Dallas World Aquarium

My sister, her husband and son Miles came to town this weekend. They stayed in Dallas and I spent Saturday with them. The Aquarium sounded like a fun place to take Miles, so we walked there from the Hotel and spent a good 3 hours there.

The walk takes you thru Dealey plaza, there was some kind of scientology protest going on, although we weren’t exactly sure what, they were holding a mismash of placards. Frankly visiting the spot where JFK had his brains blown out gave me goosebumps and I think we were all glad of an excuse to move on past.

The Aquarium itself is oddly concealed. It seems like a derelict commercial district, you duck down a little side street and half way along is one of those buildings that looks like a former warehouse converted to apartments and then abandoned. In short – the aquariaum looks like an office building of some kind.

“Aquariaum” is also a bit of an understatement.

In an odd twist, most of the displays are behind glass. One imagines it makes it easier to provide them with better climate control, but it seems to result in very small enclosures for the creatures :( The jaguar, for instance, is in an enclosure you might have difficulty turning a king sized bed around in.

While they had a fascinating variety of animals, what they mostly had to display was animal sleeping behavior. We passed the jaguar’s enclosure right as some kind of Mayan or Peruvian cultural display was going on involving dancing and loud instruments. The noise really seemed to piss the jaguar off but all it did was lie there with its ears back and a snarl on its face. But it also showed all the classic signs of a depressed cat: it didn’t twitch a muscle, it just lay there, kind of glassy eyed, staring.

Some of the smaller animals have a decent amount of space, and seemed lively enough. There are a couple of fish displays you can walk under and you just have to try not to notice that they seriously bite into the space available to the animals.

There was a baby gator, which didn’t so much as flinch when one of the turtles in with him fell and landed on his snout. There was a huge croc – I think – which was asleep in the same location both times we passed.

And near the book shop was a large tank with various predators, including squirrelfish that seemed to be trying to sleep, they weren’t swimming around, they were just sort of hanging in position (I made a few kids giggle by getting a half dozen of them to follow me around for a little while).

That was one of the neater displays until I noticed that one of the squirrelfish had a seriously infected eye, looking like a fungal infection, and the fish was swimming in circles and twitching real badly. I looked more closely at the other fish in the tank and noticed several of them had a bit of a filmy look to one or more of their eyes. It could just bad water in the tank. Rachel got the attention of a member of staff who seemed both to not care and unable to see that one of the animals was clearly in serious distress (we later found a lady who did seem concerned).

There were some really neat displays, although by the time we’d been there an hour we were starting to feel a little guilty about how the animals are kept. Unlike Sea World, you don’t have the sense that this is where they show the animals which have access to larger habitats somewhere else. The manatee seemed to have a reasonable amount of room beyond the immediate display area and seemed reasonably lively, whereas the otter had a tiny enclosure and seemed to be alone with no-toys or anything to keep the incredibly active and inquisitive nature of an animal like an otter occupied.

I have to admit I spent quite a bit of time at the manatee tank, but mostly watching the Arapaima – it breathes like a missing like and it looks like a missing link :) You have to see them swimming to really get a sense of how odd they are.

Despite my reservations and guilt, had a great time doing the full tour with the family. I had a little accident while trimming my hair so I’m down to a skinhead again, which made Miles scared for the first few moments but I got him to rub my head and it felt so funny to him that he kept wanting to rub my head for the rest of the day :)

11 Comments

now that you told us you have no hair…wee need a picture..

or else.

:-)

I hate conventional zoos because they seem so much like prisons filled with inmates that we’re punishing for fun.

Rarely one sees a zoo concept where the humans are in small observation enclosures…mobile cells or cell-passageways…and the animals are under much freer conditions. That’s not so bad. Most zoos presumably can’t afford that much open space, though, and/or aren’t actually concerned about the animals’ happiness.

Our part of the world might not be know for much appart from fish fingers & a pointless VERY large bridge, but it does have one thing worth seeing,
The Deep!

http://www.thedeep.co.uk/index.php

Our Zoo here in Toledo has undergone a fantastic transformation over the years.

When I was a kid, it was pretty brutal in terms of the space and conditions the animals lived in. Our family went at least once every summer, got peed on by chimps and tigers and such (they were up in these cages, ya see…and when they let loose, you were definitely in range)…it smelled pretty strongly…and man did the big cats act majorly pissed. But there were ALOT of animals…a huge aquarium, a huge science museum…a bunch of stuff…an amazing variety. The Toledo zoo’s always been one of the most underrated attractions in the US, if ya ask me. Even back then it had a few “state of the art” exhibits for then (we’re talking the early 60’s here) where the enclosure was made to look natural and was fairly large.

Now, though…almost every exhibit in the zoo is like that. They have far far fewer exhibits, far far fewer animals…but most of the ones they have are in interesting, large spaces and never alone unless it’s an animal that prefers such.

The polar bear exhibit these days has a couple cubs along with the adults…and it’s a state-of-the-art exhibit now. I went there a few months ago and just had an absolute joyful time watching those cubs.

Still…it’s a zoo, when all’s said and done. The great ape enclosure is this heeeyooge area with trees and undergrowth and open areas…all outside with just a fence and nets that go up about 30 feet…there are 4 or more (not sure exactly at the moment) females, a couple adolescents, and one big old silverback. There’s a spot with a thick plexiglass panel you can get next to…sit next to on a slow day, and lean against the glass, back to back with the silverback who normally sits in that spot leaning against the glass in the shade of a nice ol’ tree. You are an inch of glass away from him. It’s extraordinary. But man, that old guy looks so frigging sad sitting there. I don’t know if he actually IS, but to me he exudes sadness sitting there next to me. Maybe it’s because he can’t reach over and tug my arms off, I dunno. Every so often one of the females will wander over and look you up and down and wander off…but the old man just sits there, chewing a length of stick or straw, or fiddling with his fingernails, and wondering how the hell he ended up like this.

Still a zoo, after all.

…@/

For that specific case, I would imagine it’s largely because people don’t give him ape respect, they just sort of wander up and sit there looking at him. He’s probably doing his utmost to retain his place amongst the others despite the fact that the humans just wander up and stare straight at him… :)

Heh, we went to the same Aquarium as well while my girlfriend visited me there. I liked it a ton, especially looking at the monkeys and such. I guess we were lucky that we saw pretty much all the animals awake and moving around, too bad they started closing the place so we had to hurry through some of the fishes. Some fishfeeder employee was kind enough to give us a quick narrated walktrough though :)

btw, we didn’t notice the whole Dealey plaza when we were there, but few months ago there was a JFK document on TV and then I recognized the place we drove through on the way out of the town. The plaza haven’t much changed since the 60’s I guess :)

But you’d be mostly wrong. There’s a placard there explaining about eye contact, and having sat and watched people there for some time, it’s clear that most people practice what the placard says.

Even so, the silverback himself practices it and rarely turns his head and looks directly at the people (in fact, I’ve never seen him do so, but one of the staff told me he sometimes does). He’s not up for confrontation any more than anyone else is with a gorilla that’s a thin bit of plexi away :)

People who get close will sit there and look at him out of the corner of their eye, and not stare directly at his eyes.

If someone watches him directly, they do it from further back, and usually behind his head if his head is turned one way or the other instead of directly away from the glass.

People have alot more ape in them than they want to admit, and the rules don’t really need explaining, when all’s said and done.

…@/

of course this reminds me of that very famous clip of David Attenborough meeting some gorillas in the wild, and practising that very thing.

Does this mean Rach is Married? and has a kid?

Mike E

Yep, Mike :) How the heck did you find me, Mr Edd…, well, you know who you are ;)

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