We’re going to the Zoo!




It’s been a while since I skipped a week. I’ve been thinking about what next steps I can take with this blog and it’s really been slowing me down. In the wake of indecision, I thought I would bring you some fuzzy-wuzzy animals!

When we visited Belfast Zoo a couple of weeks ago I did not initially realise that would be the last time I would visit a zoo. I was advised to expect a very old fashioned zoo and that was what we were met with.

I used to really going to the zoo and appreciate that a good zoo can do wonders for conservation. But I have been to some really REALLY sad zoos recently. In the Philippines, Tiernan and I saw some of the saddest penguins on the planet.

Belfast Zoo is not a third-world level of bad, although it is in need of some serious investment. It’s nestled into the side of Cave Hill and enjoys a lovely view across Belfast towards Carrickfergus.


praire dog

The first exhibited we stopped at was the Prairie Dog. This is the animal I have the most photos of because, as Jack rightly observed, the start is when I am all fired up and ready to shoot before losing interest as we go around. He’s right of course. Good job these guys are super cute! The prairie dogs were one of our favourites because of the way they had a chirp for everything, working together to improve their complex system of burrows.

Jack might have unearthed an annoying thing I do, but there is something that happens to him – every time we go out in Belfast – that is simply unavoidable. Jack will run into someone he knows. Every. Single. Time.

It’s family legend that Dad met a fellow firefighter he knew in Trafalgar Square on a Europe trip with Mum pre-kids. My brother, Jack, seems to have picked up this habit. Every time we walk into the city centre he has a chat, a yell or a nod, with someone he knows. Heck, even Tiernan seems to have this skill and he doesn’t even share the gene pool. Back in New Zealand we would walk into Onehunga town centre and, sure enough, Tiernan would run into someone he knew.

I never run into anyone.


So the second thing we did at Belfast Zoo was run into an acquaintance of Jack’s outside the Sea Lion enclosure. This Belfast Trojan told us that a baby giraffe had just been born over in the Giraffe enclosure only minutes before.

But we are creatures of routine. We’d made a game plan to walk the zoo anti-clockwise and no baby giraffe was going to wind us in a clockwise direction! So we continued on uphill, passed the lions, tigers and (I kid you not) bears! Setting up for lunch next to the Malaysian Sun Bears and admiring the sweeping ocean views.



Trudging back down the other side we finally made it to the Giraffes. Belfast Zoo has a large herd and they were all striding about after this knobbly kneed baby who had only just learned to stand. The little guy looked so bewildered by the world – a bit like the keepers who were patiently trying to coax them all back inside. They were standing about, telling us how we couldn’t go inside because they were trying to get the baby in. They weren’t meeting with much success. The baby was having none of it. Smart baby. He/She was just trotting about outside, enjoying the sun.

baby girafffe

While wandering about, reading the interpretation, we noticed that Belfast Zoo really tries to drive home how humanity is killing wild animals. Unfortunately, it comes across one big guilt trip. Everything is dying and it’s you, the reader’s, fault. But their dirty, concrete squares and iron bars are just as much of a tragedy to me as the consumption of plastics. Sure they are breeding at the zoo, but for what? To pace around the same few, square metres, so kids can bang on the glass at them while the parents sit a comfortable distance away? Some of the exhibits were like walking into a bad pet store; where the mice are piled high in dirty substrate with no toys.

I’m done with city zoos.

I cannot handle another hit or miss.

It’s wildlife parks or reserves from here on out.


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