Thursday, August 04, 2005

A Quick Word on Elephants

At the risk of being really boring, I'll say a word about the Shanghai Zoo. It wasn't my choice but Emiko was set on seeing the pandas, and you don't argue with Emiko. So, we took a $2.50 taxi across town to have a look.

The Shanghai Zoo ended up being a lot of fun. It's essentially on level with San Francisco's, with the "cages" being a mix of concrete boxes and outdoor areas blocked off by water. Most of the animals (including the Pandas) were sleeping in the shade, which was probably a good idea given how hot it was outside. Visitors tried banging on the cages and feeding the animals their lunch, but for the most park the animals didn't move (except for a hyperactive hippo). The Zoo also has some nice fields and would be a great park if there weren't so many other nice parks closer to the downtown.

The definite highlight that I'd recommend to anyone was the insane Elephant Show. It takes place in a small amphitheater surrounded by a ring of seats close to the stage. At the beginning, the elephants march by close enough to touch, which nobody did, although some people bought cucumbers which the elephants grabbed out of the spectator's hand.

This progressed to showing the elephant doing tricks. Is it just me, or does having an elephant stand on it's rear legs on a four-foot high beam seem unsafe?

However if it's dangerous for the elephants, it's much more dangerous for the humans. My jaw was dropped as two very brave volunteers came from the audience and were repeatedly stepped on by the elephant, and then felt over with the trunk, a process that involved being wacked repeatedly. You could hear the slaps as the trunk hit the ground (and their bodies) - I wonder if they got bruised.

Afterwards you could pay a dollar or two and get a picture of yourself either sitting on the elephant's trunk, or being picked up and laid on the elephant's tusk. I didn't want to brave the line - or the elephant - but I'll have to some other time.

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