I thought I would share a tragic story from my days of working at the zoo.
The zoo I worked at (for far too long) was a small zoo at the base of a mountain. I actually have seen wild bears running around and probably showing off their freedom to the bears the zoo owns. Once I had a close encounter with a wild bear at the zoo: SCARY! I am not a bear fan…when I was little I watched that “Grizzly Man” documentary and I have terrified of bears since! I will have to share my bear encounter experience one of these days. That being said, I have had many INTERESTING…and sometimes terrifying experiences at this zoo (and not all of them involved animals…haha).
My story begins with my usual search for “the right picture” at my current job. I came across this picture of a stunning white peacock which are considerably rare. As I looked at the picture memories of the sad incident from the zoo involving a white peacock popped into my mind.
Every zoo I have been too has brightly colored and glamorous peacocks roaming freely about the park; we have all seen them nibbling on left-over food, showing off their metallic feathers or sounding off their haunting calls. I think they may even roam freely at night as well…at the restaurant I worked at there was always a fresh smelly present from the peacocks outside of the front door in the mornings. About five years ago the zoo acquired a rare white peacock. He was beautiful and the way he strutted around the park he knew it. He also was the zoo keepers’ pride and joy.
Every zoo has a lion…every zoo. After The Lion King I think it became a requirement to have “Simba” and “Mufasa” (and besides lions are awesome). During my lunch break one day I decided to stop by the lion habitat; it was right by the main restaurant so I visited it often. As I looked at the lion family lazily basking in the sun I caught a glimpse of a white object on the overhang to the lion’s habitat. It was the white peacock himself. He was sifting through the thick vines that covered the overhang (which was a near impossible thing to get on to). He was flirting with death. For the next few weeks I caught him up on the overhang several more times. It seemed this peacock liked to live life on the edge….literally.
After having a few days off I returned back to work to find that the zoo keepers couldn’t seem to smile.
A fellow co-worker and friend, Matt raced over to me with wide eyes, “You won’t believe what happened yesterday.”
“What?” I asked alarmed. I could feel the depression in the air.
Matt went on to tell me the story: He had been on his lunch break and walked past the Lion’s Habitat to find a frantic crowd of people with their faces pressed up against the glass and their hands covering their dropped jaws.
“What’s go’n on?” Matt wondered and fought through the crowd of on-lookers.
“He’s about to fall in!” A woman shrieked and covered her face with her hands.
“What?!” Matt cried out and just as he got a glimpse into the habitat the white peacock leaped off of the overhang right into a circle of four lions. All Matt could do was watch in horror as white feathers started to fly.
Suddenly an older women grabbed Matt’s maroon shirt that had “Cheyenne Mountain Zoo” inscribed on it. “You work here!” She yelled. Matt started to explain to her that he just worked food service which was a totally different and separate part of the zoo.
The lady screamed ignoring everything he had said, “Jump in there and save that peacock!”
She squeezed his arm tightly and her eyes were filled with threats.
Of course, Matt wasn’t going to leap into the Lion’s Habitat…who did this lady think he was… Tarzan? Spider man? Lion Tamer?
“I’m not gonna jump in there! Are you crazy?” Matt said trying to brush off the women’s hook-like fingers. He looked back into the cage to find there was nothing left to even save…except maybe about twenty feathers.
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. The poor white peacock in all of his glittering glory was gone. It took the zoo keepers weeks to recover and smile again; yet, they have never gotten another white peacock. The lesson I learned that day is…look before you leap.