08 June 2008

Monkeys, Capybaras, and Babies

Well, I'll start out with an exciting experience I had this morning, which in my mind trumps the rest of the day which was also a lot of fun. I awoke this morning and got up, showered, got my clothes ready and checked on my lovely wife who was still relaxing in bed. She was talking to Jackson (our baby due in October) and I thought I might participate as well. Since I am able to, I got right down by him and was saying hello, and I put my ear to Em's belly to listen to him, and he kicked me in the head! I couldn't be prouder, my boy has a good kick, he'll be a strong one. I talked to him some more and we had breakfast.

Our plan today was to go south to Nagasaki and check out the Nagasaki Bio Park, which is pretty much a zoo, but much more interactive than a stateside zoo. Its a good walk, a few hours, but you get to see dozens of monkeys, fish, birds, plants, llamas, and other critters, some of which I'd never seen before in my life. The interactive part is the best, which allows you to feed many of the animals, some of which right from your hand. You can also get really close to many of the animals, some of which is fun, some which are not so much.

The first big attraction is the Insectarium, which is ultra-creepy, as its all stuff like Hercules and Rhinoceros beetles, which are way too big for insects. Some of them looked like they could weight several ounces.

After that is a petting area, which had squirrels, rats, turtles, guinea pigs, hamsters, and other small furries that could be picked up and handled.

Further up the path though was my favorite part of the park by far. The Capybara area. Now if you don't know what a capybara is, here's a picture.

Yes, I am petting it, I fed it also, right from my hand. It felt like an old hairbrush, very coarse, but very friendly. There were about 15 of them just walking around in this small fenced area. I had to wade through about 30 hysterical Japanese children who for some reason thought the capybaras were going to eat them all alive. Even when they saw me emerge unscathed, they still would squeal whenever one would walk towards them. These same children protested though when their parents tried to get them out of the fenced area. Too scared to interact, but too fascinated to leave, strange.

After that was a Rhino who was asleep, but very large, and very close. It was not to be interacted with, but they do allow you to feed them at specific times on Sundays, but it had already passed by the time we got there, so we missed out.

Further down the trail, there is an area with a cluster of cages holding goats, raccoons, and lesser red pandas. Now, these are normal animals I'm familiar with, but there were some others that simply ran loose which I'd never seen before. The best description I can give is a cross between a rabbit and a small deer. No tail, longer deer-like legs, with a rabbit-like face. There were about 20 and they would run back and forth between these two buildings. Having no experience with them, I approached but did not get too close, as they appeared to have formidable claws on their front and hind feet, and I didn't want to get killed by a rabbit-deer, what kind of story would that be? (further research revealed the animal to be a Patagonian Cavy, see below)

Next was the monkey area, and by monkey area I mean, the monkey cage you can walk through, with the monkeys. Now, monkeys look cute, so I thought I might get close to see if one would run up my arm and perch on my shoulder for a picture. The monkey reached out and grasped my hand, and I thought I was in the clear, but I was suddenly rewarded with a bite, hehe. Not a bad one, no blood, but it sure startled me, and the monkey may have learned a new word or two. Suffice it to say, I didn't try to hold any more monkeys. They were cute though.

After that were the hippos, but they were all underwater or sleeping, so there was little activity there. It started to sprinkle a little at this point, so unless we saw something incredible, we made for a covered area. The aquarium was next, and it had a huge amazonian fish in it, which I also researched and know to be an Arapaima, the largest freshwater fish in the world, some reaching over 400 pounds.

At this point we have reached the end of the zoo, which is a huge loop of one-way traffic, which was nice as you cannot miss anything and don't have to compete with people walking every which way like in other zoos.

We then went out for lunch and returned home, tired and having had a great day.

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