Jack Hanna, David Cassidy, Goats, Camels, And Live TV

Posted in animals, TV Shows on March 14th, 2011 and tagged , , , , , , , , ,

I saw a link to this on Facebook, and it’s hilarious – gave me my smile for the day!  Watch chaos erupt on live TV in the 70s when Jack Hanna brings a gaggle of goats into the tv studio, and they run amok.  The host, Bob Braun, has a great sense of humor about all of it, although the same can’t be said for all of the audience members, especially those who end up with rogue goats in their laps!  David Cassidy even has a hand rounding up the herd, and by the time the camel puts in his two cents, the host is practically rolling on the floor with laughter!

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EVEN BETTER THAN I IMAGINED!!! (part 2)

Posted in animals on October 17th, 2010 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

(This is a continuation of my previous post of the same title which can be found here in case you missed it.)

(This is us with Jack Hanna!  In case you don’t know who he is,  I included a brief description of him in my previous blog post about the show!)

Before we went into the theater to see Jack Hanna’s live stage show, we were just standing there gawking at Jack Hanna signing autographs.  Suddenly, a group of young people came up to him, and he was so thrilled to see them that he quickly grabbed his cell phone and called his wife backstage, telling her that their ‘special friends’ would be coming backstage to see her.  The friends are then ushered away, and Jack announced during the show that they are the Von Trapp Children, a singing quartet of descendants from the family who inspired the infamous memoir, stage musical, and movie The Sound of Music.  Apparently they had been in the Chicago area to tape an episode of Oprah (which will air on October 29), and they’re family friends of Jack’s and stopped by his show to surprise him.

(Me waiting patiently while Jack signs just one of my many books that I brought!!)

Back to the show…  we are seated in the Paramount, and Jack Hanna comes out!!  The show itself was a mix of live animals being brought out on the stage and video clips shown on a large screen, all narrated by Jack with his trademark anecdotes and sense of humor.  In fact, at one point near the beginning of show, Jack Hanna began to tell a story, and all of a sudden he stops and looks off to the wings of the stage.  “Do I have time to tell this story?”  He asked  (presumably the producer backstage), but then he didn’t wait for an answer and replied to himself: “Of course I have time to tell it – it’s my show!”  It was not said in an arrogant fashion, but rather it seemed as if he were almost reminding himself that he is in charge.  It was glimpses of genuineness like this that made his show so special.  Jack Hanna is very real and down-to-earth (when it comes to being a celebrity anyway – often he is dreaming about ways to help animals with his head on  the clouds!), and these traits take precedent in his live appearances.

So the story he told was hilarious!  It was about his appearance on “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader”, and…  well, you can listen to it if you’d like:

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So between video clips of a few animal causes that are near and dear to Jack Hanna’s heart (Rolling Dog Ranch and  Mountain Gorilla Conservation, among others), the following live animals were brought out on the stage for Jack to tell us about: a Red-Ruffed Lemur, blind Barn Owl, Flamingo, 2-Toed Sloth (did you know that there is a bed and breakfast in South America where you get to take care of a baby sloth in your room overnight?  I just might get over this fear of flying thing quicker than I thought I would!!), 3-Banded Armadillo, Siberian Lynx, baby Coatamundi, baby Bennet’s Wallaby (got to meet him earlier at the Jamboree Lunch), Grey fox, Fennec Fox (got to meet him at lunch also), Lesser Anteater, an albino Python, and the finale – a full grown Cheetah!  Seeing the animals was great of course, and hearing live ‘Jack facts’ about them was even better.  But I think my favorite part of the show was the end – we watched a blooper reel of Jack getting licked, bitten, squirted, tossed around, etc. by animals, and one clip was of Jack Hanna making an appearance on David Letterman’s show in the ’80s.  Jack is showing Dave how to milk a goat, and as usual, Dave is cracking jokes.  Jack Hanna (the live version) cuts in, saying, “I didn’t even mean to do this!” and the video clip shows him accidentally squirting Letterman with a spray of milk from the goat’s udder!  There is only one more thing that can make watching Jack Hanna on Letterman even  more entertaining, and that is watching Jack Hanna on Letterman WITH Jack Hanna while he narrates it!!

We laughed (plenty of laughs when Jack and animals are involved!), we cried (that video clip of the Rolling Dog ranch was so heartwarming – the ranch takes dogs who are seriously ill, and many of them have extreme physical ailments), and then it was time to go.  But not before we got to hear Jack’s bear spray story again, and he even called on one of his assistants to act it out.  He told this story during his previous appearance on Letterman, and it was hilarious then as it was hearing it and seeing it live.  Funny, that is, until we found out during the live show what really happened during that previous Letterman appearance.  Apparently it wasn’t demonstration-style bear spray, but the real thing, and Jack got sprayed in the face, causing loss of vision for over 10 minutes and some minor facial burns.  Jack warned us (and David Letterman!) that he is planning revenge for his next appearance on the show in December, so stay tuned!!!

A sloth relaxing at a sloth sanctuary in Costa Rica.  While we were on the subject of sloths, this picture was too cute to pass up!!

Classic Sherlock Holmes Tale Told

Posted in Theater on October 14th, 2010 and tagged , , , , , , , ,

Last weekend, we drove some 200 miles on Friday night, which culminated in rush hour in Chicagoland.  Saturday was go-go-go, but no complaints here since we got to see Jack Hanna’s stage show, something I have been waiting over a decade to see!  After a (much too) short visit with family, we were on the road again late Saturday night, and traveled the 200+ miles back home again, arriving about 2am.  We got up early for church, and with my blurry tired eyes, I carefully went over my lesson plan for my 1st grade Sunday school class since I was anticipating a special guest.  I’m happy to report that my class went off without a hitch, so thank God for answering my prayers – after leaving it in God’s hands, I was not even nervous about it, which speaks volumes if you know me and my ability to let my nervousness get to me!!

So needless to say, by Sunday  night, I was wiped.  But I had been asked by some friends to attend the special press night of their stage play, the Sherlock Holmes mystery The Hound of the Baskervilles to write a review for our local paper.  I happily obliged, especially because seeing the show on this particular night helped our finding-a-babysitter situation.  I didn’t know how I would like a Sherlock Holmes stage play as I had never found the books entertaining.  But I was entertained by the show, so I decided to put my review on my blog since some of my readers won’t be able to see it in the paper.  Note that each actor brought something unique to the show, but I was unable to include rambling accounts of each individual performance due to spacial limitations.  If you are anywhere near Hicksville Ohio this weekend, I hope the following review will make you want to stop by the Huber Opera House to enjoy a great autumn mystery on stage!

From the Bryan Times – Thursday, October 14, 2010:

HICKSVILLE – While the leaves fall outside, an early darkened evening or a chilly autumn afternoon spent taking in a live stage play is especially enjoyable while viewing a chilling mystery.

This weekend, the historic Huber Opera House in Hicksville comes alive with a classic Sherlock Holmes whodunit, The Hound of the Baskervilles. Join the Hicksville Village Players this weekend as Holmes, Watson, and other curious characters guide you through the tale of the hound that haunts the halls of the Baskervilles. Intended for the audience to piece together, the show is a puzzle whose clues are carefully and individually laid out by the intriguing cast of characters.

Sherlock Holmes, the know-it-all yet admirable mystery-solver is extraordinarily portrayed by Bill Murphy. The audience is held captive while Holmes connects clues between puffs of his pipe. Nicely complementing Murphy’s natural Holmes as the ever-faithful, always reliable assistant Watson is Travis Heffelfinger of Hicksville. Heffelfinger’s Watson is dependable and sharp-witted, and he is observant enough to attain the job of Holmes’ eyes and ears while protecting their client, Henry Baskerville. John Robinson of Bryan portrays Henry, a man who is fearful for his safety while he remains inquisitive as he tries to deduce who – or what – might have murdered his uncle. Providing clues and distractions alike for the famed detective are Dr. James Mortimer (Corey Fowler) and Beryl Stapleton (Lindsay Clem).

Once the investigation carries Holmes and the audience away from Baker Street and into the isolated countryside, strange stories are spun of murder, mayhem, thievery, and betrayal. Around the mysterious moor, the secrets begin to spill, and it becomes apparent that the odd collection of characters might not be as they appear. The audience joins Holmes as he tries to figure out if either the peculiar Mr. Stapleton (compellingly played by John Overberg of Montpelier) or the lady-like Laura Lyons (depicted elegantly by Courtney Widdifield) can be trusted. Can Holmes’ client, Henry Baskerville, presume that the keepers of Baskerville Hall, The Barrymores (persuasively illustrated by Jamy Shaffer of Edgerton and Amber Garza of Antwerp) are truthful witnesses? Why, “It’s elementary, my dear Watson!”

In the atmosphere of the historic Huber Opera House, the wonderfully directed The Hound of the Baskervilles will transport you back to 19th century London and directly to Baker Street with Sherlock Holmes himself. The curtain opens Friday and Saturday nights, October 15 and 16 at 7:30pm and on Saturday and Sunday afternoons at 2:30pm on October 16 and 17.

EVEN BETTER THAN I IMAGINED!!!

Posted in animals on October 13th, 2010 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

We are back from Illinois; actually we got back a few days ago, but things here have been so non-stop that I’m not even unpacked from the weekend trip yet – working on that this week.  But I had to take a break and write about the super fun Jack Hanna show that we were able to see while in Illinois – after all my anticipating, it was somehow even better than I had imagined!!!

We were the first ones to arrive at Aurora’s Paramount Theater (a lovely old-fashioned theater with beautiful architecture – in fact, it was chosen  to be the setting for a few scenes of the Johnny Depp movie about the mobster John Dillinger called Public Enemies that was recently released), so we opted to stand in line rather than wait at the bar.  This way, we were first upstairs for our “Jamboree Lunch” and got first pick of our seats.  Seeing as how there were only two ways that Jack could get up to the second floor – stairs or elevator – we chose the table nearest both entrances.  We went to go pick up our lunch – peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, cookies, fruit snacks, and chips situated in a safari hat – and came back to our table which had a bunch of little animal toys on it: lion rulers, a finger puppet zebra, coloring pages, and a parachuting tiger (oh how tempting it was to let him loose over the railing to sail down into the lobby… but Jack was due to arrive, so we were on our best behavior).  Once we saw that all of the kids at the event were going to be seated elsewhere, I scooped up all of the jungle paraphernalia and put it in my purse.  We put on our safari hats and ate our PB & J – did I mention that this event was designed for kids?  Had we known before we got there, we would have brought our kids, but it wasn’t very well organized and so we didn’t really realize it until we got there – oh well.  All was forgotten once Jack Hanna arrived!!  If you don’t know who Jack  Hanna is, here is a brief synopsis:  Jack Hanna is an animal guy, and he was the director of the now world famous Columbus Zoo from 1978-1992.  In that time, he put that zoo on the map; it went from being a place that even locals didn’t know existed to a world renowned animal facility, and attendance at the zoo increased by 400%!  He now travels the world visiting endangered species, zoos, and making live show and tv show appearances (his monthly appearances on David Letterman’s show are always entertaining!!), all in the name of bringing awareness to wildlife conservation.

So anyway, at the Jungle Jamboree lunch, Jack goes from table to table (preceded by a woman carrying a baby wallaby in a pouch and a man with a fox), and he comes to our table first!!  He had limited time at each table of course, but he autographed a little picture of himself, and we did have time to tell him how we saw him at Sea World on our honeymoon in 1999.  He asked if we liked animals, and my response went something like this: “Duh, huh huh huh”.  As much as I had been thinking about what to say to Jack, it happened to me again.  When I finally met him, I was dumbfounded and couldn’t think about the most important things to talk about in such a little time.  No matter; we would be meeting him AGAIN later that same day!!

So after that, we went back downstairs to the merchandise table, and Hubby bought me Jack’s new book (My Wild Life – it’s kind of a re-write / update to my favorite book, Monkeys on the Interstate.  But I didn’t have this new book yet, and needless to say now that I have it, my reading of the Harry Potter series has taken a backseat!), and we waited for Jack to finish at the lunch tables upstairs.  He came downstairs, there was just a few minutes wait, and then we met him AGAIN and he signed my new book, plus ALL of the books of his that I had brought along – and I had a huge purse full.  We explained to him that he is our favorite celebrity (“Oh, I’m not a celebrity!”  he said.), and the nice guy behind us took this picture (note that Hubby still has on his safari hat!):

Not sure what to do with ourselves after our autograph session, we were SO tempted to get back in line.  After all, Jack  Hanna, our favorite celebrity animal conservation personality was sitting within 10 feet of us!  But we wanted to give other people a chance to meet him, and I’m glad we chose to just stand there and gawk at him from the sidelines for 25 minutes rather than getting back in line – turns out that some people didn’t get a chance to get his autograph since he was whisked away to get ready for the stage show.  It just wouldn’t have been fair for us to be in the line twice.  He announced later that people who didn’t get a chance to get his autograph could just email his website and an autographed pic would be sent out.  No offense, Jack, but that’s just not the same as meeting you in person!  I am SO thankful that we got to meet him, and he is even more humble and down-to-earth than he seems on tv!!

Well, this blog post got lengthy, and I haven’t even talked about the stage show yet, so I think I will cut this into multiple posts as my little guy is finished with his ‘quiet time’.  Unfortunately for me (and my ever-growing list of housework), my 2-year-old has outgrown his naps so I don’t have nearly as much free time during the day as I need to get everything done.  So you’ll have to wait until my next post (or two or three) to read about the actual Jack Hanna stage show (best show I’ve EVER seen!!!) and the other stuff we crammed into our jam-packed super-fun Illinois weekend.  Until then…

Jack Hanna!!!

Posted in animals on October 7th, 2010 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

While my girls are counting down the days until they get to go to their Grandma’s house, I am counting the days until I get to see a LIVE JACK HANNA SHOW!!!  Don’t get me wrong, I’m really excited to see family too, but I’ve been waiting to see a live Jack Hanna show for over a decade!!!

I’ve had the show tickets in the car for about two weeks now, since I was so sure that I’d forget them.  I’ve already packed my glasses too, so I can actually see Jack and the animals from my seat.  And I’ve been “cramming” all week – trying to quickly re-read my favorite book, Jack Hanna’s Monkeys on the Interstate.  If all goes well, I should be finished with it by Saturday when I see Jack.  Because we have tickets for a pre-show event called a Jamboree Lunch, I’m hoping for maybe an autograph or even an opportunity to chat with Mr. Hanna!  I know it’s a shot in the dark, but I’ve made a mental list of things I’d bring up just in case; many of them are from the Monkeys book.  Even if I don’t get an opportunity to talk to Mr. Hanna, I am ecstatic just to be able to see his show!!!  I really enjoy his appearances on Letterman every month, and I’m beyond excited to see Mr. Hanna live!!  Just in case, I’m bringing an array of my Hanna collection in case I get a chance to seek an autograph, but I’m not expecting it or anything – don’t want to be disappointed.  It would be nice, however, to replace our autographed Jack Hanna honeymoon memento.  Now I have to tell that story…

When my husband and I took our honeymoon to Florida in 1999, we were driving from where we lived in Illinois to Florida (which is a very LONG drive…  but for some reason, I cannot remember exactly what it was like to do that WITHOUT KIDS along…), and we were talking about all the things we would do.  One of the things that came up  was celebrities we would like to run into, and Jack Hanna was the only one we both decided we would really care about running into.  Once in Florida, we visited Sea World, and we were going to go into the underwater viewing area for  the dolphins, but it was roped off – “TV show taping in progress”.  Just before we turned away to head to something else, a worker lifted the ropes, so in we went, and the crew was packing up the cameras, and THERE WAS JACK HANNA!!!  And we were all alone since the area had just been closed off – no mob of fans to compete with.  Ok, so maybe Jack  Hanna isn’t the type of celebrity to have fans mobbing him wherever he goes, but to me, he is an animal hero.  His Monkeys on the Interstate book chronicles his creativity, his strength through adversity, and his triumphs (and failures!) he went through as he was building the once unheard of Columbus Zoo into the world famous, state-of-the-art zoo facility it is today – a fascinating read for anyone who loves animals, zoos, Jack Hanna, or who just likes funny stories!!  Jack Hanna is a marketing and animal genius!  But I digress – back to my story…

So we got to meet Jack Hanna, right there at Sea World.  I was not expecting it, so I gummed up and let my husband do the talking, and Jack whipped out an 8×10 glossy picture and autographed it, putting our names on it and everything.  Unfortunately, this picture was one of a few irreplaceable items that were entrusted to so-called “friends” during a move we had, never to be seen again…  but that’s another story and nothing I want to dwell upon now.

So yeah, IF I actually get to talk to Jack again this time, I have my list of things I want to talk about…  though it’s quite lengthy, and my brain will be swimming with basically EVERYTHING from the Monkeys on the Interstate book, as well as things I want to know about starting my own zoo – hey, that shouldn’t come as a big surprise to any of my readers, so lift your dropped jaw.  Those of you who know me realize that I have a pretty good start on one already, don’t you?  🙂

This is Jack at one of his Letterman appearances.  Each of his appearances on Letterman has moments of hilarity as Jack tries so hard to get in his animal facts while Letterman is busy making jokes and heckling him.  After decades of monthly appearances, the two have built a relationship of sorts, and Jack now brings animals that sometimes shock, awe, and even scare Letterman!!  Never a dull moment when Jack’s around…

Not THAT MGM Lion…

Posted in animals, Current Events on September 10th, 2010 and tagged , , , , , , ,

Have you seen that MGM lion video?  When I asked a friend about this the other day, he apparently thought I was referring to the lion that roars at you from the screen in the beginning of some movies – not THAT MGM lion!  I’m talking about the shocking video of the lion turning on his trainer at the lion exhibit in the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas.  Notice I didn’t use the word “attack”.  Animal experts (including Jack Hanna, my favorite animal expert) who have reviewed the footage have agreed that it wasn’t an attack, but rather retribution or perhaps rough play from one grumpy lion.  The fact is, had the lion been attcaking, it would have been over in a matter of seconds with a tragic outcome for the trainer.  The trainer escaped uninjured, and watch how the lion follows him out of the enclosure, giving him “yeah, you’d BETTER run” looks all the way out:

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Personally, I do think the lion was playing rough.  He might have gotten a bit irritated at the trainer, but if he had truly wanted to hurt him, he could have killed him in seconds flat, which is why extreme caution should always be used when handling exotic animals.  I wish the video showed what was occuring between the lion and his trainer just before the incident.  Seconds before, the lion seems relaxed, but then the camera pans away until the lion lunges for the trainer’s leg.  What I find truly amazing about the video is the female lion’s reaction.  She follows the male lion around the enclosure throughout the incident, seemingly trying to get him to stop stalking the trainer.  Just after the male lion’s first lunge, the female even jumps on his back and gives him a little nip.  A penny for…  scratch that – I think I’d pay a  lot of money for the thoughts of these lions!

Scary as these incidents are, I’m happy to report that this one had a positive outcome – the trainers are fine.  I wonder if that trainer will be working with that male lion again?

Been Waiting Over 7 Years For This!!!

Posted in animals on July 30th, 2010 and tagged , , , , , ,

I HAVE TICKETS TO SEE JACK HANNA!!!

I’ve been waiting MORE than 7 years for this!  Mr. Hanna became a personal hero of mine and Hubby’s around 1998, and as we were driving down to Florida from Illinois for our honeymoon in 1999, we speculated on how cool it would be to run into Jack Hanna since we were going to Sea World (where he would and still does often appear).  And guess what happened?  We ran into Jack Hanna at Sea World!!!  We were going down to an underwater viewing area for one of the exhibits (don’t even remember which one, don’t care), and it was roped off with a sign, “tv show taping in progress”.  Just as we turned around, they took down the ropes, and so we went in, and there was Jack Hanna!  And we were the only fans in there with him!  I got tougue-tied, and I forgot every question I wanted to ask him, but luckily, Hubby was able to explain to him what big fans we were.  Jack Hanna autographed a special picture for us, even writing our names on it, but I’m sad to say that this honeymoon treasure was one of a few coveted items that was put in a special box and left with so-called trusted friends during a move when it wouldn’t fit into our car.  Unfortunately, the “friends” never sent the box to us as they promised, and who knows what has happened to our Jack Hanna autograph or other treasures by now?

But that’s not the point.  I’ve been hoping to replace it and to see Mr. Hanna do a show, but he never has appearances close to my corner of Ohio.  He came to Toledo once 7 years ago, but the ticket prices were kind of steep, especially since we didn’t know if our then 2-year-old would enjoy it, plus we had just moved to the state and didn’t know any babysitters.  I’ve regretted not going to Jack’s Toledo show ever since, especially when he hasn’t come close to the area.  But about a month ago, I happened to check his website, and Jack was going to be less than 2 hours away from us AS WELL as appearing in the town where my parents live – TWO opportunities to see him!  So anyway, long story short, we have tickets to see JACK HANNA in OCTOBER!!!  I can’t wait!  This is going to make it so much easier for me to have to forget about the MLB post-season this year (my team is terrible this year and essentially eliminated themselves opening day).

Before the show, we are scheduled to attend a Jungle Jamboree with Jack Hanna also!  Maybe I can find a way to get my honeymoon autographed picture replaced.  Hubby actually tried once to get me one for a birthday, but there was mis-communication, and Jack Hanna signed it to my husband instead of to me.  I actually thought that was pretty funny and classic Jack – totally something he would do as Jack tends to use his brain to store animal facts rather than organizational details.  I think I’ll bring my favorite book, Monkeys on the Interstate for him to autograph also; I just have to sneak backstage with all my things I want him to autograph somehow.  And I’ll have to read Monkeys on the Interstate again just so I can study up on it and write a list of questions down to ask Jack in case I get the chance again – I WILL NOT get tongue-tied this time!!!  I’ll have to take a break from reading the Harry Potter series, so now I definitely won’t be finished in time to get to see part one of the last Harry Potter movie while it’s in the theater – OH WELL!  I’m going to see Jack Hanna live on stage!!!

A highly recommended read for any zoo lover - Monkeys on the Interstate by Jack Hanna

The Great Zoo Debate

Posted in animals on February 25th, 2010 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

This is a sad post for me to write – a veteran trainer, Dawn Brancheau, was killed yesterday by an Orca whale at Sea World in Orlando, Florida.  Reports of the incident have been conflicting, but it seems that the trainer was pulled into the tank when the giant sea mammal grabbed her ponytail.  She subsequently drowned.  Unmistakably, this is a tragedy – pure and simple.

But it also re-awakens the great zoo debate – should humans be able to keep wild animals in zoos?  As they say, you can take an animal out of the wild, but you can’t take the wild out of the animal, and tragedies such as yesterday’s incident at Sea World prove this.  It is also apparent that no matter how many precautions are taken to avoid tragedy, an accident can always occur.  However, I love zoos, and I strongly and truly believe that the conservation education and money raised by zoos has been and will continue to be detrimental in helping certain species survive and bounce back from the brink of extinction.  Many other people disagree, and tragedies such as this and the fatal Siberian tiger mauling at the San Francisco Zoo in 2007 always add fervor to the great zoo debate, which is depicted in this video from Good Morning America and features zoo advocate Jack Hanna debating with the Vice President of an anti-zoo organization, Born Free:

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In my opinion, they did not let Mr. Hanna have an equal part in the debate.  He has some good points, and it’s very difficult to say where the status of certain endangered species would be right now if it were not for the conservation efforts of zoos and wildlife parks – no one knows what could or would have been either way, so how can that be a part of the debate?  As Mr. Roberts points out, the number of tigers has greatly dwindled over the past century.  But one can also point out that no one knows for sure if it would have been worse had zoos not been educating the public about tigers or if they had not been learning how to breed them in captivity to continue the species.

The bottom line is, in my opinion, (and this is MY blog, so I get the bottom line) zoos and aquariums have taken great strides forward for the preservation of many animal species.  I believe their work and conservation efforts are invaluable to conservation (not to mention how many thousands of jobs zoos, aquariums, wildlife parks, and conservation programs bring to societies in hundreds of countries); in fact, AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums have funded more than 3,700 conservation projects in more than 100 countries and spend nearly $70 million on conservation initiatives annually.  Remember my post about the Kihansi Spray Toad?  This is just one example of a creature that would be completely extinct (it is believed to be extinct in the wild but still exists in just two zoos in the world) if it weren’t for the efforts of zoos trying to save it.

Obviously what happened in Orlando is a tragedy of great proportion.  And I’m not trying to undermine it, but Dawn’s friends, family, and colleagues are all stating that she was aware of the inherent risks of her job and that she would want nothing but for her work to go on despite what happened.  Perhaps changes need to be made; maybe certain species of animal require bigger and better habitats and different types of interaction and stimulation – the modern zoo world is relatively new, and experts are still learning.  But I think their hard work is invaluable to the world, and I hope that someday, all of this is just as obvious to the nay-sayers as it is to us zoo-lovers.

Kind of puts this into perspective now... I wonder if Marineland in Niagara Falls Canada still allows this after recent tragedies involving the killer whale?

New York Trip Diary Volume 5

Posted in Travel on March 28th, 2009 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

NEW YORK TRIP – MARCH 20-23, 2009 – TAYLOR: 9 yrs, SAMMIE: 4 yrs, DISNEY: 2½ yrs, CHRISTOPHER: 8 mos

(continued from previous posts)

Monday, March 23 – We left the hotel for the Pittsburgh Zoo and promptly got lost.  Many cities are situated on just one river, but some bank alongside 2 or 3 rivers, and that’s where Pittsburgh lost me and we, in turn, got lost.  Multiple rivers and all those hills – I have lots of trouble navigating my way through hills and mountains for some reason – probably because if you miss a turn, you can’t just go a block and correct yourself because there’s hills in the way.  And Pittsburgh was also not lacking in what had become our nemesis (besides the ever-elusive Waterways bus) on this trip – construction zones.  And we already talked about how Jill the GPS doesn’t do detours.  Lost as we were, we again got lucky and didn’t wind up in any bad neighborhoods, but we did have to go without breakfast and almost without lunch.  We stopped at a random police station for directions, and they were very nice (though they have some of the funkiest accents I’ve ever heard there in Pittsburgh – what IS that?), but the directions were very complicated, probably because of the rivers and hills to drive around, and we got lost again.  Finally we found the zoo, and we picked up lunch at a little food stand on the river across from the zoo, and we refrained from making good on our threats to throw Jill the GPS in the river.  Except now we were down to only getting to spend 2 hours at the zoo before they closed.

The Pittsburgh Zoo is nestled within some steep hills – like all the zoos we visited on this trip – and you had to take an elevator to get up the main hill and into the zoo.  Once inside, we were very impressed.  I’m having trouble deciding which zoo I like better between Pittsburgh and Akron – Cleveland is not even on the same level as the other two.  Pittsburgh has a thriving elephant herd – 2 calves born just weeks apart last July!  Baby elephants are somewhat rare and difficult to come by in zoos – if a zoo can actually get elephants to breed (and I know the baby in Toledo was conceived via artificial insemination, so breeding might be somewhat difficult), they still have to  wait through an extremely long gestation period (almost 2 years!) before seeing if they have a healthy calf.  So the fact that Pittsburgh has 2 elephant calves that were born in the same month last year (also the same month as our baby boy!) is nothing short of amazing.

The Pittsburgh Zoo has an awesome aquarium with 3 types of penguin and a huge seahorse tank – next to manatees, seahorses are my favorite animal, and I have never before seen such a nice habitat for them or such huge seahorses!  Also in the aquarium is an area where you can pet stingrays, and there’s even a tunnel that runs underneath their pool that kids can crawl through and come up in the middle of the pool.  Here is a picture of my daughter after she crawled through the tunnel:

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And speaking of tunnels, Pittsburgh Zoo has a tunnel that goes under their polar bear pool!  How cool is that?  We didn’t actually see it because we were there near closing time, and the bears were pacing by the door to go in for the night – we knew they wouldn’t be swimming any more that day, so we skipped the tunnel.  But I must go back some day to see that, and also to spend more time in this awesome zoo – ok, I guess I just decided that I like Pittsburgh just a little bit more than Akron, but it was a tough call!  Too bad Pittsburgh is almost 5 hours away, or I’d return in a heartbeat!  And I forgot to mention how many fun things they have to kids to do, even beyond seeing the animals.  They had a totally awesome looking playground, but we didn’t go on that one because we weren’t sure we’d have enough time.  When we got to the end of the zoo, there was another playground, so we let them play on that until closing time.  Our 2-year-old got “stuck” at the top of the playground – she was too scared to go down the slide and refused to come back out through the tunnels.  I was worried that we’d get locked in the zoo like a couple of college kids I read about in Jack Hanna’s hilarious book, My Wild Life – they got locked in the dark reptile house, where they could hear things splashing around all night!  After we got my daughter to come down off the playground (thanks to her big sister who lured her away), the sea lions were putting on a little show right in the front of the underwater viewing window – which reminds me, we had also gotten to see an impromptu sea lion show earlier in the day – the zookeepers were training them and rewarding them with fish, it was really  cool to watch!

On the way home, we stopped in Elyria, Ohio for dinner at a Golden Corral (always delicious) where my husband was a victim of racial discrimination by the steak griller, and we found what must be the last non-Super Walmart left in the world.  Trying to save room in the car, we had neglected to pack enough diapers for our two children who still wear them, and we had to break into the new packs of diapers right there in the Walmart to change a double poopie from the baby and his big sister!  It was interesting to be in a Walmart without groceries where the employees were actually preparing to close the store for the night – almost like time travel, but if I  traveled in time, the last place I’d go is Walmart!

So anyway, now we had only 2 hours left of the drive home, and it passed uneventfully – the kids slept.  We got home sweet home at about midnight, and the kids were really excited to see their pets and their room – they had trouble getting back to sleep.  The pets were happy to see us, and my thanks goes to our great friend Carol who kept the pets healthy and happy during our absence.  I was really surprised to see how big the rats got in just a few days though, Carol, what did you feed them?!?  🙂

So, I had an amazing adventure with wonderful people.  And this is the end of my diary.  Well, not really, I will have one more entry to go back to the World Trade Center site visit, but I’m waiting for the right time to blog about that – it was a very moving experience.  So thanks for reading, and I hope you had fun and maybe even learned a little something about places you may or may not want to visit some day!

The Crabby Magician

Posted in animals, Kids on February 10th, 2009 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Saturday was one of the funnest days I’ve had in a long time.  I’ve been having major zoo-fever lately, and my husband knew this and renewed our Toledo Zoo membership online before I even woke up Saturday morning.  When I finally arose, he said, how about going to the zoo today?  So we packed up all the kids, and took advantage of the almost 50° weather and headed to the zoo.  We first ate lunch at our new favorite eating establishment in the Toledo area; a place called Nick’s Cafe on Reynolds Road in Maumee.  They have excellent gyros and scrumptious Greek salads, just to name a couple of their delicious dishes…  pretty much everything is made from scratch.  Potatoes are sliced up for french fries right there in the kitchen, gyros are off the spit, the burger meat is hand-rolled… you get the idea.  Awesome food and great service too.  Highly recommended from this hard-to-please food critic!

On Saturday, everyone at Nick’s was staring at us because of our four five adorable kids – we let our oldest invite her friend along who had slept over the night before.  It made for a mini-van filled to capacity, but I’m so glad we invited her because she is a great kid, a big help (especially with our little ones because in her family, she is smack dab in the middle of 5 in birth order and knows how to help in cases of sibling rivalry!), and she had never been to a zoo before!  If I had known that, we would have taken her sooner…  Every kid needs to get to a zoo! This little girl is 9-years-old and for me, a highlight of my trip on Saturday was getting to witness her experience the zoo for the first time: the cuteness of a real-life cheetah, the immensity of a white rhinoceros, the playfulness of the baby orangutans…  I’m currently reading Jack Hanna’s new book, My Wild Life right now and it details many of the trials and tribulations the Director Emeritus of the Columbus Zoo has gone through to get where he is today.  In one chapter, he addresses his many critics (people who protest live animals being held captive in zoos, as well as protesting Jack’s taking animals on television show appearance tours), and Jack says something in defense of these practices which I completely agree with: Captive animals are ambassadors of their cousins in the wild.  We NEED to have zoos and reach out to the public with animal tv appearances; it’s the only way to get people to care enough to help with conservation.

So anyway on Saturday, after lunch, we made our way to the zoo.  When we first got in, we discovered there was going to be a magic show in the Museum of Science (one of those old Works Progress Administration buildings from the post-Great Depression era; I love their architecture!).  We settled in with the kids looking forward to a fun show.  My husband is into magic, and we staged a magic show for our local theater company a few years ago, so I know a little bit about how some tricks are performed – enough to know that this guy hired by the Toledo Zoo last Saturday was simply awful.  First, he began the show with a crabby demeanor.  He didn’t have much charisma or charm; he wasn’t very good with the kids, and his tricks stank – everything he performed could be bought in a magic store for under $100 – for the whole lot!  And during the show, he would literally sum up his tricks with one sentence – “and that’s the magic coloring book.”  Also, according to my husband, he continuously broke one of the cardinal rules of magic – telling his audience what to expect ahead of time.  For example, he had a ball trick where he told the audience, “Wouldn’t it be amazing if the red ball were no longer on the top?”  And then magically, it wasn’t…  Amazing trick, maybe; amazing magician, I think not…  On top of all that, he messed up some tricks (which happens, I guess…  a little hard to forgive when it involves tricks this simple, but…), and announced the fact that he did indeed mess them up!  Oh well, this “magic” show was free with zoo admission.  I was a little anxious after the first 7 or 8 minutes; wanting to make sure we had enough time to see actual animals, but the kids seemed to like the show, so we did not leave the magic show before its finale.  I will mention that we literally broke into a run when the guy announced that he was doing a puppet show next…  Our 4-year-old was asking to see it, but I cannot imagine what that guy (his name is Chris Clark and you can click on his name to visit his website if you’re interested in renting a magician entertainer popcorn machine) would do with puppets, so we told her we missed the puppet show…  Besides, we were at the zoo to see animals, and we were running out of time!  Here is a picture of the crabby magician (sorry Derek for the large pics – I don’t really have time to be trying to figure out how to change code):

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But not a terrible experience, because look at the amazement on the face of our 4-year-old when she witnessed the “magic”:

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Luckily, we did get out of the magic show in time to see lots of animals at the zoo.  The elephants were moved from their outdoor exhibit to indoors, and in the process, they crossed the path right in front of us zoo visitors:

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Then, the silverback (dominating male and largest) gorilla was sitting right up against the glass of his exhibit, and at the Toledo Zoo, the visitors are allowed to get right up close and personal with the great apes.  Unfortunately, I had run out of available space on my camera after taking so many pictures of the worst magician in the world – I was worried people wouldn’t believe me about how awful he was,so I made sure to snap lots of pics!  But anyway, the silverback gorilla was right there, and as we did with the chimp just minutes before, we held up everything we had in our arsenal (double-stroller) that we thought might interest him, but all to no avail.  Maybe he likes shiny things, we thought, so we held up our car keys.  Maybe he will recognize babies, we decided, so we held up our 7 month old son…  and no reaction (held up the baby with caution since witnessing a gorilla CHARGE a little boy and pound the glass really hard in his exhibit in Omaha Nebraska years ago)…  This gorilla stayed cool as a cucumber and didn’t react to any of it.

My one complaint about this zoo visit (besides the magic show!) is:  where the heck is the octopus?  He is usually one of our favorite animals to see at the zoo, and this time he was missing – something else was in his tank.  That’s disappointing, the octopus was always fascinating for our family and fun to watch.  I hope nothing bad happened to him…

Dinner at Steak N Shake after the zoo was also a fun treat – yes, even Steak N Shake is a treat when you live in a rural utopia like we do since the closest decent sit-down chain restaurant is an hour away.  A fun treat (had to be something casual after a big day with 5 kids who had had a sleepover the night before), and Disney, our 2-year-old, went poopie on the potty for the first time EVER at Steak N Shake!  That reminds me, we used to live in the same town – Normal, IL (which is actually anything but normal) as the very first Steak N Shake restaurant – it is (or at least was 10 years ago when we lived there) still in its original building – too bad I wasn’t into history as much then as I am now…  Oh well, anyway, extremely fun time at the zoo.  And as I always ask the kids, what was your favorite animal that you saw today?  Mine was the silverback gorilla.  He was magnificent.  For awhile, the gorillas were my favorite animal to see at the zoo.  Then we visited frequently last summer and got to know the family of orangutans, especially dad Boomer (an extraordinary orang because he actually plays with and helps care for his offspring – orangs in the wild and even in captivity are very easily annoyed with youngsters).  Boomer and the fam are doing great and only fell short of being my favorite animal at the zoo this weekend because of the close proximity of the humongous silverback gorilla…  Maybe my preferences will reverse next spring when I visit and the orangs are back outside and pushing their button which sprays water upon unsuspecting zoo guests…  Looking forward to that!