The opportunity to serve in South America brings us into contact with not just the local population, but also a variety of fauna and flora. Just like in Australia the locals like eating some of their native animals, although we have not ventured to eating cuy yet. This type of guinea pig is supposed to be a delicacy, particularly with the head left on and the teeth and claws showing. We do eat their chickens and pigs and cows, and potatoes….and pizzas, but theirrodents don’t seem that appetising.
On Saturday we ventured out to explore the Lima Zoo. We heard on good recommendation that it was one of the “must see” places in Lima. Together with three other senior missionary couples we hired some transport and headed to Parque de las Leyendas (literally translated “the park of the giant birds and panthers and tapirs and monkeys…actually we made that up, it means the Park of Legends, but don’t ask us why).
On these outings we are reminded that we are relatively young compared to our more senior friends. Perú is very generous in looking after its older citizens and give hefty discounts for those over 60 years of age. In this case entrance was free, but for us youth under 60 we had to dig deep to pay the equivalent of about $5 each. That’s a lot better than the Adelaide Zoo where you need to mortgage your house to take the grandkids.
The zoo itself is built around 1,000 year old ruins…yes ruins again, or what they call huacas. It is really amazing to walk around a zoo in amongst ancient ruins. It is large and spacious, with large visible enclosures. The animals all seem very healthy and well cared for. There was the usual mix of lions, tigers, panthers, zebras on heat (we could tell by watching the male zebra almost crashing down the gate between him and a female friend), giraffes, seals, penguins, and a large herd of water buffalo. In fact one had just given birth as we got there with the calf still wet. There were a large amount of animals indigenous to the area including the national bird of Perú - the brightly orange coloured Tunki (or Andean Cock-of-the-Rock - the female is a bit more bland), numerous monkeys, giant anacondas, a large variety of macaws and various brightly coloured jungle birds, llamas, vicuñas, eagles, and majestic condors. They even had an enclosure for sheep. We thought the sign was interesting with a map of the world showing where sheep are located - everywhere (although it didn’t include Antarctica).
We were pleased to see a mob of red kangaroos in the “International Area”, lounging on the ground drinking a beer just like they would at home. There was an enclosure for emus, which were not there for some reason, perhaps eaten by the giant ostriches next door. We noticed a venue of vultures (yes, that it the collective noun for vultures…we checked) that were not in the zoo, but perched on a light pole just outside the zoo walls. A “kettle” of them (yes we checked again) were circling around in the sky, presumably to pick up scraps and lost children. Lesley enjoyed talking to a salmon crested cockatoo (about twice the size of our sulphur crested cockies). She asked it if it spoke English, “Hello Cocky”, upon which it immediately and indignantly responded with a screeching form of “Hola” for the next ten minutes. Of course, it is a Spanish speaking cocky.
Speaking of the local fauna, Lesley was surprised to see several groups of school children, in uniform, out with their teachers on a Saturday as part of a school excursion. This seems to be the norm, classes during the week, excursions on Saturdays. She did have to control a slight spike in her anxiety levels and stop herself from counting children, when the kids were running all over the place.
Also, within the zoo there were a number of museums - an archaeological museum, a petroleum museum, and several beautiful botanical areas. This was an interesting mix of animals, gardens, and museums and ruins. It was good to take time to get back to nature, even if half the things could kill you. We enjoyed a relaxing walk around a beautiful park.