Last weekend we finally made it to the Frankfurt Zoo. A zoophile in Arlington had told us that Frankfurt had a very good zoo when he heard we were coming here. It is the second largest zoo in Germany (after Berlin) and has been around for 130 years (although not continuously – it was bombed out in the Second World War). And itís easily accessible – 15 minutes by bike from where we live. Of course, that also means that itís surrounded by the city so it canít be expanded to give the animals a more expansive natural environment to roam. They have moved the elephants elsewhere (although there are hippos, including a "baby"), but a black bear repetitively traced a mindless path and a rhino paced and "gored" a hanging wooden cylinder.
A major function of the zooís charter is education. The Small Mammal House has recently been replaced by a building that includes an extensive nocturnal section, where the lighting has been shifted 10 hours towards "our" time. An equivalent of moonlight is provided at "night" so the animals can do their thing and the humans can see what that might be. At the 9:30 A.M. opening, itís sundown and time for the bats, aardvarks, black-footed cats, red-bellied tamarinds, slender lorises (lorii?) and kiwis to be afoot – or a-wing. Each year over 160,000 school children complete their biology lessons by visiting the zoo.
The zoo also includes the latest thing – an upgraded aquarium/terrarium called an "Exotarium." I donít know if the concept is common in the U.S., but Iíd also seen it in Stockholm. I must admit, Iíve never seen such large tropical fish – Betty Lou noted that if it wasnít for the neon colors, you could visualize filleting them. And the only other time Iíve seen 10" piranhas Iím sure they were optically enhanced.
We were at the zoo at feeding time. I guess weíre more accustomed to the playful bamboo nibbling of the pandas (none here). Thereís something different about a tiger noisily crushing the bones of a large haunch or vultures eviscerating dead (white) rats.
On our way to the exit we spied ostriches, kangaroos and llamas in a natural-looking grassy area in the distance. However, as we approached the "Max-Schmidt-Enclosure" (theyíre really imaginative about honoring their past zoo directors – the nocturnal animals are in the "Grzimek-House"), a sign informed us that we that what we were really seeing was rheas, wallabies and vicuŮas! Maybe they were educating the adults too.