Me and zoos have an uneasy relationship. On one hand, animals shouldn’t be kept in captivity. If they’ve been plucked from the wild and enclosed in a zoo then that’s not something I want to look at. Buuuut if they were born in captivity and that’s all they know and the zoo treats them well then I’d be happy for my admission fee to go towards the upkeep of the place and the animals. Of course you could argue that their ancestors should never have been captured in the first place, and you’d be correct, but the simple fact is that they were captured and in this case the zoo was originally somewhere for a ruler in the 1800’s to keep his royal menagerie. Not cool. But that’s what happened and I’d read that Trivandrum zoo was an ok place. Or Thiruvananthapuram Zoo as it’s more properly known. Trivandrum is the old colonial name but most people still just refer to it as this on account of its real name being Thiruvananthapuram which basically looks like a cat fell asleep on a keyboard.
So. Up I rocked and parted with my ₹20, plus ₹50 for my camera and I have no idea what fucking possessed me to visit a zoo on a Saturday. The place was packed with kids and their parents, most of whom had more of an interest in openly gawping at me than the animals. I pretty much made my way slowly around the open enclosures, trying to ignore the hundreds of eyes boring into my head. I definitely felt like one of the exhibits that day.
And whilst “open enclosure” seems like an oxymoron, I think it’s a pretty good description. For the most part they aren’t in cages. The birds are and some of the other animals are, but some of them, including the monkeys, are in open aired pens where they’ve tried to create a more natural environment for them. I’m still not saying zoos are totally okay, but I’ve heard of worse zoos.
Two of the monkey breeds they have, I’ve seen a lot of in the north. The Rhesus Macaques and the black faced monkeys that I now know are Common Langurs are the little buggers that the locals hate. The ones that run into shops and restaurants and steal anything they can put into their faceholes, and would quite happily have your food off you too if you let your guard down for a second. They also have a breed called a Lion Tailed Macaque which look proper regal. Seriously. If one of these bad boys tried to steal your lunch you’d probably just hand it over and ask if they’d like you to go and fetch them some fries with that. They’re in enclosures that I reckon they could quite easily escape from should they choose to, but they must know they’re onto a good thing here. They get regular meal times, a bunch of trees to mince around in and a near constant stream of tourists they could steal sunglasses from from should the mood take them. Boom. Monkey heaven.
Then there are the big bastards. The one horned rhino which doesn’t appear to actually have a horn. A family of hippos with a tiny hippo that was enjoying a game of bounding through the water and pretty much registered off the charts on the Cute Scale. There are lions and tigers and all manner of deer, and a reptile house where I was more impressed by Indians actually queuing than I was by the collection inside. I’m not even shitting you, people actually forming an orderly line and when someone tried to push in they were sent to the back by security.
Then I saw an elephant. Now, I’m not an elephant expert, but doesn’t this pachyderm seem a bit skinny to you? You can see its ribs and it’s back and shoulder blades don’t look like they have the standard amount of meat on them you’d expect. I’m sure there’s an explanation for why this beast is so scrawny. But if anyone knows why, let me know?
Also, I learned some shit about the banyan tree which is pretty much one of my favourite trees. Like the strangler figs I saw in northern Australia, these germinate within the branches of other trees and send their roots to the ground where they grow. Eventually, they suffocate the original tree which dies and leaves only the banyan tree. It can grow so quickly because it supports itself by sending out a metric fuck tonne of roots to the ground which grow and become trunks themselves which is what makes them so distinctive. These are called prop roots and they clump together over time to resemble a main trunk but sometimes, you’ll look at one and you can’t quite work out if it’s one tree or seven. I think I love them so much because they’re just gonna forever remind me of India now.
And in other news, I’ve resorted to the only sane haircut in a climate which considers 30°C with 70% humidity a pleasantly cool day. It had gotten to the point where even my brain was sweating as my hair rampaged on its mission to take over the fucking world, but now it’s all on the floor of a barber shop in Trivandrum. You could probably use it to make blankets for the homeless in Siberia. Or as a soft, cushiony landing for people attempting suicide off Blackpool Tower. Whatever, I’m just fucking glad it’s not attached to my head any more and I don’t have to unpeel it from my forehead every four and a half seconds.
Trivandrum, Kerala, India
Stayed at: Vedanta Wake Up! Kovalam Beach (Trivandrum is an easy day trip from Kovalam)