Saturday, January 7, 2012

A is for Aquarium, Zed is for Zoo

I went to the Vancouver Aquarium in Stanley Park with a photography buddy recently. I was so excited to go. I hadn't really been taking any pictures since my trip to Osoyoos with my 'road trip buddies' back in October. It's now January and I'm once again eager to get my eye up against the back of my camera and see the world through the lens again.

With good intentions, we got up at the crack-of-dark to get out to Stanley Park to try and shoot the sun coming up. Man it's cold down by the water at six o'clock in the morning. But we set up our tripods and 'attempted' to shoot in the dark. All I can say is; I really need more practice with long exposures and using my tripod! Once the sun had come up and we'd taken all the shot's we could, we rewarded our efforts with breakfast at White Spot then we went back to the park to take pictures of the Totem Poles at Brockton point before going into the aquarium.

So, the aquarium - like zoos, I have mentioned it before but I truly have a love/hate relationship with them. I hate to think of all the cages, pens, tanks, displays and scheduled 'performances'. But the draw of these creatures on me is like the draw a flame to the moth (and look how that works for the moth). I cannot resist them. I like to think my visiting pays for better care for these unwilling 'guests', I'm helping feed them, I'm paying the staff to take care of them. (it eases my guilt?)

Maybe we should open up our federal and provincial 'correctional facilities' to tours. The price of admission could fund inmate improvement and rehabilitation programs? I think the government might consider a money making venture like that, don't you?

But I digress and not in a good way.

When I walk through a zoo/game farm/aquarium I stare dumb-struck at the animals I will never get the opportunity to see in their natural environment, yet at the same time I shudder in anthropomorphic sadness for them stuck in these 'exhibits' that all seem so insufficient and bordering on cruel.

But go I must, it seems. And I will go again and again and again. It's a love/hate activity I can't stop myself from doing.

This visit to the aquarium turned out to be, well, a 'zoo'! I have not seen so many strollers and ankle-biters in one place at one time! And I suspect that they were all pumped full of sugar before they got there. Did you know there's a "stroller parking lot" near the Beluga exhibit??? It was like a Wal-mart parking lot at Christmas!!!
As tempted as I am to continue with a rant about the army of tiny tots and their tantrums and the stupid, stupid parents (and doting grandparents) whose collective brain seemed to shut off the moment they entered the aquarium, I won't . . . instead I'll just focus on the memory of seeing a ginormous sea turtle, floating jelly fish, little shiny black monkeys and all the other amazing creatures we are so fortunate to see close up (even though it's in teeny tiny prison tanks).
I know I've gone on about these tourist attractions being cruel, but I want to believe that there's proof we are learning from our past zoo and aquarium 'mistakes'. In 1962 the Hudson's Bay Company presented the Stanley Park Zoo with a pair of orphaned Polar Bears that lived their entire lives in the zoo. Loved by thousands who visited the then thriving Stanley Park Zoo. A zoo that was started with yet another orphan - a baby black bear that was chained to a tree stump 'back in the day' to entertain the curious. I like to think that hings had already improved by the time the Hudson's Bay Company came along with those orphaned Polar Bears. I remember seeing them when I was younger and always wondered why they were so yellow and not snowy white. Was it the result of captivity? The Polar Bear "Pit" was once the main attraction of the now closed "Stanley Park Zoo". It's been closed since 1996 when it's last tenant Tuk died at the ripe old Polar Bear age of 36.  It's ominous now in its emptiness. Just sitting there decaying away. Echoing with memories of Tuk and his 'pit mates'.

But to zoos and aquariums I must continue to go despite the mixed emotions they dredge up within me. I wonder what a Serengeti National Park Safari would do to me? I'd probably weep so loudly in amazement that I'd scare all the migrating antelope into a stampede. I'd sure like to find out!

When we finally dragged ourselves away from the aquarium and back to New Westminster, we strolled around some of the condominiums down on the Quay.
I was startled to find a Koi fish swimming around this one complex that sits in it's own Venice-like waterway. It's very cool! And got a funky surreal shot of it swimming by the reflection of a window.

And in the teeny tiny penned-in dog park
(what is it with our obsession with penning in animals in too small places?!?) I ran into my neighbour walking another neighbour's beautiful Golden Lab, Maya.
 It felt so good to be out shooting again. Now where do I go...