I have written other articles regarding my interesting experiences in dealing with the Zoos in the United States. But, I have one that tops them all.
A late fall regional zoo conference in Texas several years ago was the ultimate experience. We were invited to attend the AAZPA regional conference at the Glady Porter Zoo in Texas. Because of our affiliation with the Zoos as a supplier of raw meat diets for the larger carnivores, we had the privilege of visiting the back room quarters( that other visitors are not allowed to be in). There were about 100 people attending the zoo for a personal tour of the facility. I have always been fascinated with the large ape collections at the zoos , so once we had a chance to tour the Gorilla complex I couldn’t wait to see the exhibit. The holding pens behind the scenes are just strong barred cages that house the apes off site from the visitors.
By being able to see these animals close up, it provided a closer contact with them and also provided a new perspective of their abilities. We had 100 AAZPA (AMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF ZOOLOGICAL PARKS AND AQUARIUM) attendees pack into the behind the scene quarters of the great ape exhibit. There was very little room for anyone to move in this small area. I was one of the first to enter the room so I was backed all the way up to the back storage cage which housed one of the nation’s largest great ape creatures. I was fascinated at the size and power that these animals have. My body was packed tight against the bars of his cage as I carefully watched him in the back of his cage about 15 feet away. I learned a good lesson at that moment. You DON’T try to stare down a great ape. They don’t like it evidently because before I could even react to it- this huge specimen lunged forward and smashed his chest into the bars next to where I was standing. Fortunately the bars were narrow enough that he couldn’t reach his hands through the cage or I was all done. The reality was that I was face to face ( within 3 inches) to the largest beast I have ever seen up this close. I could smell his breath as he was breathing on me from 3 inches away and starring me straight in my eyes.
Needless to say- it scared the begebies out of me. The people that were closest to me that saw this happen also had a close to death experience. We left the exhibit with a sense of fear that I have never experienced since then. As we left the exhibit, I looked back at the ape and he had a grin on his face that showed pure satisfaction for what he had done.