Planet Hiker
2005-05-05 Mendoza Zoo, Argentina

A little black kitten greeted me as I entered the zoo. Without showing any fear, he came towards me, expecting to be petted. I didn't disappoint the little guy and in seconds he was sounding like an old refrigerator. Purring loudly he walked in front of me, guiding me to the more interesting exhibits. Parrots and Chinchillas were his favorite. While I was looking at the animals, he would wait patiently and then continue the tour when I was ready.

The most striking thing about this zoo were the cages - they were all the same size. Apparently, the designers decided to take advantage of the economies of scale and mass produced a bunch of them that were "one size fits all" small. While this worked out relatively speaking fine for the Chinchillas, the two condors had to air their wings alternatively. Thus, as one expanded its wings to dry on the sun, the other had to squeeze into a corner and wait its turn.

While the Condors' face expressions did not give away much (other than the feeling that they would suck the marrow out of my bones, given the chance), the pumas told me a sad story. One of the cats was laying just by the fence, slightly leaning against it with her shoulder. There was no second barrier around, so I could have just extended my arm and touched her fur. The puma knew that I could harass her at any moment, yet she did not care to move. Not because she was bored, but because there was no hope left for her and she had forgotten what it's like being a puma.

She avoided my stares, always looking away and down, knowing that I am just another of the thousands who come to take something from her. But there was nothing left to give... Wilderness, the very essence of this animal, has been long lost without any hope of recovery. There was nothing for the puma to represent. Her broad palms, sharp blue eyes, sensitive ears had no meaning. They existed without a purpose. It did not matter if I were to touch her, shake the fence, or yell aloud. Nothing was going to change for her. Her eyes were sad yet they were not asking for anything.

The little purring machine rubbed against my legs, reminding me that there are more exhibits to see. And so we continued.

Here is another dark acquaintance of mine, though not of the feline descend: