Sunday, May 21, 2006


Mountain Zoo

It's raining on a Sunday afternoon - it must be time to go to the zoo! The Welsh Mountain Zoo is high above Colwyn Bay (and therefore nearer the rain clouds). Despite it being the weekend, the place was not overrun with people which meant you could have as much time to watch the animals as you wanted without people getting in your way.

After lunch in their restaurant we set out to make as much of the remaining hours as we could.

The Chimp encounter was worth a visit. Inside there is a small auditorium for the visitors where they can watch a number of chimps through big windows. During the session, a pair of animatronics (professor and chimp) discuss what you need to know about these apes. Usually part of the show is where the chimps use sticks to find ants in anthills to eat (or 'jam' in reality) but the keeper explained that as it was raining he didn't think it would be easy for him to shoo the chimps out so he could load up the anthills. I took some video footage of one of the chimps as it seemed perfect for money-for-funny-tapes shows - she was getting someone in the front row to keep raising and lowering their umbrella. Up went the finger, up went the brolley; down went the finger, down went the brolley; repeat over and over again. The humans certainly kept going longer than I expected but not as long as the chimp required. Must dump the tape to a file so I can put it on the blog...

Next was the really sweet Penguin Parade where a horde of small Humboldt Penguins - or a class of prep school children in disguise, difficult to tell - waddled behind a keeper with a magic bucket of fish. They really did look lovely.

The Californian Sealions were just along the path from Pingu and pals where we learned how difficult it is to train them. Most impressive was how well the keeper with the head microphone was doing - it was pouring with rain and she couldn't wear a hood because of the noise it would make. We all had umbrellas and the sealions didn't seem to care.

And now some photos:

One of the problems with making zoos interesting is that a wet horse standing in the rain in a soggy field is not a huge hit with the kids.

And don't get me started on the "synchronised staring" event we stumbled upon.

Here's a novel idea. Flamingos are used to living in vast flocks so the zoo has built a curved mirror so that - just like in mirror-walled restaurants with inferiority complexes - there seem to be a lot more of everybody.

Another highlight of the day was watching the snakes getting fed. Some of the reptiles were not in the slightest bit interested in a dead mouse being waved in front of its nose whilst others were definitely up for a light snack - or keeper's hand, whichever came first. The snake attacks on the swinging did seem a bit hit-and-miss. I could imagine that in the wild they probably had to go through quite a few failed lunges to get a decent meal. Nothing like on the TV where snakes are unerring killers.

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