Date: Fri, 5 Jan
1996 16:54:41 EST
I stopped by at the zoo Tuesday afternoon, the first day it was open to the public after the Christmas eve fire that devastated the House of Primates killing 23 animals in all--6 gorillas, 3 Bornean orangutans, 4 white-handed gibbons, 6 ring-tailed lemurs, 2 ruffed lemurs and 2 mongoose lemurs. It was a gray, damp, dismal winter day that seemed to reflect the mood of the people gathered at the poignant Memorial display containing pictures and home movies of the beautiful animals.
The House of Primates was closed up and looked lonely and desolate without the occupants who've always been enormously popular among the zoo visitors. I've spent many hours there watching some of my favorite animals. The entire family of gorillas headed by 25 yr. old John--magnificient, patient, reserved, ever-dignified (*) John, the face of the Philly zoo, was wiped out. He always appeared to strike the perfect balance between playing up to the crowds, as the attention-seeking Kola was wont to do and slinking away in the farthest corner, the preferred hideout of the bashful Tufani. John knew he was a star and wore his mantle with great dignity. Farewell, pal, you didn't deserve such a sad end.
John's mates, Samantha and Snickers, (their offspring are in zoos all round the country, San Diego, Columbus, among others) who'd been at the zoo since 1970, and 11-month old baby Mandaazi, the object of much tender maternal affection and pride are no more.
Another favorite of mine, Rita, the orangutan with the wise, lugubrious, unforgettable face and her infant, Jingga, are gone as well. The white-handed gibbons including sweet Mommy, Yao, Octavian and daredevil Gibby, who always seemed to be attempting new stunts, are no more. No more "lemur-heaps" with the funny-faced ring-tailed lemurs: Agatha, Christie, Pindar, Pip, Munchkin and Anja. Gone too are shy Gene-o and Chiquita, mongoose lemurs and Aquarius and Leona, two ruffed lemurs.
Farewell, friends. I'll miss you all.
*Apologies for the blatant anthropomorphism. Don't know any other way of describing the creatures.