On Saturday we got to have our "Special Members' Preview" of Big Cat Falls, the new habitat at the Philadelphia Zoo. It's not quite all populated yet, but the lions, Amur tiger, and Amur leopard are there. The lions and Amur leopard have an uneasy relationship at this point, involving much pacing on the part of the leopard and stalking on the part of the lions. In one area, only a one-and-a-half-inch plexiglass window separates the people from the lions. It's not often that you get to see a 400-lb. lion ambling within inches of a toddler's chubby toes.The Amur tiger was sleeping, so we didn't get to see him much. They can weigh up to 650 lbs, and to cushion their jumping, their paws have very thick pads. We looked at a mold made from a huge paw, and were suitably impressed.
The elephants were agitated that day, as was the rhino. The elephants were spraying mud and hollering, and one picked up a log with its trunk. I was afraid it would throw it at the rhino and that it would hit us. The boys were squealing with excitement. The rhino kept hauling his bulk in and and out of his little pond over and over, with the elephant looking on and bellowing. It's as if the rhino was on a vigorous workout program, the elephant his relentless trainer.
The zoo was very crowded, though. We normally get there when they open at 9:30. This time we had to go to remote parking, a dusty uneven lot in Fairmount Park. Will immediately took a header, thereby covering himself in dirt with amazing efficiency. Usually it takes a few hours to get that dirty.
At the end we pedaled on the swan boats, Jack and me in one and John and Will in the other. We jostled with the other riders in the crowded lake, but could sometimes find a still, quiet inlet in which to watch the the laughing boaters, the begging geese, and the clear blue sky.