Friday, February 17, 2006

Murder on the Safari

Husband took time off in lieu yesterday and today. Rather uncharacteristically, if I may say.

We had been totally unsuccessful in trying to get son to visit the London Zoo. We think it would be educational for him. After all, that's what all parents do during school holidays, isn't it? (No?)

Son refuses to go saying that he does not like seeing animals in cages. He must have seen images of London Zoo on TV to come to such a conclusion.

Next best thing we thought was travel a short distance up the M1 to a safari park. There, we assured son, animals are allowed to roam free and not kept in cages.

He agreed to go. We got there, queued up to pay to get in. Soon frustration set in.

After spotting the North American Bison, the Chapman's Zebra, Common Eland, Kafue Lechwe (antelope), Asian Elephant, etc, we were stuck in queue behind a long line of cars, stuck behind an MPV that refused to move.

'Look at her! husband exploded, 'And I bet it's a her. Totally oblivious to everyone else stuck behind her.'

There were easily 30 cars behind her, and she would have been able to see this if only she looked. No, she didn't, until some other irate visitors decided to pass the waiting line of traffic to try to catch a glimpse of the Ankole Cattle she was planted in front of.

She finally moved on a very short distance.

It finally came to our turn to glimpse the Ankole Cattle, and we moved on. She? She was stopped texting someone on her phone. About 50 cars behind her by then.

We moved on uninhibited for a while, but I was amazed at the number of visitors and cars, each and every one spewing greenhouse gases into this beautiful tract of land.

The worst was yet to come. Believe me.

Into the lions' enclosure. Lovely view of the Afican Lion here. Very tame. But as we came to the top of a hill we could see traffic stopped up, winding its way to nearly where we were. We soon joined this non-moving line.

From our vantage point we could see how visitors were stopped on the road for long periods. Sometime this was due to a lionness sitting in the middle of the road. More often we had people who just set there for ten minutes or so (ten minutes, yes!) not budging, not batting an eyelid on the two tight lines of cars waiting to get through.

There was no room for manoeuvre. Though there were two lines of cars, somehow the drivers at the front refused to move on without stopping for a good few minutes to gawp at the big cats and their little cubs.

If it was off-season and the park is fairly empty, that would not be a problem. But on this day there were hundreds of cars queueing up. Yet people at the front didn't think it was only polite to move on. (They had stewards to move you on when you view the Crown Jewels in London, you know. You're not allowed to loiter.)

Like I said, there were visitors stopped for full ten minutes there. Why? Does it matter whether one's children catch a glimpse of these animals for 20 seconds or stare for 20 minutes? They are not going to be zoologists overnight by gaping at these animals for longer.

Meanwhile we took about half an hour to wend our way down that slope of perhaps 150 metres.

Carbon emissions from all these idling cars? I dread to think.

O! And of course there was all the excitement of these big cats feeding. Huge animal carcasses being torn apart in front of us.


'The veggies are not going to like this,' I said, rightly or wrongly.

I think it is wonderful that visitors can get so close to the animals. But I think the park has to rethink the car(bon) emission problem. These animals are being slowly poisoned by the sheer amount of noxious fumes being pumped into their faces.

Sure, there are lots of greenery around which absorb the carbon dioxide, but what about the sulphur and the rest? It is also a matter of principle that greener methods of being 'on safari' should be possible.

I get very blasé about this, I must admit, because I come from Singapore. We have a wonderful zoological garden there where my son enjoyed watching lions, rhinoceros, zebra, etc roaming in huge enclosures, and not a cage in sight (except for the birds in massive walk-in cages).

It is also possible to go on a 'Night Safari' when the animals are most active and 'safe' animals are left to wander around. Visitors are conducted round the park on electric trams. I am just not used to cars being driven slowly -- and ob/noxiously -- in an environment which is supposed to be kind to animals.

This safari park and others in the UK should consider a 'tram system' where visitors can be conducted around in a greener manner. Or at least something should be done to prevent cars left/forced to idle for extended periods because of one or more selfish, unthinking visitor.

So we moved on to the Monkey enclosure and ... yes, once again, visitors parked in the middle of the road blocking both lines of traffic. Why?

Because there were monkeys on her car. She was either too excited or too petrified (or both) to just inch her car out of the way so that others could pass, even when it was clear that people were trying to pass.

Meanwhile we had a car full of hungry people who also desperately needed the toilet. We found our way to the car park and made a scramble for the loos just in time to then dash to the restaurant before the rain came thrashing down.

What do you expect? We're on safari.

Back to Organic-Ally.

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