Whenever I visit zoos, I like to look for the incidental animals; the animals and birds and fish that are there because they have moved in unbidden, because a zoo is a nice place to live, even when you have a choice. I like to see how the local wildlife, native or not, exploits the zoo environment. Maybe there's a scruffy little gang of house sparrows stealing food out of a fox's dish or picking grain out of zebra dung. Maybe there's a complex of Norway rat tunnels running under the tiger's pen.
Maybe there's a cottontail rabbit, hiding under the shrubbery that screens the chimp compound.
The carp beseech me for food. There's no question in my mind that they're looking right into my eyes, begging. I have lived with their gaudy cultivars, the koi, long enough to know that look. It's pretty darned effective, for a fish.
These are European carp, but you get the point.
A ring-billed gull also waits for a handout. Populations of this little native gull exploded with the inception of landfills and shopping centers, strip malls, fast-food places and open Dumpsters. And it's almost single-handedly cleaned out native nesting piping plovers in the Great Lakes.
Lovely bird, just doing its job.
Outside the zoo gates, a low-paid person in a dog suit shills for Petland, hoping to lure people in to buy the tragic output of puppy mills.
Sometimes I wish I could stop thinking about connections, about collateral damage. Why can't I just look at the pretty birds, the big fish, the cute puppies? Why must I see the clumsy hand of man laid so heavily on the animal kingdom wherever I look?
What's that on the Chinese Christmas light string on the Japanese birches near the Asian elephant compound?
Why, it's a ruby-crowned kinglet. A native migrant, passing through Columbus as it flees the Canadian winter and fetching up for a few days at the zoo.
Oh, I needed that. Thank you. I love flamingos and gorillas and elephants, but you're something else again. It's so good to see you here. What a silly perch for a pretty bird.