3.30.2013

Ready for their Close-Ups, or Not: A Walk in the Prospect Park Zoo

New York is famously photogenic. Visitors and residents routinely snap photographs of friends in front of its famous buildings, the blissful landscapes in parks, sunsets over the Hudson, newsworthy scenes on the street, celebrities on the red carpet, or whatever fanciful food dish has just been set upon the table.

Australian King Parrot
Australian King Parrot

We should in turn be accustomed, especially in this age of visual media - snapped, uploaded, and shared - to serve as the objects of this ubiquitous image-making. After all, we live under the surveillance of security cameras. Yet, while some individuals confidently pose in front of the camera, others shy away. Sometimes, we just want to get away from the crowds and the click-clicks of a thousand shutters. I was thinking these thoughts in the Prospect Park Zoo yesterday as I was taking close-ups of a Hamadryas Baboon.

Hamadryas Baboon
Hamadryas Baboon

It's understandable, if rather unsophisticated, to anthropomorphize our fellow furry residents of New York City or to project onto them some inherent cuteness. Some are not "sweet," for example, although they might look precious. That dingo that looks like your dog may harbor predatory "feelings" toward the adorable "shy" kangaroo directly across the way. One is much easier to photograph than the other.

"Cameras Ready! Set! Action!"


Dingo
Dingo

Western Gray Kangaroo
Western Gray Kangaroo

Dingo
Dingo

Western Gray Kangaroo
Western Gray Kangaroo

By the way, a visit to the Prospect Park Zoo's Discovery Trail offers a sort of simulated trip to Australia. In addition to the Western gray kangaroo, the zoo also does its best to serve and protect rock wallabies, emus, and Cape Barren geese.

Rock Wallaby
Yellow-footed rock-wallaby

Never underestimate the ability of a zoo visitor to misidentify an animal. I'm holding back from the cliché that city-bred New Yorkers are particularly prone to confusing members of the animal kingdom, but I would have liked a nickel for every time I heard someone yell out "Fox!" when spotting a dingo or this Red Panda.

Red Panda
Red Panda

Red Pandas. OK, well, these guys ARE cute. As much as I would like to bring one home, I couldn't offer an adequate supply of bamboo. Its nocturnal habits would likely pose problems. Best they stay in Prospect Park Zoo. Along with the Bronx Zoo, Central Park Zoo, New York Aquarium, and Queens Zoo, the Prospect Park Zoo is maintained and operated by the Wildlife Conservation Society (link). Aside from supporting conservation efforts - the Red Panda, for example, is endangered - becoming a member of the WCS is a good deal, providing free admission to all five parks.

Red Panda
Red Panda

We often speak proudly of New York City as "diverse." A trip to any one of the WCS zoos confirms that the diversity extends beyond humans. A visit should also reinforce the idea that we share a whole planet where biodiversity is in crisis - whether shy or camera ready, sleeping or alert.

waterfowl, turtles, and people
At the Prospect Park Zoo

It's fun. I can't remember the last time I was so thrilled seeing a kangaroo hop across a patch of Brooklyn.

Visiting the Prospect Park Zoo: Consult the official website of the Prospect Park Zoo for times and admission.

Pallas's Cat
Pallas's Cat

White-faced Scops Owl
White-faced Scops Owl

Black-tailed Prairie Dog
Black-tailed Praire Dogs


View Prospect Park in a larger map

Getting there: I advise consulting MTA Trip Planner for customized trips. The Prospect Park B and Q subway is close to the zoo.

Images by Walking Off the Big Apple from March 29, 2013, with a Canon EOS Rebel T3 and 55-250mm lens. A camera phone would work fine for dingoes, prairie dogs, baboons, and the indoor birds, but not so much for kangaroos hiding behind bushes. See a full slideshow of 25 pictures on Flickr WOTBA.

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