Today was my first full day of vacation in Corrientes, Argentina. It was great! I slept late, drank coffee on the balcony, frittered a while on the computer, and then headed for the “Costanera”—a beautiful stretch of green space along the banks of the massive Rio Paraná. I first visited Corrientes in 2000, spending a week collecting insects in Corrientes and neighboring Chaco Provinces on the front end of a business trip, and I’m thrilled to be back in this, one of my favorite cities in Argentina.
Of course, change is inevitable, and not everything has changed for the better since I was last here. The southern coast has been developed (photo above), so gone is a wet, muddy area above the beach where I fondly remember two local boys “helping” me collect tiger beetles (one actually caught one!). Still, the area had a few surprises in store for me, one of which was the presence of a small zoological park that I had somehow missed on my previous visit. I have mixed feelings about zoos—their mission in promoting conservation and providing refuge for rescued animals is beyond reproach, but somehow I always feel a little sad (and guilty) when I visit one. I can’t escape the feeling that I’m looking at prisoners. US zoos have done much to minimize this quandary by providing spacious, naturalized habitats and minimizing the use of or visibility of bars and cages. Still, watching the polar bear relentlessly pacing back and forth on its well-practiced path reminds you of just how bored the animals get even in these modern confines. A cage is a cage. Nevertheless, animals are always interesting to look at, and seeing animals in a Southern Hemisphere zoo is a unique opportunity that most Americans never experience. Predictably, the zoo harkened back to the older zoos of the US, with animals confined in small spaces enclosed prominently with bars and chain link fencing. There is actually an upside to this, as it allows one to get extraordinarily close to the animals. Ever try to photograph a lion in a US zoo? Maybe with an 800mm telephoto lens you can get a shot that looks like more than a little brown blob in a sea of brown, and even then the elevated position looking down into the “den” makes for very unspectacular views (getting down on the same level as your subject, or even lower, results in much more interesting views). I never even think about taking photos of animals at US zoos for this reason. Today’s experience, however, was much more intimate despite the chain links and even provided for some comical reactions by the animals as I lifted to glass to within a few feet of their faces. I present here a few of the more interesting ones:
Normally when you see this, you’ve already screwed up!
The closer I got, the lower he got—spreading his wings and “snapping” his beak.
That moment of indecision between “fight” or “flight” (I’m talking about me, not the bird!).
Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2012