Have you ever been in a zoo after the zoo closed its gates? Well, if you ever get the chance, don't just sit around, move around and take your camera. Because for some reason all the animals behave completely different when there's nobody about! No pressure to 'perform' I guess.
In October 2009 I found myself in the zoo in Rhenen, the Netherlands. A zoo with a history. The owner personally shot his animals when the Germans invaded the Netherlands (nobody seemed to want to have lions and tigers roaming free), but saved a few polar bear cubs. And lately they've established a bear zone. Not with wild bears, but with the bears that were rescued from dancing in the streets or from 'medical' purposes, ie being locked in a tiny cage and having their bile removed every day: painful and stupid.
Rescued bear looking out into his new world of relative freedom
Like many zoos around the world, their main goal nowadays isn't showing off animals in tiny cages, but education, preservation and breeding. That's why most zoos nowadays don't have the full range of animals anymore, especially if they have space issues. Having three types of animals in nice large pens or enclosures or ten types of animals in small cages...
Baby Barbary Macaque
Anyway, after the gates closed I was still in the zoo. On purpose, since the group I had driven had a special arrangement. But it meant I was able to look closely at some of the animals, for example those bears! They came out and were a lot more active. And the polar bears were more playful and behaved like a family of teens.
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Photos taken in October 2009 in Ouwehands Dierenpark Rhenen, the Netherlands