Wednesday, November 14, 2007



Here’s my address from December 20 through January 31.
Marilyn Cole
c/o LoW Hi Ranch
1975 O’Kelly Road SE.
Deming, New Mexico 88030

I’d love to hear from you!

NOVEMBER 1, 2007

Many of the people who stay at Florilow Oaks Campgrounds are either living here full-time or else spend the winter here. Consequently, there is a social committee who plan different activities. For example, there is a Happy Hour every day at 4:00 where people congregate around the firepit just to chat; cribbage, poker and other card games including bridge and euchre; breakfasts; bingo, pinochle; pot luck dinners; movies; golf; coffee; trips to flea markets as well as one organized here; stitching and needling; and other outings. You can join or not, as you like; nobody pressures you.

Because I am only here for two weeks, I have one of the transient sites which is very narrow, and also not shaded. But then, I got the last site available as well. This is a popular place, and many people book six months to a year in advance.

There is a fenced-in play yard for dogs,

and a pond with a fountain,

a rec hall, a screened-in outdoor hall, mail service, cable TV, a large library and wi fi (but it’s not very strong – I can’t log in because the neighbour on the other side of the fence has a stronger signal and his is password-protected). Dick Allam, the manager, tells me that he has ordered a stronger antenna which will be installed on Monday.

People who wish to live here full-time can buy shares in the campground and also purchase one of the “houses” if one is for sale. The “houses” range from a trailer with a Florida room attached to a double-wide mobile home with landscaping. Most are quite attractive and I would imagine very comfortable.

On our first day here, after arriving about 3:00 p.m. Ripley and I walked around the park to orientate ourselves and checked out the play yard It isn’t huge, but Rip has discovered lizards! She wants to jump into the vegetation to go after these little guys. I’m not sure if she would hurt one, but they’re pretty quick. I also discovered a tree frog in the garbage can that contained cans for recycling. Yes, they do have a recycling program here for cans and paper, but not for plastic or glass. I’ll have to ask if these latter items are not recyclable here in Florida.

In addition to the recycling program, they have a special fenced-off area where the treated wastewater is sprayed.

Since I seldom have had the chance to watch TV, I decided to rest and enjoy this amenity.

NOVEMBER 2, 2007

One of the winter snowbirds nearby is Pete, who has a huge rig. He very kindly showed me how to erect the awning on mine. I had not used it previously, and it is nice to have somewhere to sit outside in the shade and where I can put my chair and small table. Luckily I have a mat, to stop some of the sand and grass getting in the trailer. Nevertheless, it is a daily job to sweep the rig, and I really need to do a thorough dusting and vacuuming soon.

I cannot connect to my wi fi at my rig, and I must go to the office area in order to get the signal. That’s very inconvenient

I went to Happy Hour today and met a few other fellow Canadians. Larry is from Toronto and Barbara suggested that I should visit Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park when she found out I was a retired zoo keeper. They do manatee feedings there.

I took Ripley over to the dog yard again, but she hurt her leg while running around chasing her ball. She suddenly lay down screaming after catching her leg in a hole. I ran over and checked her over and could find nothing broken. She soon recovered enough to put weight on the leg and walked home.

I have contacted Rent a Wreck in nearby Leesburg to rent a car. It will cost $231.43 for a week, including the necessary insurance. Fortunately, my MasterCard covers collision waiver, so I have saved $60. I was wondering how I would get to their office, and as it happens one of their employees lives near the campground and will pick me up on his way to work tomorrow morning.

I watched the final two episodes for this season of Meerkat Manor, and was very saddened to learn that Mozart died tragically, probably from a jackal attack while alone overnight. If you haven’t seen this show, do. It has been filmed in such a way that it is very realistic but at the same time presented as an animal soap opera. It has captured the hearts of people around the world.

After that, the first episode of Orangutan Island was shown. I’ve never heard of Lona, the woman who has started the project and I’m not sure that it will be successful. However, she has taken in about 500 orphaned orangutans and is trying to teach them how to live in the wild so that they can be transplanted to an island to live as a group. They may well get along as youngsters, but I wonder what will happen when the males grow into adults. I recall some fierce fighting between two adult males during my six months in the camp of Birute Gadikas in Borneo, back in 1976.

NOVEMBER 3, 2007

I was ready and waiting with Ripley at 8:15 a.m. and Al came to collect me. I really hadn’t realized that Leesburg is actually quite a distance from the campground, so I was very grateful for the ride. Al’s first wife died of cancer five years ago, and he has re-married. He and his wife live on a farm near the campground and have goats, donkeys, horses, dogs and cats.

After filling out the necessary paperwork at Rent a Wreck, I drove off in my late model red Ford Escort, a nice little car; however, it has been driven by a smoker and regardless of the detailing, I can still detect the smoke. My throat immediately became sore as I have become highly sensitive to smoke.

I took Ripley back to the trailer and made her comfortable, as I could not take her with me to my destinations today. I then headed down I-75 to Tampa Bay to Busch Gardens, where I was very pleased to find that my AAZK (American Association of Zoo Keepers) membership card entitled me to free admission. That saved me $65!! I did pay $9 for parking, though.

Busch Gardens is really geared to please the visitors. All of the staff have obviously received training on how to treat the visitors and of course there are multiple stores selling all kinds of interesting stuff. I managed to restrict myself to some post cards, despite temptation all around me.

Busch Gardens is broken up into different sections – Africa/Morocco/Bird Gardens/Congo/Timbuktu/Nairobi and Egypt and each one has some very wild rides to attract the more adventurous. You wouldn’t get me on one of those for love or money! There are a few where people are dropped vertically, and then taken around a circuitous track, hanging upside down at times, going at a very fast speed. No thanks!!

I settled for the tamer Stanleyville train that takes visitors on a guided tour around most of the park, and especially through the large paddocks where the African animals such as giraffes, both black and white rhinos, various hoofstock

and birds hang out. Do you know what Floridians call flamingoes? Lawn ornaments! At least that’s what the tour guide said.

The gorillas and chimpanzees inhabit the Myombe Reserve, one exhibit for each of the two species (which doesn’t leave room for more than one group out at a

Koundu in Gorilla Exhibit

Chimp Exhibit

time). The exhibits are viewed primarily through glass windows looking over a naturalistic exhibit complete with trees and waterfall. The chimps seemed to be enjoying themselves, and when I went by, there were two male gorillas out in the exhibit. The graphics were very good, along with the video explaining about various gorilla behaviours and why they are so endangered.

Keeper in Sloth & Bird Exhibit

Gorilla Graphics

Thanks to Jane Dewar, I had made contact with Lisa Harris, the assistant curator of primates at Busch Gardens, and she took me into the ape holding area and showed me around. She introduced me to Nancy and Eric, the gorilla keepers on that day (one other keeper was away attending the enrichment conference being held at Gorilla Haven this weekend). I was able to get up close to the gorilla group that was inside at that time. It was great to get down on my knees and grumble to the gorillas and have them grumble back. Some of these animals were previously at Yerkes, (a research facility in Atlanta) but they have integrated successfully into a group comprising two males, an old female, a younger female and her baby named Bolingo. I’m afraid that I didn’t write down the names of the others and I don’t remember now, as they all had African-sounding names. Bolingo is the first and only baby gorilla born at Busch Gardens, and was quite exuberant and showed off for me, while his mother beat her chest and seemed surprised when I did too! Interestingly enough, the father of Bolingo was neither of the two males in their group. Instead, his father Sensu was separated because he is only nine years and still a youngster himself, with lots of enthusiasm. It was feared that he might inadvertently harm Bolingo, and I got the impression also that the SSP has not approved breeding.
Unfortunately photography in the holding areas is forbidden by management, so I have no close-up photos of the gorillas. Also, I can't believe that I left my camera behind at the campground and was forced to buy one of the disposable ones at Busch Gardens. I had to take photos sparingly because there were only 24 on the roll.

After Lisa took me over to the chimp area and showed me their holding quarters, we went back to the gorilla holding and by this time, the one group had been shifted to the outside exhibit and the two males had been brought in, so I was able to “greet” each of them. I’m sure that I have met Koundu before, I think while he was Lincoln Park Zoo, or else perhaps it was while he was at Denver Zoo.

Nancy is learning how to do the operant conditioning techniques that they utilize and Lisa needed to supervise her, so I offered my thanks and said farewell. Operant conditioning is a technique used in many zoos now on a wide variety of species in order to get the animal to carry out specific commands which make it easy to draw blood, check for wounds, etc. etc. and makes it much less of a necessity to tranquilize animals in order to do routine veterinary procedures. Thus, it is much less stressful on the animals, and the technique works very well. Basically, it is a matter of starting with slow steps to build up to the command required, done usually by using a clicker to signal to the animal that he/she has carried out the correct command, with food rewards given. An animal is never mistreated during these procedures and operant conditioning has become very widespread not only in the zoo world, but it also is used on domestic animals such as dogs, cats and horses.

I continued on my merry way, making the rounds of the various areas at Busch Gardens. Of course, I had to make a stop at the meerkats to watch the four cavort. They had just been fed some mealworms and were quite enjoying them.

Meerkat Exhibit

While I was in the Myombe Reserve holding area, I noticed a poster advertising a talk by one of the keepers who had returned from an Earthwatch expedition where she assisted with the research being carried out on the meerkats featured on Meerkat Manor. Apparently, she knows what is going to happen not only next season, but the season after that as well!! So, now I know that there will be at least two more seasons of this show. That’s quite remarkable for an animal show!

Keeper talk in Alligator Pen

I slowly made my way around the various animal exhibits (the orangutans are not there while a new exhibit is being built for them), and made my way over to the Critter Castaways show. The people involved in the show not only sing very well, but also are able to handle all kinds of animals – dogs, cats, rat, pig, kangaroo, parrots, macaws, cockatoo, binturong, etc. etc., all of whom do their bit to tell the story of castaways. It was very entertaining and quite educational.
Performing Rat

After grabbing a nondescript hamburger, I decided that I had time to take in one more show and made by way over to Morocco to watch Katonga. Again, I was very impressed with the professional calibre of the performers. There was a strong influence of The Lion King in the costumes used to portray various animals, as the four main characters told stories from Africa.


I’ve missed watching hockey and needed a fix. I planned to make this a day in Tampa Bay and next on my itinerary was a drive down from Tampa Bay on I 275 to the St. Pete Times Forum. I figured that, unlike hockey-mad Toronto, it would probably be possible to buy a ticket at the box office, but as I walked toward the building I came across a scalper and checked out what he had to offer. He wouldn’t go any lower than $50 so I continued on until I came across another scalper. He sold me a ticket worth $101 behind the goalie for $30!!

The Tampa Bay Lightning was playing the Atlanta Thrashers. It was fun for me because one of the defensemen on the Lightning team is Paul Ranger, whom I watched for a few years when he played with the Oshawa Generals as a Junior. Too bad they lost. But it was great to be at a live game after many months.

This is the night that the clocks go back and that was helpful since I had an hour’s drive back to the campground. Ripley was ecstatic when I returned and couldn’t stop wiggling.


Michelle said...

Orangutan Island:
Lone's Project, the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation's Nyaru Menteng Project, is considered the best run orangutan rehabilitation project in the world. Lone now looks after more than 640 rescued orangutans, making hers the largest primate rescue project in the world, and hers is the only one actively rescuing wild orangutans from certain death in the oil-palm plantations which take over their habitat.
Lone and I both began working with Birute Galdikas many years ago, and learning from mistakes made there, Lone developed a new and better practice for the rehabilitation of orangutans.
Males will naturally fight, often quite viciously, if they come face to face with one another in the wild.

Michelle said...

More on Orangutan Island:
We we release wild orangutans, we release them into different areas to prevent this risk. Rehab orangutans are released more in groups so that they can make us of their relationships if they want to, or they will venture off on their own.
We have already released over 200 wild orangutans and in 2008 we will start releasing rehabilitated orangutans into a large and secure forest in the north of the region.
But we can only do this with support from the public--we have no governmental support. Please help the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation ( or its partner in the US, Orangutan Outreach (
Thank you,
Michelle Desilets
Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation UK
(Don't miss episode 3 on Friday!)

Kim said...

Hi Marilyn,
I work at CBC Radio in Halifax. I'm researching a story about zoos and conservation, and I'm wondering if you could get in touch with me when you get a chance.
I'd rather not post my personal email address and risk a robot spam attack, but if you go to, there is a contact email form there, and those emails come to the show's inbox. I can then exchange my email with you.

Kim Garritty
CBC Radio Halifax