The Zoo Zealot

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told. Some will be fun, some will not. Some will be great, some will be less so. Some stories are true, some are merely possible. This is one of them.

The Zoo Zealot

If you’re hanging around with nothing to do and the zoo is closed, come over to the Senate.  You’ll get the same kind of feeling and you won’t have to pay.”  –Bob Dole

Robert was one of those people that could take something that seemed fun and interesting, and then turn it into piles of paperwork and regulations.  He would walk amongst the families having a good time and navigate the school groups that were on a field trip.  While they would point and chatter excitedly about the rare animals and their luxurious coats, Robert would look to his clipboard filled with documents and make notations.  It was his job to nitpick and make notes of every little inconsistency that he saw, and Robert fulfilled his task with a rampant fervor.

As a Zoological Expert in Assessing Liabilities, Robert walked around zoos and made sure that their insurance policies were in line with the running of the operation.  Several years ago, Robert’s company had made some modifications to the plans that they offered to zoos.  The all-encompassing plan that had previously covered all animals for each individual zoo had been changed.  Now the all-encompassing plan covered every animal that was in existence, regardless of whether the zoo had any of those species in residence or not.  This meant that if zoos could not afford to pay the premium price, they instead paid for each animal.  For each animal, there were different rules and specifications.  The variety of animals and situations for each zoo necessitated a ZEAL visit them on a regular basis.  Of all the ZEALs that were assigned to travel the zoos of the world, none were as precise and enthusiastic about details as Robert.

Walking by a seal enclosure, Robert made a “tsk”-ing noise and made on more mark on his clipboard.  The seal had been transferred from an aquarium that had closed, and therefore the animal had a penchant for tricks.  The Greenville Zoo had a flipper-clapping allowance for seals, but none for balancing balls on their noses.  Robert would have to charge them extra or advise them that their policy was in jeopardy.  Flipper-clapping was allowed, but balancing balls on the nose of a seal could cause a myriad of problems that Robert’s company might have to reimburse them for.  There could be dirt or debris on the ball that would transfer onto the seal’s nose, infecting or obstructing the seal’s nasal passageways.  The rubbing of the ball on the seal’s nose could bruise the surface area or ding the animal’s whiskers.  Robert shook his head in disappointment.  If the zoo was going to flagrantly allow this sort of reckless behavior just to encourage higher attendance, they would have to pay up the nose for it.

Robert made an impression on people.  At six foot five and two hundred and seventy pounds, he was a physical force to be reckoned with.  Adding somewhat comically to his appearance were his half-glasses.  Most people did not associate such slight and delicate frames with someone of Robert’s size.  More often than not, the glasses would be seen on a librarian, or perhaps an elderly woman that served on a student advisory board.  Yet Robert, ever the model of efficiency, found it impractical to pay for an entire oval’s-worth of glasses when he only needed the bottom half.

This stringent manner was also evident in Robert’s manner of speech.  The large man, who one could only assume had a booming voice, rarely ever spoke.  Robert preferred a short, sharp, “tsk”.  He felt that conveyed his typically annoyed opinion when confronted with unsatisfactory conditions.  If his coffee was served without the needed quarter inch for cream, he would reply, “tsk”.  Should a small child stand at his feet and ask if Robert was a sumo wrestler, the only reply the man would offer was, “tsk”.  As Robert approached the lion’s den, he could feel another “tsk” coming out.  Perhaps even a “tsk tsk”.

Proud Lion by Steve Linster

From a hundred yards away, Robert could see a lion and two lionesses sunning themselves on a rocky shelf.  The lionesses were sleeping, but the lion was still gnawing on its breakfast.  Even from the distance between them, Robert could tell that one more insurance liability had appeared.  The lion was chewing on a bone, which meant that the handlers were not serving the lion’s meal in accordance with their insurance policy.  Robert kept the files of each zoo at hand and he flipped to page seventy-two without pausing.  There, clear as could be in subsection nineteen, was the requirement that any and all food served to the residents of a zoo should be properly deboned to insure that no animal could choke on any obstructions.  Robert did not care how “harmless” bones were said to be.  If the lion chewed long enough, the bone might splinter and the remnants could cut the animal, thereby causing a possible claim.  That of course, was nowhere as bad as the lion being taken by surprise and accidentally swallowing the bone as portrayed in some of the sillier nineteen-twenty’s comedies.

Robert looked down at the long list of problems with the zoo.  The penguin habitat did not have any non-slip pads on the watery rocks.  The tuxedo-clad animals could slip and slide on such dangerous surfaces and break a wing or cause a concussion.  The perches for the flamingoes were far too perilous and the grass was far too wet.  Robert had paid out a claim for a flamingo with a broken neck and promised that he would never have to do so again.  Then there were the monkeys.  Robert did not care what sort of monkeys they were; he only knew that they were not being given disposable gloves.  If the animals decided to comb each other or, heaven forbid, start flinging their feces about, the spread of disease would be horrific.  Robert shuddered once more at the thought.  The price of replacing inflicted monkeys was so outrageous that Robert could not even manage to utter a “tsk”.

Robert lumbered his way towards the administration office.  The employees darted out of his way and avoided his gaze.  He had heard the rumors around the zoos.  Many institutions had a picture of him up in the offices and warned not to contact him unless an emergency occurred.  Robert had been told once that zoo staff knew that he had no sense of humor about regulations and that any phrase uttered might bring a bevy of fines against any institution he oversaw.  Robert was satisfied with the effect.  He wanted all of his clients to adhere to the rules stringently and to live in terror if they did not.  Without Robert and his fellow ZEALs, these kinds of places would certainly go wild, and he just would not have that.


About Cosand
He's a simple enough fellow. He likes movies, comics, radio shows from the 40's, and books. He likes to write and wishes his cat wouldn't shed on his laptop.

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