery, which keepers say is also beneficial.
“He sees people in the window when they come by to visit; these things are all new and interesting to him. You’ll see him key in on something and really get in tune with it,” said Kim Weibel, senior keeper of veterinary services at the San Diego Zoo. “That’s a neat thing with wolves, the way they tune into things; they are very intelligent,” Weibel said.
I told this story to a few guildies a while back and decided to archive it in a longer format; so here is the story of The Great Flamingo Uprising of 2010 as told to me by my favorite cousin who was a keeper at the time.
In addition to the aviary/jungle exhibit, our zoo has several species of birds that pretty much have the run of the place. They started with a small flock of flamingos and some free-range peacocks that I’m almost certain came from my old piano teacher’s farm. She preferred them to chickens. At some point in time they also acquired a pair of white swans (Or as I call them, “hellbirds”) and some ornamental asian duckies to decorate the pond next to the picnic area. Pigeons, crows, assorted ducks and a large number of opportunistic Canada geese moved in on their own.
Now; the ponds that dot the zoo property (I don’t remember how many there are but the one by the picnic area is the only one with swans) were also full of ginormous koi fish, some of whom by now are at least three feet long. Sensing an opportunity to cash in on the koi, the zoo put up little vending machines all over the place that dispense handfuls of food pellets. I swear to god the fish can hear the crank turning, and will show up at the nearest railing, blooping expectantly at whoever happens to be standing there and doing their best to appear starving and desperate.
Like this.^ And they weren’t the only ones who learned to associate the sound with the imminent arrival of food. The Canada geese knew a good deal when they saw one, and had long since ceased to migrate anyway. They formed roving gangs of thug-geese and staked out their turf around the vending machines, ready to mug anyone with pocket change. Picture yourself as a small child squaring off with a bird fully prepared to strip search you while standing on your feet and yelling “HWAAAAAKK!!” in your face. It’s traumatizing to you and deeply hilarious to your parents.
The flamingos had their spot near the zoo entrance and never seemed to mind the presence of the other birds, as they kept themselves to themselves and didn’t really like the taste of fish pellets. The problem lay in that their shrimp pond was close to a vending machine. Ordinarily that wouldn’t have been an issue at all, but eventually the goose population grew large enough that one of the gangs decided to annex it. Being territorial little shits, they would harass the poor flamingos any time they strayed within ten feet of it. The flamingos tolerated this for years until one day they snapped collectively. Here’s a summary of the incident in chronological order.
1.) It was a hot day, so everyone in question both human and avian, were cranky by the time the zoo even opened. 2.) A few flamingos (let’s call them The Jets) strayed into the radius of the vending machine and were immediately confronted by the indignant hissing geese (The Sharks) 3.) Possibly due to heat and the simple fact that the geese had been giant douchebags for far too long, the flamingos decided fuck it, this time they were going to FIGHT BACK DAMMIT, and swarmed the geese en mass. 4.) Chaos ensued. The geese were outnumbered 4 to 1 but had the advantage of being able to scream for back-up. 5.) Hearing the shrieking Canada geese and the bellowing of the enraged flamingos, the peacocks came to the conclusion that the apocalypse had come upon them and began to gather in the surrounding trees in droves and wail in despair. Or cheer them on, whichever. 6.) NOISE 7.) Apparently one of the siege tactics employed by the geese is to shit explosively all over the sidewalks. Never in the grass. 8.) The geese, having secured reinforcements from all over the zoo, went berserk and proceeded to attack EVERYBODY who had come to watch be they human or otherwise. 9.) The flamingos were chasing/being chased by the geese through the crowd accompanied by cheers/wails from the peacocks in the box seats. 10.) Complete pandemonium when the zoo tram became stalled on the tracks by the flamingo pond due to battling birds. The Jets, sensing these were somehow reinforcements on the side of the Sharks, charged the tram. Adults were doing the duck and cover. So were the ducks. Small children were screaming, adding to the noise. People were slipping on goose shit and hitting the ground in the fetal position, only to be stampeded by the rampaging flamingos. 11.) The koi continued to bloop hopefully for food. 12.) Two of the geese were cornered by a rival gang of their own and were chased into the swan pond. Cue slow-motion. 13.) The swans detected an enemy presence in their territory and by god, SOMEBODY was going to PAY. 14.) The staff were having no luck in breaking up the fight and on the verge of giving up and just building another zoo elsewhere when the hellbirds stormed the battlefield, trumpeting battle-cries, to dispense feathered justice. The staff promptly dropped their brooms and fled. 15.) The uprising was squashed in less than two minutes. Number of casualties was unknown, feathers were flying everywhere and there was enough goose shit to build another bird. One staff member had been knocked to the ground and was left with a melon sized bruise courtesy of one of the hellbirds. Several children were traumatized, probably for life. The zoo eventually removed the vending machine by the flamingos.
The geese went back to being giant douchebags. Because geese.