Maybe I am weird, but as a general rule, I don’t like zoos.
It’s simply because I feel bad for the animals kept in cages.
Who is happy walking around a prison?
But there I was, last week, pushing an empty stroller, chasing an active 18 m.o. granddaughter around a small, rustic zoo in the Spanish city of Cordoba.
It was our best option for killing time while her mommy was busy in conference meetings.
Can you guess which animal got the biggest squeals from my little one?
It wasn’t the elephant.
Nor the big brown bear. (Poor fellow. He was so out of place.)
She didn’t seem to see the handsome bored-looking mother-daughter tigers.
Nor the amazing standing-on-one-leg pink flamingos. (I was sure she would love them.)
She didn’t clap ‘Bravo!’ for the busy-swinging monkeys.
Nor for the ostriches, the zebras, nor the huge hippo in his miniature pond.
And she wasn’t interested at all with the still-as-statues, posed-like-sun-worshippers, lemurs.
But I was. The animals, especially those funny-looking lemurs, caught my fascination, and seeing that hippo set me to thinking and smiling and I told him: “Hey, big buddy. I used to live in Africa. I lived by a lake where your cousins live.”
I never thought of it like this before: I lived in a zoo.
The mission property on Lake Langano in the Rift Valley lakes district of East Africa was a forest, a nature preserve, a safe haven for hundreds of species of birds and wild animals like colobus monkeys, warthogs, anteaters, and baboons.
Lots and lots of baboons.
Stealing chickens, climbing into water tanks, ripping off spigots, breaking sinks, grabbing fruit off my screened porch, roaming the property in large gangs . . . they were loud, dangerous, aggressive and obnoxious.
One morning I was in my little house, battling discouragement about my recurring discouragement, when a group of young baboons began using the tin roof like a trampoline, to jump into the nearby tree for figs. They ran and jumped and screeched, having a great time overhead.
I went outside with a broom and tried to scare them off, but in the end, it was me who left for a quieter place.
Yes, it was like living in a zoo.
I wrote above that the Langano property was a ‘safe haven’ but actually that’s not true.
There are always dangers for animals in the wild.
Birds have to be on constant alert against predators.
Baboons fight and kill each other.
The city zoo is a haven.
Safety at the cost of freedom.
I imagine heaven to be like a return to the Garden of Eden, where all of God’s creatures will be safe AND free.
And I will walk around heaven and be unreservedly delighted – no sadness, no fear – to see all the diverse and beautiful, exotic and unique animals – and people! – that God loves.
Now back to that Spanish zoo.
What was the animal my little sweetie loved the most?
It was the pigeons.
All she wanted to do was chase pigeons.
I don’t know what the point of this story is.
Let me know if you think of one.