Tag Archives: Central Park Zoo

Daily Post: Calling

Winter is calling!

By Johna Till Johnson
Photo by Vladimir Brezina

Today’s daily post is Calling.

Tomorrow is winter solstice. Days will begin to get longer, and it’s a good time to  reflect about the year gone by as we’re about to bid it farewell.

For today’s post, I decided to look for one of the many photos Vlad took of an animal with its mouth open. When I came across this one I immediately realized it had the right seasonal “feel” (even though Gus the polar bear is actually yawning.)

But the story itself calls to me, or rather the story-within-a-story: About six years ago Vlad and I went to the Central Park Zoo, along with my best friend and two of her daughters. Vlad brought the good camera and took some memorable photos. We remarked at the time what “characters” these animals were—quintessential New Yorkers!

Vlad also wrote a later blog post just about Gus, the polar bear. Apparently, like all true New Yorkers, Gus was neurotic: For no reason that anyone could understand, he took up obsessively swimming laps in the pool.

For 12 hours a day.

The zookeepers got him therapy, and eventually his symptoms tapered off (though they never disappeared entirely). He died in the summer of 2013 and was greatly mourned.

A part of old New York passed away back then, and has never been replaced. There are no longer polar bears at the Central Park Zoo, which many would say is a good thing for them, if not us.

And of course, Vlad is now gone too, and with him another small part of old New York.

So really, it’s the past that calls to me in this image.

A past of sunny spring days full of vanished polar bears and other animal “characters” vamping for the camera, and of the careful, enthusiastic eye that took the photos. A past filled with unexpected discoveries and pleasant surprises.

As Vlad himself put it in the comments, “In happier times, as they say in biographies that end badly (as they all do)…”

Later on Vlad writes, “Sorry to have lost him.”


Daily Post: Dormant

By Johna Till Johnson, photo by Vladimir Brezina

Today’s daily post is Dormant.

Several years ago—I am not entirely sure how many—Vlad and I decided to go to the Central Park Zoo. I can’t recall at this point where the idea came from, but when we discovered that neither of us had ever been there (despite a combined residence in Manhattan of over half a century), the decision was made.

Thanks to our trips to Florida, Vlad at that point had begun getting quite serious about photographing animals, particularly birds. But of course wildlife photography is challenging, because the animals tend to run (or fly) away when they realize they’re being observed.

So he was delighted to be in an environment where the animals had no fear of humans. He took a number of quite amazing shots (which apparently we haven’t blogged about yet! Stay tuned!). This one captures today’s theme in what I hope is a slightly different way.

For the record, “dormant” comes from the Latin word “dormire”, which means to sleep:

To sleep, perchance to dream;

I wonder what this orange bird is dreaming of?

Weekly Photo Challenge: Habit

By Vladimir Brezina

This week’s Photo Challenge is Habit.

Gus the polar bear was one of the stars of Manhattan’s Central Park Zoo. New Yorkers took to him probably because, as a result of being cooped up in the equivalent of a tiny apartment, he was a creature of neurotic, not to say compulsive habits, such as obsessive swimming. But, like a true New Yorker, he managed to thrive on his neuroses—he outlived both his younger female companions, and finally died this past summer, aged 27 (which is quite old for a polar bear).

DSC_0122 cropped smallDSC_0131 cropped smallDSC_0142 cropped small

Beastly (and Avian) New Yorkers

By Vladimir Brezina and Johna Till Johnson

After more than 15  (Johna) and 20 (Vlad) years living in New York City (in Vlad’s case, just one block away from Central Park), we finally managed to visit the Central Park Zoo.

The Central Park Zoo was New York City’s first zoo, starting in 1859 as a menagerie of exotic animals given to the Park. (Nowadays, owners of exotic animals that have grown uncomfortably large for small New York City apartments are too impatient for donation: they simply dump the animals in the Park—that’s how we get alligators in the sewers…) The zoo is small (6.5 acres) but manages to house a surprisingly large number of animals—we didn’t get to see even half of them—in “natural” enclosures, some of them walk-through, that do not feel at all cramped.

As it turns out, the Zoo’s inhabitants are some of the most quintessential New Yorkers: The birds and beasts embody all the characteristic New York attitudes, from vanity to boredom to slit-eyed suspicion.

Continue reading