Monday, August 3, 2009

Haifa Zoo

Haifa Educational Zoo is located on a slope of the Carmel range, down the wadi known as the Lotem River, from Gan HaEm in the Carmel Centre. It is a medium-sized zoo, with a wide range of animals housed in naturalistic enclosures, separated from visitors by glass walls (which are good for viewing, but sometimes make photography difficult). The route around the zoo requires walking downhill and then back uphill, like so many place in Haifa.

We visited on a hot summer day, and spent about two hours walking around. In better conditions we might have stayed longer. I hope to return when it is cooler (a comment I overheard other visitors making).

Among the animals we saw: flamingos, lemurs, meerkats, capuchin monkeys, owls, wild boars, jackals, fennec fox, white tigers, leopard, alpacas, hyenas, caracals, wolves, brown bears, camels, and various snakes. We didn't see all the animals, which would have required a longer visit. The lions, for example, were hiding from the heat, so we didn't see them at all.

I was particularly interested in seeing the white tigers, who arrived in the zoo earlier this year. They have grown a bit since the photos published upon their arrival, but I think they are not yet fully grown, judging by their large paws. When we arrived, they were bathing in their pond, but later they came out, paced around, played with a tyre and chewed on some grass and leaves.

I also enjoyed seeing the lemurs, who were all cuddling together in the shade of their house. This led to a discussion about whether the heat generated by sleeping in a group outweighed the benefit of being in the shade! Naturally, the children (my niece and nephew) recognized them from the film Madagascar.

Whenever I think about the abundant variety of life on this planet, it is humbling to realize that there are so many ways of being alive, and we are just one form that has been successful. I love observing animal behaviour. I am honoured to share my life with two domestic cats, and have learned to understand them and communicate with them. Before we encounter life-forms from other planets, there is so much to learn about our own biosphere. I believe that a relationship with a pet animal and respect for all animals enrich our human experience and give us a sense of proportion in life. Most of the things that occupy our time are purely human concerns, while the world is so much larger and more varied.

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