Monday, February 16, 2009

At the Zoo

A long overdue report of our trip to the zoo last Saturday.

We had the day free and decided to head to the famed Dakar Hann Zoo. Not famed for it’s wonderful animals of anything of the sort, but rather for what was described in Lonely Planet’s guide as “a place more likely to make children cry than smile.” One conversation between a student who had previously gone and his host brother went something like this:

Dan: Yeah, I just found it really depressing

Ibou: Well, were you drunk?

Dan: No, why would I be drunk at the zoo?

Ibou: Oh, well that’s your problem, you got to go when you’re drunk.

So a group of us headed there to see for ourselves. We went on a random day of the week, arriving around 1pm to find out that apparently even zoos take lunch breaks. We spent about an hour wandering around the surrounding park area (quite nice actually, and the greenest place I’ve seen in Dakar) waiting for the park to open back up. We must have been there on a school day because tons of children lined the path up and filled the playground next to the ticket area. As we approached the children started shouting “Toubab, Toubab!” I had the distinct feeling that we were the exhibit.

The entrance fee was only 350 CFA (about 80 cents) and it showed. The animals looked rather neglected and malnourished. We saw some buffalo, lions, camels, horses, turtles, and monkeys. Oh, and pigeons (I guess that’s a lesson in cultural relativity right there.) The only slightly remarkable moment was that we saw some of the zoo keepers bringing out a dead goat for the lions. We were so excited to get to watch them tear it to pieces for lunch. We were disappointed though when we the keepers butchered the goat. Some of the students who arrived after Tabaski found that in itself to be interesting but after seeing four goats slaughtered it really wasn’t that remarkable. After dividing the goat into about 6 pieces the caretaker threw the pieces through the bars of the cage to the waiting 6 lionesses. There was no ensuing feeding frenzy, rather each waited to get their own piece.  In fact it was rather sad to see the animals reduced to so little energy.

I’m glad that I did go, just because I did find it interesting to see the animals, but it certainly holds nothing to others that I’ve been to before. I think I’ll leave the attempts at seeing big game and African animals to reserves, safaris and zoo’s in the states. 

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