Saturday, July 08, 2006

We went to the animal fair; the birds and the bees were there...

On Thursday, we went to Magnetic Hill Zoo in Moncton. Neither of us had ever been to the Zoo, and I had never experienced the famous "Magnetic Hill" which has become a local tourist attraction and has spawned a theme park, water park and zoo. (And shops and restaurants - and what would a Canadian theme park be without a Beavertails stand? Hmm? I ask you?)

Magnetic Hill is one of those tourist things that every region has, things the locals rarely actually do, in spite of the fact that thousands of vacationers find them worthy. However, ever since doing the Magnetic Hill thing this spring when he was at the convention centre for a meeting, Husband was so completely floored by it that he suggested we make a day trip to Moncton so I could experience it, too. And we both really wanted to visit the Zoo, which the city and a team of volunteer "Friends of the Zoo" have turned into an award-winning facility for threatened and endangered species.

I won't clog up your computer with all the great animals we saw, but will share some of the standouts with you.

This odd creature is a capybara, or in French "cochon d'eau" ("water pig"). The single oddest creatures we saw all day; very, very weird-looking!!

A black-and-white lemur. (They also had ring-tailed lemurs.)

A bison (you should see one of these big boys taking a dust bath!)

Some absolutely adorable and hammy spider monkeys. The zoo also hosts olive baboons and white-handed gibbons.

This is Llarry (we don't know that, we just named him Llarry in honour of the Gary Larson cartoon) the exceptionally cooperative llama. Llarry strolled over to us and posed charmingly until we took several photos of him. In fact, he seemed a little disappointed that we only took several. Llarry the Llama is also a ham.

The star of the day, for us, was Tomar the Siberian Tiger.

Tomar is over 227 kg (500 pounds) - and that's not particularly big for a Siberian Tiger; they grow to over 319 kg (700 pounds).

He was dozing in the distance when we first arrived...


...but got up to stroll over to his admirers later on...

...eventually checking us out quite calmly from only a few feet away.

That is one big kitty.

A high point of the visit was watching the Zoo Crew try to round up three errant ostriches to lead them to a new area. The gate was wide open - and those ostriches wanted to go anywhere but through it.

It seems the way one rounds up ostriches is to hold onto something quite long to make oneself appear larger and then corral the beasts in the direction you want them to go. Unfortunately, the ostriches will attempt to break through the corral; so if one approaches you, you try to gently intimidate it by waving your long stick-y objects (rakes, branches, etc) up and down like ridiculous wings. In spite of their efforts, one particularly bold ostrich would screw up his or her courage and bust through the line anyway, sending zoo employees scattering - and as soon as Number One had broken free, Two and Three were emboldened to follow. The entire effect, while no doubt frustrating to the young "Zoo Crew" members, was absolutely hilarious to observe.

After spending a few hours at the park, we "did" Magnetic Hill. This is how it works: You wait in line for a few minutes, then park at the top of a hill on a quaint dirt country road while a charming young lady gives you instructions. When she gives you the ok, you drive down that fairly steep hill to a white post that's at the bottom. Then you stop, slip your car into neutral, take your foot off the brake, and...

...roll backwards, quite rapidly, back to the top of the hill.

It is a bit of a mind-blower; your brain keeps telling your senses that they can't possibly be experiencing what they are experiencing. How are we rolling uphill??? This can't be happening! The water in ditches alongside the road or from snow melting also runs "uphill"! It's not overrated, that's for sure.

How does it work? Well, there were some pretty whack folk theories, including the theory that a large mass of magnetic minerals in the hill pulled metal automobiles back to the hilltop, hence the name given to the feature by locals which sticks today; in fact there's a simple explanation, but as Husband noted, it's "not a very satisfactory one" - because you just can't believe the perfection of the illusion.

Good day, fer shur!



Anonymous Cuz said...

I love tigers!

Just wish they didn't have to be kept in cages... but they're so beautiful!

12:21 p.m.  

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