Last weekend being Memorial Day, Jamie and I decided to partake in a time-honored American tradition: we went to the zoo.
As with my last blog about the subway, a zoo probably doesn’t crack the top fifty things you think of when imagining Ankara but the Atatürk Forest Farm and Zoo is a popular spot in the capital, despite recent troubles. Having grown up in the Chicagoland area, which boasts the tremendous Brookfield Zoo and the lesser Lincoln Park Zoo, I was eager to visit my very first foreign animal habitat.
If I could sum up the zoo in one word it would be … spartan. Every animal there, be it a lion, giraffe, bear or goat, was given a regulation green fence for a cage. It also did not sport a very deep bench in terms of the menagerie. For example, we saw a zebra. The amphibian house consisted of a single Mississippi alligator, a crocodile and a turtle.
As Jamie and I walked the 32 hectares, or roughly 80 acres (surrounded by lush green fields that are oddly inaccessible to the public) the differences between Ankara’s zoo and, say, National Zoo in DC, grew more apparent. For instance, there were facilities set aside for domestic cats like the Angora, which have two different colored eyes. In a way it made sense, as people are not allowed to take Angoras out of Turkey in order to keep its bloodline pure. Still, it was strange to see palm-sized kittens in a zoo cage.
There was also a section set aside for rodents, with a special emphasis placed upon the North American raccoon. The sign outside the cage proclaimed it to be the most prevalent animal in the entire United States. Who knew?
Perhaps the weirdest display was the dog section. Like the kitties, it featured a domestic breed exclusive to Anatolia, the Kangal, which can often grow to mini-horse size. However, there were also cages for Golden Retrievers, Dalmatian, English Setters and Huskies, or, as the accompanying info sign dubbed them, “Alaskan Wolf-Dogs.” The whole thing was depressing. Golden Retrievers are the most common domestic pet in a several countries around the world. What short straw did these dogs pull to wind up in a zoo pen?
It only took an hour to see entire zoo. Despite some of the stranger than fiction features, I’m glad Jamie and I went. Ankara is such a sprawling city, and even though we have been here for more than six months now, we’ve seen little of it. It was nice to check off a true staple and made the city feel more like home.