Wednesday, October 12, 2011

National Holiday? Find a zoo.

As today was a national holiday here in Brazil, TimeIrado set off for the Zoologio de Sao Paulo, or the Sao Paulo Zoo. Given that it was a religious holiday where many people attend mass and then head to cookouts, we figured it would be the perfect day to see the sights and sounds of the exotic animals at the zoo. One small problem, in my earlier post about the holiday, I also stated that it was "Children's Day". As a result, one of the Brazilian banks was sponsoring a discounted admission for account holders and their children.

Upon arriving at the entrance, there were three lines. Two of the lines were about 50 yards long and the third went on until the eyes could not see any further. Guess which line the non-account holding Americans got to stand in? That's right, we headed around the corner and the line just kept going. The more we walked, the longer it got. In the distance, we could see an area where buses were unloading, therefore each time a bus would stop, 40 people or so would jump into the line. We finally reached the unloading area and joined the line of Paulistas. After about 30 minutes and $16 BRL, we headed inside.

I was anxious to see what this zoo offered, as coming from Columbus, Ohio, I am a bit spoiled when it comes to zoos. The Columbus Zoo and Aqaurium, was ranked by USA Today as the World's Best Zoo a couple of years ago, thanks to Jack Hanna who calls Columbus home. (I'm sure some of the ranking can be accredited to Craig Marshall, Ernst & Young Columbus Office Managing Partner and Zoo Board Member, right Craig?) So being a bit of a zoo snob, I found a little background on the zoo from the internet before heading out, to attempt not to miss anything.

The Zoological Park of São Paulo is the largest in Brazil. Located in an area of ​​824,529 m2 (8,875,156 sq ft) of original Atlantic Forest, has approximately 4 miles of alleys. It houses the headwaters of the historic stream of Ipiranga, at south side of the city. Displays more than 3,200 animals, 102 species of mammals, 216 species of birds, 95 species of reptiles, 15 species of amphibians and 16 species of invertebrates, in enclosures that replicate the natural habitats of these animals. The Zoo's farm of 572 ha, produces vegetables used in the manufacture of feed for various animals, and material to the enclosures where the animals stay. There are animals that need extra area for mating.The zoo also counts with a nursery for rejected puppies and incubators for hatching eggs of birds and reptiles. His library of more than four thousand volumes is open to the public. Its partnerships with other state, federal and foreign research institutions include researches that aim to facilitate the preservation of endangered species. Zoological do São Paulo also has a Safari Zoo located in its southeastern side, in the district of Cursino.
Not too shabby, eh?

Once inside, the first animals we saw were the cheetahs, a couple of lynx, and even rare turtles caught in the act of mating. Seriously, check my pictures on Flickr, I was able to capture wildlife in the truest form like our late friend, Steve Irwin, aka "The Crocodile Hunter". From there it was on to see the birds which was the most impressive part of the zoo. With many types of parrots, cockatoos, flamingos, and parakeets, the birds were full of color and interesting sounds. Many of the birds traveled to the zoo from the Amazon Rainforest (just like "Blue" in the movie Rio), which is located in the northern part of the country.

My favorite photo of the birds was a shot of two Scarlet Macaws.

Scarlet Macaws at the Sao Paulo Zoo

A quick lunch and then TimeIrado was off to see lions, and tigers, and bears (oh my!). Along the way there was an African elephant, a handful of curious (and tall!) giraffes, zebras, and other typical animals at a zoo. My favorite animals at any zoo are the monkeys. The monkeys at the Sao Paulo zoo were rather entertaining, doing what monkeys do best, playing and grooming. Im not sure why its so fun to watch monkeys either live or on the discovery channel. Maybe its because we wish that someone would have the courage to pull a bug off of us and eat it, or maybe its that we wish we could play all day. With all those tree houses, ropes, and the obstacle courses, who wouldn't have fun?. But there was something different here at the monkey cages, and it was not the monkeys. It was the Brazilian zoo visitors that were so fun to watch. Children and adults alike were screaming, laughing, and jeering at the monkeys each time one of them would swoop down or do something funny. It was the same sort of response that you would get from the movie "Old School" when Will Ferrell shoots himself in the neck with the tranquilizer dart. This lasted the entire 10 minutes that we stood in the area and we could still hear the commotion behind us as we walked away. We had a good laugh but wondered why watching the monkeys was so different in the US than it was in Brazil. Perhaps we will never know.

Before we left the zoo we did see a rare pink elephant. Once thought to be extinct on planet earth, one was alive and well and I have the photo to prove it!

The elusive pink elephant
After three hours walking around we completed our journey around the zoo and headed for the exit. Due to the high volume of traffic, the Sao Paulo Police shut down one direction of traffic near the zoo and to our dismay, there were no taxi's in sight. I asked a cameraman for the local newscrew that was there filming the large turnout at the zoo and he explained we needed to walk to the end of the road. What we did not know, the end of the road included a winding hill that was probably a good mile or two up into a less than desireable part of town. Once we made it to the summit, we were able to locate a taxi that was able to get us home, over an hour later. 

One thing to note is that someone probably should have reminded the three fair-skinned gringoes from the Midwest (Jamie is from Detroit, Katie is originally from Minnesota, and I from Columbus) that Brazil is located a lot closer to the Equator than the states north of the Mason Dixson line. Despite the possibility for rain, it was sunny with a high of 85 today. Its not the worst burn Ive ever had, but let's say Im a nice scarlet color, fitting for an Ohio State fan. 

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