Spring is sprung

After visiting the zoo in Melbourne years ago, and staring into the human eyes of the Orangutangs, I vowed never to set foot in another zoo again.  The manic repetitive patterns of the pygmy hippos and the desperately wise and sad faces of the apes left me so uneasy  that I knew I didn't want to pay to look at animals in a glorified prison ever again.  
After the boys were born, though, I have changed my tune - partly because the amazement and learning that children gain from going to the zoo is really quite extraordinary.  Another reason is that I visited the Riga zoo with two Aussie vets, who had travelled around a lot of the world and seen many zoos.  They said that Riga zoo was one of the better ones - the animals displayed very few signs of being stressed, and all looked happy and cared for and quite contented.  So armed with this knowledge, combined with the fact that we live on the 5th floor and like to get outdoors with the kids, our family goes to the zoo regularly.  We always take pens and paper and draw the animals.  
One annual trip is on "Bird day" - which is held on one of the first warm(ish) springtime weekends.  It's glorious to be running along without worrying about slipping on the ice, feeling the sun on your face and watching the animals enjoy it just as much.  A celebration of making it through six months of big freeze.
A special feature of "Bird day" is making a nesting box.  The zoo hands out a plan, bits of wood, hammers and nails, and then all the parents (mostly dads) determinedly spend an hour nailing on bits of wood, working out it's wrong, undoing it, nailing it back together.  The kids watch, hammer the occasional nail, and at the end feel very proud of the nesting box they've built.  The parents then carry the box around for the rest of the zoo trip.  

(two pics above - Matiss; two pics below - Mikus)

Our friend Bella working on her "Giraffe" masterpiece

A relieved Jem + helpers having successfully put together the nesting box

The zoo's old cafe, only open in the summer season. Totally fabulous and in desperate need of repair.  At the back there is a deck overlooking the lake Kisezers.

6 Responses so far.

  1. Mamma M says:

    Joel and I were at a zoo in...I guess maybe the States...when we cam across a huge crowd at the ape exhibit- a few teenagers aggressively taunting the poor creatures, and them responding the only way they knew how... throwing things (poop) at the crowd. It made me really angry- especially from listening to the comments people were making they were blaming the apes and saying they were acting crazy and stuff, and everyone was totally ignoring the absolute inappropriateness of the kids.

    I love safaris...the best way to view animals- AWESOME...but obviously not super accessible. Zoos are the next best thing, and I agree I think they can be super educational for children. We'll keep going to zoos because in the end I enjoy them as well. Now the circus... that is another story. That one time I went to the Riga one with Joel and your boys, I sat weeping through nearly the entire thing. I couldn't stop the tears. Horrible. We won't be doing that again.

  2. Mook says:

    Mara, I've never been to the Riga circus. Precisely for that reason. I'm not going to see animals tortured :( As for safaris - that is my big dream, I have promised the boys that *some day* I'll take them to Africa on safari...

  3. My sentiments exactly about zoos but it is so amazing for the kids. Have to say the giraffes at Syndey zoo have the best view of the harbour as well. Love the art work, particularly the tapir - looks a bit Leunig- esque to me.
    Was abit taken aback with all this talk of sun and spring to then see photos of coats and gloves and beanies.... so different from spring here! Good on Jem rustling up his high voltage underworld contacts just as you were planning to run away. Like kids, I believe husbands can also smell when we are on the edge and know to pull out the big guns.

  4. Alex says:

    No disrespect to the boys' animal drawing talents, but what are the second and third animals?

  5. Mook says:

    Alex!! A squirrel, and a SEAL!! M

  6. Fifee says:

    Am I the only one to think 'whoah, they gave random people hammers and nails and said to bang away' - here that would be tantamount to inciting violence / terrorism. I love that Latvia is still so trusting and encourages family projects like this. Hey though, what happens to the nesting boxes - are they for the zoo or for families to take home? I love that the seasons are so discreet over there. Unlike crazy Melbourne weather.

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