Tama Zoo- Summer Nights!

It has been a long week of studying and school engagements, so I am extremely excited for the weekend. And what better way that to kick off the fun by going to Tama Zoo for their special “Summer Nights at the Zoo”? Nicky and I invited Ian and Erin along, and after finagling the transit systems for over an hour, we arrived in Tamabayashi. Unfortunately, we arrived just as the grey clouds finally cracked, and a full on rainstorm greeted us off the train.  None of us had brought umbrellas, and since I had all the camera gear, we needed to seek shelter indoors while we figured out where we could get umbrellas.

In the midsts of all that, we decided to have an early dinner, as Erin, Ian and I hadn’t eaten anything all day. Nicky had spent her morning whipping up bentos for all four of us, so we sat at a table and dug in. No matter what she says, it was super tasty!! And also much, much needed for us poor starving students. The rain didn’t let up at all while we ate (it actually got worse), so we finally caved and went to the gift shop to buy an umbrella each. Then, we braved the outside!

The nice thing about the rain is that is scared a lot of the crowds away, and it also got rid of annoying insects. There were no mosquitos or cicada during our entire voyage through the zoo, which was super nice. The animals seemed to like the rain too, as they got really active. All of the predators were moving around, including the Hokkaido bear and the pack of wolves (videos in my gallery).

Tama Zoo is really an amazing zoo. There were a few exhibits where it was clear they weren’t caring for the animal well enough (the caribou was gaunt and the water buffalo had overgrown hooves), but overall, the zoo is very well laid out, the animals seem energetic and happy and with the admission being only $6, the expense is well worth the journey.

We started in the walk-in aviary, where we got to see asian storks and cranes up close. Next door, there were also owls and golden eagles, all of which visitors can get great views of, as the zoo is situated on a hill, allowing for gradated viewing. The Africa exhibit is by far their most stunning exhibit, with elephants, a rhino, cheetahs, lions and ocelots. Nicky especially loved the rhinoceros and cheetahs, as she’d never seen them in a zoo before. The cheetahs really were amazing. Around the time that we arrived at their cage, the lions (nearly halfway across the exhibit) began to roar, and they started getting antsy. One cheetah in particular kept walking right up to the glass to look at everyone.

When we realized that the lions roaring actually wasn’t a soundtrack, we ran across the exhibit, just in time to catch the lions after they had finished eating. The lions were pretty cool, but I think that the cheetahs were cooler. We also got to see the elephants while they ate. The elephant keeper rolled a watermelon out into the pin and the elephant crushed it with its foot before eating it... I was pretty surprised they give elephants watermelon here, since its so expensive. (I realize that the elephant actually ate better than me tonight, in terms of dinner!) Afterward we went all over the park, checking out the snow leopard and the tiger and wolves.

There were way too many wolves in one pin, in my own opinion. There were around fifteen members of the pack and the space alloted to them was about the same as the space they gave the tiger or bear. When we got to the cage, the wolves were in the middle of feeding, so there was a lot of pack politics going on. In particular, there were two wolves keeping the omega far, far away from the food, going so far as to push him further down along the rocks. The only way I could tell he was the omega is that, though he growled and snapped his jaws back, his tail was between his legs the whole time. It was interesting, if a little scary.

I got a lot of nice pictures today (courtesy the camera Hannah lended me, as Nicky and I’s normal cameras were being sketchy with the rain and overcast light). You can check them out in the gallery!