At the Oakland Zoo

Oakland — "Something tells me it's all happening at the zoo." — Simon and Garfunkel.

It is today, at least at the Oakland zoo, because our free weekly newspaper told me so.

Sacramento where I live has plans and dreams of a brand-new zoo with more room to move for all the animals now somewhat locked up at Sacramento's able but outdated zoo. The Oakland zoo is held up as a leading edge ark, for viewing and for saving what's left of our erstwhile life.

I'm no great fan of the viewing zoo but that ark part gets my attention all the time. Time's up for so many species that at the zoo may eventually be all that's left of a lot of them.

Time was our parents took us to the old Bronx Zoo in New York. Wild Kingdom to a kid — elephants and tigers and seals. But even then, a whole lot like a prison. I was a park ranger in Yellowstone and the Everglades, bison and elk on my doorstep, alligators under my airboat. So seeing our fauna in captivity can’t be anywhere quite the same.

Mountain lions running wild in California. My friend works for the California Mountain Lion Foundation keeping the faith with the noble cougars. The Oakland zoo has a few. My friend will set up near them to inform and encourage. Also why I am going.

"And the animals will love it if you do" — Simon and again.

Well worn, first impression at the palms and eucalyptus entrance to the zoo, the road is well-used, well-worn, everything flora/grasses summer dry — adds to the well-worn impression. The parking lot too, and a few views through the green trees at some well-traveled-like Carnival rides.

The zebra striped open-air shuttle bus up to the California Trail where the mountain lions live, survive, in the Oakland hills, views across the sparkling bay.

First view, grizzly bears, two major leaguers — but only AA, looking a bit tired and a whole lot enclosed and again with my former Yellowstone ranger background, grizz in the wilds of, tracks in the snow of — melancholy grizz of the Oakland zoo. Of course it's important to have them, more than enough elbow room for them, the true king of the beasts.

Beauty beasts, two mountain lions, spread out the tree hammocks. A sad spectacular, rescued from the roadkill of their parents. The Mountain Lion Foundation assures you will find them in what's left of California's wild. Makes me always wonder what was before us.

Here's a Central American jaguar, proud and Aztec, up in a tree like his reality, beautiful but reduced to a large backyard, a rain forest lawn.

I'm on the California Trail. Well done, easy boardwalk. Two Wolves. Wolves reintroduced into Yellowstone was one of the greatest accomplishment while I’ve lived. Here is a wolf in people's enclosure. For Saturday afternoon it will do.

We've done well with the California Condor. Here are two, Inca and the Andes, not exactly soaring, more like Inca statuary.

Negative on the coyotes. Just like coyotes, the tricksters. I've seen them feeding on dead fauna. Do what you like here tricksters, appear or not.

Beautiful views from up in the hills. Bald eagle who could use a beauty makeover, a little dusty but still one bad ass dude, so much more so than all the artificial images combined.

The gondola — not an image, a real gondola to ride down to the African-centric part of the zoo.

Whee! Really. What a view! Not the gondola Alps, but the San Francisco Bay view. Wowee!

Lions and tigers and giraffes oh boy — oh hoy. If only Africa hadn't been crucified. "Giraffes are insincere — and the elephants are kindly but they’re dumb." — Simon and again. Slow and humbled elephants, no running, no charging, no stampeding allowed. Wildlife channels with those massive tuskers reduce these here to an emergency ward, lack of awe, but don't ask the parents with their children held aloft.

Three male lions, heads like heads of state, stately captivity. Tigers with sagging bellys, baboons keeping their distance, hyenas who could give a shrug less, a napping wild boar with Bali-Hi tusks, detusked in other ways.

Families, families, politics detusked. Languages, languages, nationalities, beautiful us.

Tropical birds like Matisse in the trees, some egg shaped complaining and other trees.

Kids complaining in their strollers, stroller gridlock.

Gondola me up to the coolish cafe with a patio view across the Bay and the city and the hills all the way to Japan. Five dollars for a Coke? No thanks.

Back to the mountain lions. Better yet, cougars, individuals.

All in all, the zoo an animal reintroduction. We're on the eve of destruction if we don't get our act (literally our "act") our axes, our shovels and our bulldozers together and advise them to enlighten up.

Postscript: or better yet, you can't write the script. Back to the mountain lions, it's feeding time — a specific feeding time.

The zoo crew can call all three mountain lions by name. One of the crew gets one of them to come to the screen fence and lay down right within arm’s length of onlookers. You can almost feel his breath on you.

The crew member is feeding this lion of the mountains chunks of meat and mice while another of the crew pokes the cougar/puma with a blunt stick in the back leg to get it used to a future needle jab for health inspections.

That done, all three beauties are encouraged back into a sealed enclosure. Then two crew members enter the open enclosure to lay out three hunks of bone meat — while you're thinking about other zoo enclosure attacks — make sure you lock the gate behind you.

By name the mountain lions are called out and they so gracefully rush to the bones as they would rush in real-life. A whole lot of awe to close.

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