The Zoo

We visited the zoo in Bujumbura. They call it a living museum (Museé Vivant). It is not for the faint of heart. The conditions for the animals are deplorable. We will not dwell on this so you are not depressed by my blog. While very small, this is the most memorable zoo I have ever been seen. This was my third visit to this zoo and there have been a number of changes since I was last here.

Suddenly, safety is a concern. On previous trips we could walk up to a cage and reach through to touch the creature inside. Previously I would pet a leopard, scratch a monkey under the chin, and play with full grown chimpanzees (think planet of the apes to picture these big guys). Apparently, the chimp I used to play with bit someone’s fingers off so secondary fences were installed to keep us a little further back.

To compensate for the downgrade from a petting zoo to a watching zoo they added a little drama. At the leopard cage the zoo keeper threw a guinea pig on top of the cage, twelve or more feet in the air. The leopard sprang to the top, reached through the grate, and had the pig in his claws in less than a second. A spectacular display of athleticism. What followed was one of the most gruesome and fascinating displays of wildlife I have ever experienced. Apparently leopards like to play with their food. I won’t give you the details, but you will never see this aspect of animal life on Animal Planet.
A highlight of the visit was the addition of a baby chimpanzee. For 5000 Burundi francs (about $1.50), you can hold the chimp (apparently he has not yet developed a taste for human fingers. One of our team was holding the chimp when he decided he had enough, pushed away and jumped down. The zoo workers started to frantically grab at him as he scampered through the legs of the group. When he came near me I held out my arms and he launched himself into them and held on for dear life. Is it wrong that at that moment I really missed my grandkids? The chimp nestled in like I was his savior. Now I want a pet chimp for home.


Traveling to Burundi was fairly uneventful…if you don’t count the lack of air conditioning in the plane. I don’t want to over-state the conditions on the plane, but if there was an oven near by I would have put my head in it for a breath of fresh air. I had a small concern that the plane had crashed and I was now in hell just hallucinating the plane. The heat combined with my lack of a shower had me feeling like a link of sausage left in the sun for a week ready to burst through the casing. I imagine that is how I smelled as well. As a bonus, the heat prevented sleep. I was able to get a good thirty minutes, broken into several smaller chunks, of sleep.


May 30th, 2:30 am. I have almost everything ready for departure to Africa, but I’m exhausted and I need to get some sleep.
3:30 am. The alarm on my phone is making an unholy racket as it terminates my one-hour nap. I wake up Judi and announce it is time for us to get ready to meet the rest of the teem at 4:30
4:25 am. My phone wakes me up again with Vickie asking if we are up yet. An inauspicious start to our trip. We skip our showers as we head out for 24 hours of travel.