Yesterday was the first birthday for Mei Lun and Mei Huan. Those of you who know me or read this blog at least a little are, therefore, unsurprised that I spent yesterday at the zoo.
The panda exhibit was crowded, as you might expect. With all the crowds and glare on the glass, I didn't get great pictures. But I did see a little of the birthday girls' shenanigans.
One of the docents -- Anne, I think -- was talking to some of the guests about the various animal Wild Encounters or VIP Pass experiences that can be purchased at the zoo. These are available at a variety of price points. One of the least expensive of the animal encounters is the Aldabra Tortoise Wild Encounter, at only $35, and even a little less for ZooAtlanta members. (In contrast, meeting a tiger will set you back $100, or for $150 you can meet gorillas or Yang Yang. Lun Lun and the twins will cost you $1000, or $900 for a zoo member. And, yes, I did pause to consider it.) Anne was telling the visitors how great the tortoise encounter is. For one thing, it is the only encounter where you go in the exhibit space with the animal. For another, you get to touch the animal!
Even with a zoo full of people, I was the only person who showed up for the tortoise encounter. Tex and Corkie were cooling off in the corner mudhole, so I got to meet Shuffles. A big thank-you to Jessy, one of the zoo staff who kindly operated my camera and took lots of great pictures! Shuffles and Corkie are amongst the longest residents at ZooAtlanta, as they arrived in 1967. Of course, they were both in a smaller, easier-to-carry size back then. Today, Shuffles weighs 450 pounds! That's more than a panda or a Sumatran tiger.
The keeper -- Wade, I think -- kindly answered my questions about tortoises. And he told me all sorts of interesting facts about them. I had no idea how interesting and unusual they are.
And, of course, I got to feed Shuffles. He ate slices of sweet potato.
If you happen to be going to the zoo and can afford $35 per person for the encounter, I definitely recommend it! For children, the size of the tortoises will be even that much more impressive. I should also point out we are experiencing utterly perfect summer weather today and more is predicted for tomorrow.