"Rrrraww!!!" Vera screamed as her head was violently knocked to the side. She looked up to see Abeba, the baboon, giggling as she ran off. "You have to watch for that at this time of night," Vera said while trying to wipe the baboon droppings off of her face. "The baboons are supposed to calmly let us know when the coast is clear, but some of the younger ones have their own ways of alerting us. Just remember, no matter what they do, you're not allowed to touch them."
Oleg grinned and nodded. This was his first night in the exhibits at the Bronx Zoo since coming over from San Diego as part of an exchange. He followed Vera as she walked towards the propped open service door.
After an odd pause, Vera said, "So what do you think about those humans? How crazy is it that they think that just because we're both Siberian tigers they can put us together in a cage and we'll be mates? I mean, you haven't even taken me out to dinner yet and we're already supposed to be starting a family. What if I didn't like you?"
"Now how could you not like a handsome cat like me?" Oleg responded.
Vera laughed as she leaned into the service door to push it open. Then, she jumped back as she was quickly startled.
"No need to be afraid," said Kefentse, the silverback gorilla. His presence alarmed Vera, as since he had been elected president of the Society of Free Captives, Kefentse had rarely been seen outside of the Congo Gorilla Forest. "I have come to welcome Oleg to our zoo family and offer him the opportunity to sign a consent form and join the Society." Kefentse slid the form in front of Oleg.
Oleg briefly scanned the form.
1) "No hunting" laws are in effect
2) Animals are not permitted to relieve themselves outside of their own exhibits
3) All garbage must be placed in trash cans
4) Monkeys are not to be harmed, no matter how annoying they are
Blah, Blah, Blah
Oleg stepped to the side, squished his front right paw into the mud, and pressed it down on the consent form. Then he pushed it towards the gorilla and said, "Thank you."
"It is my pleasure," Kefentse replied. "If you run into any trouble in the park, please do not take matters into your own claws. We have security working in all zones for matters requiring a mediation," he said motioning towards the polar bear at his right side. "If you need anything else, please call my office."
As Kefentse ran off, the polar bear followed, and Oleg just shook his head. "This is all so new to me. New and bizarre," he said.
"You'll get used to it," Vera replied. "Follow me. There's a concert that I'd like to catch tonight down at the World of Darkness, but we've got to head down to Wild Asia first to meet up with our cousins."
Trotting down the macadam path, he asked "What cousins?"
"Well, there are two black leopards over at JungleWorld," she said, "and there are six Indo-Chinese tigers who live together along the monorail path. The zookeepers are all very impressed with how well they get along. It's like they think tigers are a bunch of savages."
"People are so clueless," Oleg said. "They still think that we live solitary lives in the wild. Haven't they ever heard of hide 'n seek?" Throughout the animal kingdom, tigers were known for their fascination with this timeless classic. Comical as it was to see such a strong and fierce predator devoting its life to a children's game, most herbivores preferred it that way.
As they prepared to veer off towards Wild Asia, Oleg heard a roar coming from his right. He ran off to see Lusala, the lion, alone in his habitat. "How come he doesn't come out with us?" he asked Vera.
"He can't get over the moat, and the apes can't figure out how else to get him out," she answered. "It makes me too sad to look at this. Let's go."
"Vera, he's our cousin. We have to do something," Oleg said.
At dawn, Jimmy, the first zookeeper on duty was walking the park as a part of his morning rounds, but when he reached the African Plains, he stopped in his tracks. Jimmy's jaw dropped as he saw lion and tiger lying side by side.
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