Night-time at the Zoo

24-08-2005

Ever wonder what animals at the zoo do at night when they think nobody's looking? Whether orangs hang out in the leafy Indonesian pavilion or young wolves go on the prowl? Whether bats bicker over ceiling space? Here's a last chance, this summer, to find out.

Indonesian pavilionIndonesian pavilion Guide Michal Podhrazky welcomes a group of visitors to the Prague Zoo at night - a two-hour walk through the state-of-the-art Indonesian Pavilion and African Park. Along the way visitors see something they've probably never seen before: rare animals at play against the backdrop of the moon and the city lights; komodo dragons wandering quietly along a river bank, and gazelles on the move. Everywhere the sound of crickets, and the call of birds in the darkness. Michal Podhrazky takes the group through, every once in a while clicking on his flashlight.

For just for a few seconds to freeze animals in their tracks.

And, although the zoo has been doing the tours for a number of years, this is the first time we can see...

"...the Indonesian Pavilion after hours. That's one of the treats. Before that it could only be VIP visitors like diplomats, people like that."

Indonesian pavilionIndonesian pavilion The pavilion is home to numerous animals including a family of orang-utans. Seeing the primates move with calm grace, soulful eyes peering through the leaves, leaves a lasting impression. It's the difference between visiting the zoo during the day and at night: the privilege of being allowed closer into the animals' world. In the evening hours, within the pavilion as well as the rest of the zoo, the animals' are simply far more active and at ease. Michal Podhrazky again:

"It's a big difference. One of the animals you'd rarely see really active during the day, for example, is the crested porcupine. But, in the dark our porcupines are active, grazing, moving about. Today we even saw their young."

Many of the creatures, including the porcupines, showed a curiosity in their human observers. But, not the honey badger lying asleep on its back: he'd never allow it in the wild, but at the night zoo we caught him snoring with tongue lolling out, eyes closed. And, if that weren't enough, part of the way the group was even joined by a common house cat, that padded along with us, before slipping over the fence to the leopard's den and back.

Photo: www.zoopraha.czPhoto: www.zoopraha.cz The sounds, the smells, are stronger, more acute.

"Coming to the zoo at night is really something else! There aren't any lampposts along the paths, the visitors are in the dark, and it's a real adventure! I can't stress how big a difference it is from coming during the day."

Guide Michal Podhrazky also has the following suggestion: if you can't make the night tours, which end this weekend, come to the zoo as late as possible on a regular day. Even after closing time you'll be allowed to walk the park at leisure on your way out, and many animals you normally wouldn't see will be opening their eyes and rummaging about.

 

If you're interested in the final night tours this month look up www.zoopraha.cz. Bookings must be made in advance and keep in mind the sooner you call the better as tickets are limited.

24-08-2005