We woke up and piled into car to go to the zoo before the storm. We arrived with sunshine and scattered clouds. We left under heavy cloud cover with chilling winds. Our first thought was to see the pandas, especially the baby panda only introduced to the public last week. I figured our chances were slim since I knew the lines would be horrendous. I stopped at guest relations and asked. I remember the huge value in asking. They have Guest Relation passes that allow guests with mobility challenges to wait in alternate areas for all lines, including buses and the skytram. The gentleman was super-helpful and gave us passes for our entire family.
And we got to see the pandas! The staff had shared information, so I didn't get one story from one person and another story from someone else. The baby panda was behind a bush at first. He came out to roll on his back and chew on a branch and look miraculous and cute.
After, we talked to staff about getting around the park. There is an express bus that does cost money that will take you around the park. We were in the middle of the zoo by then so it didn't help us. There's also a tour bus that circles the park (also an additional cost). If I wore out, she said, I could always ask a staff person with a radio and they would radio a shuttle to give us a ride. Luckily, I didn't need that option but it was nice to know it was available, especially given the huge hills and distances between exhibit areas. Their accessibility plans were certainly helpful. I'm glad because we bought memberships since we plan to visit this area again in the summer.
Hightlights of our day: The big cats were out and about, the leopard and jaguar pacing the length of their enclosure only a few feet from us. The Siberian Lynx leaped up eight feet like it was no distance at all. The baby condors were fed lunch of fluffy white bunny carcasses that the condors tore into with all the gusto of wild-nature. Anika was appalled. "That's nature," I said.
"Not my nature." And she ran off to see the wild horse.
We rode the skytram. Saw the baby gorilla, Frank. And the storm clouds swept over the sky. I had left our sweatshirts in the car. It couldn't get that cold, I thought. But it did.
So we left. We missed important animals. The hippos and children's zoo. The polar bear exhibit was closed. Disappointing, especially since we walked all the way across the park to see them. But the skytram was also there. And we saw Takins! Which I learned about for Mighty Tyg. They are endangered goat-antelope from Asia. And we saw foosa.
I always find animals that I never knew existed. This time it was a Kudu at the wild animal park. What a big amazing world we share. I hope that we can protect and appreciate all the wild things for a long long time.
Oh, and when we arrived home and Alexandria was sharing the day with Grandma, she talked about the pandas. "We were sure lucky to have Lenka with us," she said with a laugh. See, we can make disability a lucky thing :)