Wednesday, January 4, 2012
Busch Gardens Facepalm
After our stopover at Discovery Cove last week on a bit of a whim, we decided to forgo our usual follow up visit to Sea World and use our complementary passes to go see the other sister park, Busch Gardens Tampa the following Thursday. My family and I have been going down to Florida for years making a habit of hitting all the major theme parks around Orlando but for various reasons we had never taken the short drive over to Tampa. My wife and I are big fans of the fantastic animal habitats on display at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park and we were looking forward to finally seeing what many people had told us were even better ones at Busch Gardens.
After arriving at the park and getting through the entrance, which for an hour proved problematic not just us but for everyone else as well because of faulty ticket scanners the first habitat we came upon was for the chimpanzees. We entered the viewing section, made up to look like a cave and found a huge window that looked out upon the living area for the resident chimps.
Now I understand opinions differ widely on the morality of keeping our closest primate kinfolk captive so a corporation can make a profit but I think there is a bigger picture that needs to be focused on here. While I understand those who think it is wrong the educational benefits of actually seeing chimpanzees, marine mammals, or any other endangered species in person goes a long way to making them real in the eyes of the average American. In this particular case, Busch Gardens was doing its best to add to the educational effect by having one of the chimpanzee keepers give a lecture about the resident chimps and the chimpanzee species in general.
As someone who has read many of the works of the great primatologist Jane Goodall, I was very interested in what the Busch Gardens keeper had to say. Since one of the chimps was in the open playing in the middle of the living area the keeper was having a hard time getting anyone in the crowd to listen to her.
As she struggled to continued, I could actual see the frustration on her face as she tried to describe the various chimps that live at the park then delve into the species native African habitat and how dangerous their existence can be there. Like a champion, the keeper eventually finished the lecture then invited the crowd to ask questions. Of course, the very first inquiry disproved the idea that there are no stupid questions.
“Could you please tell me why do the monkeys just eat bananas? The thirty-something mom asked while trying to take away the Nintendo her son was playing making him oblivious of his surroundings and what was going on.
I actually felt bad for the Busch Gardens keeper who had clearly stated that the chimpanzees were not monkeys but apes and our closest primate relatives. Like the trooper she was, the resident expert backed up and again explained what the chimps are and that they are omnivores, eating both plants and meat that they hunt for in groups.
On our way back out of the park several hours later, we again stopped by the chimpanzee habitat and caught the tail end of the same lecture. There was a new keeper giving the lecture this time and like the one from the morning, he opened up the floor for anyone in the crowd to ask him questions about the chimpanzees.
Right off the bat the first question shouted out caused the keeper to take several very deep breathes and slowly massage his forehead in tired annoyance.
It was an older guy this time who asked, “Why don’t they have tails like other monkeys?”
I felt so bad for those keepers right then I would have bought each and every one of them a case of beer for their troubles.