The zoo is a place of many surprises.
The zoo in Stuttgart is not a typical zoo. It hosts – and I wonder if this is an undeserved euphemism – both animals (mammals, insects, fishes, birds, and the like) and plants (orchids, cactuses, camellias, ferns, spice plants, among others). It is also large. In the four hours spent walking the premises we covered about a fourth of the area and saw less than a tenth of the species on display, which the guidebook put at over a thousand.
The flamingoes come first. You see them standing together, loopy-necked, swan-bodied, with a pair of pink sticks for legs, pecking at themselves or at something on the ground. They are behind a low-fenced enclosure, out in the open, yet they do not fly away. Nearby, a grey heron flies above a tree and disappears from view; although they do not belong to the zoo collection, such birds are permanent guests here.
This is a good beginning. A zoo where birds are not in a cage. A zoo that attracts visitors from the animal kingdom.
A greenhouse with tropical plants is next, but my father, who behaves occasionally like a eight-year old (there’s a running gag in the family on this), wishes to see only the animals. We head toward the great apes. Three baby gorillas, behind a glass-fronted cell, have drawn a large crowd. It is easy to see why. The young ones are like cuddly soft-toys come to life, and they swing from ropes, climb poles, hang from a branch with more élan and style than any adult gorilla can manage.
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