Thursday, January 26, 2012

I touched a monkey, actually fed one

Today, I took a field trip with my first graders and my colleague, Michi. 

We went to the Haus des Meeres.  I have been very curious about this place for several reasons.  First, the name Haus des Meeres translates to "Sea's House" which made me think of an aquarium.  However, on the side of the building in large blue letters is "ZOO".  In the end, it is more like an aquarium although there is a tropical room that has colorful birds and small monkeys.  The other interesting thing about this building is it's the only anti-aircraft tower left from the Second World War.  There used to be an anti-aircraft battery atop this tower. 
Here's a picture of the building:

As you can see from the picture, the building also has a climbing wall on its outer face. 
Inside, it is most definitely an aquarium with giant tanks displaying hammerhead sharks, Japanese spider crabs (which live in deeper than 1000 feet), a giant green turtle, and assorted fish.
Perhaps the coolest part of the excursion for me was when we got to feed the monkeys.  Actually, they weren't monkeys. I cannot remember their name now but they were a smaller relative of the capuchin. 

Here's a picture:

We had a cool tour guide named Phillip.  Phillip would excuse himself and return with a small plastic crate full of wood chips (sawdust) with maggots crawling underneath.  Then, he would fish out a maggot, place it in his hand and steadily hold his hand by the wooden beam where the monkeys would then appear.  They would walk over to Phillip, grab the maggot and escape to the trees to eat their lunch. 
At the time, I imagined we were feeding them worms but later a couple corrected me, they were maggots.  (It was easier to hold them in my hand if I called them worms!)

Most impressive of all was the six-year-old first graders in our class that were able to feed the monkeys.  Obviously some of them were grossed out by the maggots while others were scared of the monkeys.  Maybe it was reassuring that I was so active in both holding the maggots and feeding the monkeys thus enabling so many of the children to overcome their hesitations. 
In the end, it was a really cool experience having such tame, cute little capuchins (or whatever they were) come right up and eat out of my hand. 

It goes down in my history of cool animal interactions second only to swimming with the green turtles on several occasions in Barbados. 

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