Last Friday, Matty and I went on an outing with a group of mom’s and their kids to the Dakar Zoo. A couple of days before, a dad and his 2 year old daughter were over at our house for a play date and when I mentioned the zoo to him he said I was in for a treat since this would be my first time at a third world zoo. So, I went with very low expectations and ended up being pleasantly surprised at the zoo.
It was much bigger than I thought it would be with lots of trees to provide shade. I was expecting all the animals to be in small cages, so when we saw some exotic birds and crocodiles (not in the same place) I was happy to see the relatively large and open areas that they were living in.
The monkeys and more dangerous animals were in very small cages which was sad to see. However, given the fact that we were in a third world zoo, the open areas that did exist would be easy for the lions and hyenas to get out of and that wouldn’t be very good. The kids did get to see these animals more up close than they would have in a U.S. zoo, but whether that’s good or bad depends on one’s perspective.
My most difficult experience was watching the carnivorous animals eat. The first one we saw was a hyena eating the part of the donkey he was fed. I know this is how animals eat in the wild, but having to see it made me want to throw up (I literally had to look away at times because I thought I was going to throw up). It was also feeding time for the lions (holy cow, they were huge) and of course the other moms wanted to stay and watch. It was certainly something to see: 2 male lions, 4 or 5 female lions and 2 cubs were let loose from their other cage to pounce on the donkey carcass piled in the corner where everyone was watching. Occasionally, there was a loud roar and fighting when one lion tried to steal a piece from the other.
This was Matty’s first time at a zoo and boy was he something else (or perhaps he was just excited to be getting out of the house!). After we parked, he wanted to go where the “big kids” (3yrs old) were across the street, so we went over there and he became fascinated with walking in the sand in his sandals. He started walking around everywhere kicking up dirt with his shoes. Then he headed over to where some Senegalese children were sitting on a bench. He started talking to them, occasionally pointing his finger. I told him we had to go back to the people we came with because it was time to go into the zoo. When we reached the group he lifted up his hand and said “hi!” to the group. (I began to think, “who is this child?” and it wasn’t the first time that day I asked that question. Normally, when people talk to Matty, he looks at them with a furrowed brow as if to say, “Why are you speaking to me?”)
He really loved seeing all of the animals and I think the monkeys (all species) were his favorite (I wonder if my always calling him “monkey” had something to do with it). I was encouraging him to walk (because he’s heavy) and there really was no reason for him not to walk. However, about a quarter of the way into the zoo visit, a mom held him up to see the porcupines. He then decided that he wanted her to carry him. I tried to take him, but he flatly refused me (Is this really the child who insists I carry him around the house?) and after a while I insisted because I really didn’t want this mom to have to carry my 30lb toddler.
When we were headed out of the zoo (and my arms were about to fall off from carrying Matty), he decided it was time for him to walk. As we were walking to the car, he grabbed another mom’s hand to walk with her across the dirt road. She thought he didn’t realize whose hand he’s grabbing and was going to get upset when he realized it. I thought, “Um, no, I’m pretty sure he knows whose hand he’s holding.” Sure enough, I said, “Matty, here, I can hold your hand” and held my hand out to him. He looked at me and said, “No” and shook his head.
All-in-all we had a good time, Matty got to be around other kids and I got to meet a few moms. If I go back, I’ll try not go when it’s feeding time and maybe next time I’ll get some pictures.