Mother Versus Nature

, , , , , | Right | September 1, 2020

I am a zookeeper and am making my way from one enclosure to another. As I walk past the elephants, I see an angry-looking mother dragging her poor daughter behind her. She sees me, realizes I work here, and makes a beeline for me.

Mother: “You! How dare you?!”

Me: “How can I help you, ma’am?”

Mother: “Do you abuse your animals?!”

Me: “Not at all, ma’am! We here at [Zoo] are proud of the quality of care we provide all of our animals!”

Mother: “Then why do you let the elephants do that in front of the children?!”

She points furiously while blocking the view of her scared-looking daughter using her coat. I can see straight away what she’s referring to. One of our elephants is the alpha male of his family, and this afternoon he is particularly… aroused.

Me: “Well, ma’am. That’s nature. Nothing we can do about that.”

Mother: “It’s obscene! How can you let him parade… that… in front of children?!”

Me: “Ma’am, this may be a zoo but these are still wild animals, and they will do what animals do. If you’re not ready to have that discussion with your child then you definitely shouldn’t take her to see the Bonobos!”

Bonobos are a type of ape who… well… do it a lot!

Mother: “It should be your responsibility to ensure the zoo is a family-friendly place to take my child! I demand to speak to your manager!”

Yes, she went there. The manager!

Me: “Ma’am, the manager of this zoo has no more control over the elephant and his member than I do. What did you expect him to be able to do?!”

Mother: “Then your elephant is a pervert and needs to be locked away! You must have abused him to make him that way! I will be writing to the paper about this!”

And with that, she stormed off toward the exit, shielding her daughter from the dangers of nature the entire way. We never did see the massive exposé in the paper about how our zoo animals had healthy sex drives, but then again, we didn’t check the joke section.

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Crocodile Denial, Part 2

, , , , , | Right | August 13, 2020

I work as a tour guide at a wildlife park. Today, I am showing a tour group of senior high school and college students from the US around our wildlife park. We arrive at one of the saltwater crocodiles, which are bigger and more dangerous than alligators. This one is five metres long and weighs nearly a metric tonne, and he is on the bank with only his tail in the water.

We are standing on a raised platform looking down at him. I finish my talk about crocodiles.

Me: “Does anyone have any questions?”

Tourist: “How do you make the crocodile do tricks?”

Me: *Pause* “I do not make him do tricks.”

Tourist: “But he’s just sitting there.”

Me: “Yes, crocodiles save their energy for when they need it. See how he’s watching us? He won’t move unless he decides it’s worth the effort.”

Tourist: “You should poke him.”

Me: “I’m not going to poke him.”

Tourist: “C’mon, he won’t move, I bet.”

Me: “He absolutely will move; he is very territorial. We do not enter his pen without a lot of precautions; he can attack very quickly.”

Tourist: “But he looks so lazy.”

Me: “Again, because he is saving his energy.”

Tourist: “I’m going to jump in there.”

The tourist goes to swing his foot up over the railing. Whether or not he’s joking doesn’t matter; I pull him back from the barrier.

Me: “Absolutely do not do that. You will die. And I will not be going in to save you.”

Tourist: “You won’t?”

Me: “No.”

He finally moved on after that.

Crocodile Denial

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As Simple As Black And Not Black

, , , , , , , | Related | July 16, 2020

My daughter and I are at a zoo with her friend from swimming lessons and her friend’s mom. My daughter, despite being almost four and otherwise neurotypical, barely ever talks. She’s in speech therapy, but it’s rare to hear more than one- or two-word phrases from her. Also relevant to the story is that she is white and her friend is black.

After a fun day at the zoo, we start heading back to our cards. As we exit to the parking lot, my daughter suddenly starts pointing at her friend, exclaiming, “Black! Black!” over and over.

Confused and embarrassed, I assure her friend’s mom that we never say anything like, “Let’s go play with your black friend!” or point out the difference in skin color; it doesn’t matter to pre-schoolers, so why would we make a big deal out of it? Her friend’s mother assures me that she has no reason to believe our family is racist, although she’s as baffled as I am. Meanwhile, my daughter keeps pointing at her friend and yelling, “Black!” 

After what seems like forever, we get to our cars, parked next to each other, and start getting ready to go. My daughter points to her booster seat and then to her friend’s car. “Black!” Then she signs, “Please.”

The friend’s car is black. Ours isn’t.

She was asking, with her limited speech, if she could ride home with her friend in her car!

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Puffin And Puffin Until You’re Blue

, , , , , | Friendly | July 13, 2020

With lockdown slowly relaxing, I’m able to visit the zoo again, albeit with restrictions; for instance, you need to reserve a time slot. I take one later in the day and happen to be at the sea lions just after they are being fed.

A few years ago, a blue heron — and a flock of seagulls — learned the sea lions’ teatime, as well, and as a protected species, got the occasional fish — not so the seagulls. Through the years, it took up permanent residence in the zoo — still a free bird, though — and, as such, got used to people but keeps its distance.

I am admiring it from fairly close, a one-meter-wide hedge between us, when I overhear some French-speaking visitors exclaim that it is a “perroquet de mer” or, literally, a sea parrot.

I’m telling this to a few friends a few days later.

Friend: “What? Is that even a thing?”

Out of curiosity, I do a Google search and immediately recognize the bird but cannot think of the name in Dutch, nor in English.

Me: “Well, yes, it turns out that it is a thing. It is a… a… Well, it is a penguin that isn’t a penguin.”

My friends got what I meant and had a good chuckle about it. It took another search to find that a “perroquet de mer” is a puffin which, incidentally, in Dutch, also has the word for parrot in its name.

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Unfiltered Story #200648

, | Unfiltered | July 13, 2020

I work at a US zoo that has manatees. A while back we were doing press coverage on several of our rehabilitation residents (manatees who are just there until they recover from illness/injury). Because we don’t want endless amounts of the public walking in and out of the shot some employees, including myself, are forming a barrier and guiding people around the press shoot. There are several manatees in this rehab pool and it is very easy to see at least 2 of them at all times while filming. I’m at the tail end of the human barricade and am guiding people around to a place they can see the manatees off camera view.

Woman: Why are you guys blocking the manatees?
Me: I’m very sorry ma’am, but the press doesn’t want people walking all over the shot. You can still see three manatees down this way.
Woman: No I can’t, you people are blocking them!!
Me: You can still get a pretty good view of the ones being filmed if you look from a bit further down. And there are several other manatees down that way to that you can right up close to.
Woman: No!! You are blocking them!!!! Why would you even HAVE this building OPEN if you’re going to BLOCK THE ANIMALS???”
Me: I’m really sorry ma’am, but there ARE several more manatees further down that you can see. There’s no press down there so you can get as close as the pool allows (which is pretty much nose to nose). Besides, if we closed this building then no-one would get to see the manatees, and I think that might be worse.
Woman: Well not when you are BLOCKING THEM ALL!!!!

I have NO IDEA how this woman thinks we were blocking all the manatees. MOST of the manatees were far away from the camera and she could have seen them very close up.