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108 Reasons to Visit the Rio Grande Zoo


By Rudolfo Carrillo

It is proposed that the thread running through the fabric of what now appears, as if by magic, in front of you, be laden with the same sort of fruit that grace both
Euclidian space and Muktinath.

One is all around us and shared; the other distant and windswept, accessible only by horse and helicopter. They are very beautiful places.

But they’ve got nothing on the
Rio Grande Zoo.

Mused upon without that mnemonic advantage of modernity known to some as photography, the recollection of and proximate exhortations to visit our city’s lovely menagerie should become abundantly clear.

Once enumerated, that is.

One hundred eight dollars buys a person fifteen admissions to where it's all happening and leaves enough feria to provide the leader of such a grouping with a frosty carbonated cola beverage and some jangling change.

So, bring your friends.

They will be greeted by the most fluorescently psychedelic critters known to our species, the taciturn yet graceful flamingos, who reside in a humble pond near the eastern gate. Their limbs resemble living, moving reeds. Their bright black eyes greet visitors with a real and avian curiosity practically unheard of among their
eponymous counterparts.

A path leading upward and away to the north from that pink playground leads to a place where two types of primates may be observed by a third. The feral yet recognizable mystery of the gorillas and orangutans is sublimely matched, if not equaled, by the people gathered round the ape habitats. In the midst of these sheltered and well-designed environs, it is difficult to discount our nearer ancestor, a fellow named
Darwin.

Onward, a verisimilitude of the continent known to the controllers of this planet as Africa looms and chatters. Hyenas pace nervously. The zebras are in repose, even as great big cats growl in the distance. Two hippopotamuses like submarines only made from leather and toothy maws float calmly, beatifically.

In the dominion of chimps, spread out at the edge of this synthetic homage to our original location, one may further ruminate on the very thin boundaries, both physical and biological, that separate us from our quizzical kin. For one, I think I'd fine, spending the days investigating the veins in leaves, grooming my partner for tasty insects and staring into infinity reflected in a strong perspex panel.

Emerging from such super-natural and evolutionary reveries as are engendered by this exhibit, it is easy enough to ascribe preternatural fluidity and grace to the seals and sea lions cavorting in their roomy reservoir, for they do seem customarily lumpy and immovable whilst on land (or in this case, concrete). It is difficult for me to image that men had a war against these creatures and their kin, taking their fat and fur until modernity plastically intervened.

Beyond the pinnipeds' pretend pelagic outpost, is the kingdom of the cats, where the casual viewer or visitor may be frightened by proximity. All of them, it seems, from the anxious bobcat to the jaguar with a ginormous head are gloriously vigilant. I attempted to telepathically contact a cougar at his wire and mesh window, but everything he was thinking about was fashioned around prey and escape, and I did not dare invoke either.

A recent visit very near closing time ensured that our glimpse into the twilight activities of the two resident lions would be an intimate one. With no other humans about, the felines' regal and retired presence was read as intense and presumably predatory. We both considered running away quickly, they seemed so close; yellow unblinking eyes, swirling tails and twitchy whiskers defining their presence. For a minute I wondered what it would be like to be et by one, but then gave up for lack of imagination.

Oddly, the kangaroo display is directly across from the Leo household. One wonders about the redolent olfactory tensions that have developed on account of said appropinquity.

After that, the polar bears seemed playful, pawing at tree trunks and floating placidly, far far away from the arctic tundra, yet seemingly at home, surrounded by a different and dry desert.

The wolves were hidden in their lairs. Nearby, a noisy teenage couple (human) flirted and gamboled about, happily oblivious to the keen eyes and noses hidden among the cottonwoods.

Obviously they had not taken time to visit the two monstrous crocodiles housed in the southeast portion of the park. If they had, they would certainly have been more subdued, for those fearsome reptiles live in a veritable prison, amidst sand and reinforced steel paddocks. They did not stir but seemed to be silently waiting for meat or movement or a combination of both.

Much like the
British Museum, it is nearly impossible to absorb and observe all the Rio Grande Zoo in one visit, and certainly one visit should lead to another.

For a famous elephant dwells thereabouts
, as do a coterie of condors, impossibly tall giraffes, who though cruelly culled by a previous and deviously cold winter, graze and nod lengthily, with pride. There is also a collection of crawly things, just like what you'd find if you made a living with a capture net and specimen jar. The couple of tank-like rhinos will ignore you because you are too small, as far as they are concerned.

And all of them living testaments to the biological diversity and fragility of life that would otherwise remain unobserved while we construct numbered structures and arcane legends around our interactions with the parts of the world that we did not build.

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