Our travels opened opportunities to create some amazing memories with our children. This past week, one such gift came in the form of an encounter I’m not sure any of us will forget: holding month-old tiger cubs at the Vallarta zoo.
Their bellies full after guzzling down bottles of formula, the cubs were undeniably adorable. For almost ten minutes, the children held them mostly on their laps as they rolled, played, and generally acted like the cute babies that they are. It was a little overwhelming just to watch the interaction. I can’t imagine doing anything like this back in the States.
It was a zoo like no other we’ve seen. Visitors carry bags of food with carrots, peanuts, bread, and other snacks inside for feeding the animals. Printed on the side of the bag are guidance for which type of food to feed which type of animal. It it really incredible to have a giraffe sneak up on you looking for treats (they have the softest cheeks!), or a camel surprise you by poking way over his enclosure to see what you have to offer. Then there are the hippos.
It’s more than a little sad… hippos begging for carrots? Isn’t this one of the most dangerous animals in Africa? It doesn’t seem right. I’m pretty sure I should feel worse about this, but it’s hard to let that overcome the wonder of the close-encounter experiences for all of us. From having our fingers held by little capuchins, to being goosed by a giraffe, I can’t regret our visit for a moment- and I’d like to think the children’s memories of the cubs will only enhance their sensitivity to the wonders of the world around them.