DRIVING aimlessly one Saturday afternoon, I ended up at a popular destination in As Mahetug, the Saipan Zoo, which I had not visited for the past couple of years.
Except for a woman with a couple of kids, there were no other visitors at the zoo when I pulled over and walked leisurely toward the office, passed the bird cages, to chat briefly with the caretakers.
Heading to where Lambert the African lion was, I sat on the bench, taking out my camera to get some video clips of him. Lambert looked tired, old and restless. He totally ignored me and kept pacing back and forth in front of me until I grew restless too and stopped the video at exactly four and a half minutes. Taking a photo of Lambert had always been a challenge because of the double bars and double screen for protection.
I had better luck with Ozzi the leopard. He was lazily lying in one corner of his cage and I took as many photos as I wanted, but after a few minutes, he also got restless and started pacing back and forth until I got dizzy and stopped taking videos. The caretakers at the zoo told me they were waiting for a female partner for Ozzi, but the papers were taking a long time to process.
I decided to pay BooBoo the female black bear a visit. I tried to think of a good photo angle through the double screen. But BooBoo was nowhere in sight and peacocks occupied his cage. Yes, peacocks. I was told later that BooBoo died of cancer and there had been no replacement for him. Sad to think that one of the four exotic animals that were the main attractions of the Saipan Zoo was gone.
I next headed to that place where I could spend the whole day listening to the calm relaxing sound of the waters falling from a mini-fountain and watch colorful fish swimming around the clear pond a few feet away from the zoo office. Sitting beside the pond, it was easy to get lost and to daydream while watching carefree fish tirelessly swimming around.
I was transported into a world where nothing else mattered, where there were no daily deadlines to catch up with and no pressing issues to deal with. I lost track of time watching the fish and was finally jolted back to reality by a short beep-beep from my camera, warning that my batteries were runningdown.
From a distance, I heard Lambert roar which reverberated throughout the whole zoo and into the woods beyond, letting the world know that he was hungry.
I almost didn’t get any photos of Tasha, the zoo’s female Bengal tiger, who also grew restless and started pacing to and fro when she saw me. I began to wonder if I looked like food to them.
If you have never visited the Saipan Zoo, you are missing something. Check the place out and bring your kids and other members of the family to see monkeys, genets, foxes, Bobbie the bobcat, kinkajous, parrots, cockatoos, owls, emus, iguanas, a coatimundi, turtles, peacocks, fruit bats, deer, goats, pigs, rabbits, guinea pigs and more.
Zoo owner Frank and wife Ursula Aldan opened the zoo in 1996. It is an ideal place for students to do research and study indigenous animals and endangered species, conduct field trips or just spend time together with the family.
The Saipan Zoo is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day except holidays. Call the zoo for information about rates and group discounts at 322-5711 or -5118.