Since we just went to the Maryland Zoo last weekend, it was clearly time to go to the Smithsonian National Zoo today! Ha! And I tried something different. I took the Metro--and I got up early and left at 7:30 to get there. The park is open at 8:00 AM, and the interior exhibits open at 9:00. Between getting to the station and then riding the Metro to Zoo, and then walking the half-mile up--this UP--Connecticut Avenue to the Zoo, I got there around 8:50. I was glad that I did, because at least for the first hour or so it wasn't crowded...and like the last hour I was there it was nearly ridiculous. And don't get me started about babies in strollers! If the kid's too young to remember, don't drag his screaming ass to the zoo or any other public venue--have pity on the rest of humanity.
You enter the Zoo (and it's free) and you naturally go into the Asian Trail. Where you will likely not see the Asiatic Sun Bears, because they are NEVER on display. (This is the fourth time I've gone only to admire their vacant habitat, but it is free, right?) Also no en casa was the Cloud Leopard. Undaunted I did get to see the lovely Fishing Cat, Prionailurus viverrinus. It's rather shy. I was thrilled when it gave me a full on portrait--if only the Plexiglas wasn't so dirty...
Then onto the Asian Small-clawed Otters, Aonyx cinerea. They were putting on quite a show when I arrived. A couple with small children was already watching. The mother said, "They're playing!" By which time I had come to realize that they were indeed engaged in the intercourse of "play"! And then the female just had it and a gave the male a good nip--end of playtime. Time to dig a hole together. It's the life!
Around a bend in the trail was the beautiful Red Panda, Ailurus fulgens. This little guy is always on display. He takes his popularity with a grain of salt, and spent much of the time I observed him nibbling on the freshly sprouted leaves of forsythia.
It's a fact of visiting any zoo on any given day. Some animals will be there, and others won't. If you're patient, you can come away with some wonderful moments, and if you're observant, you will discover things those around you miss.