On Sunday my mother came down to visit so that we could treat her to an afternoon at the Cohanzick Zoo in Bridgeton for her birthday, as it was something free we could do outside together where there would likely be few people since the skies were slightly overcast. She got slightly lost on the way, and I suppose if one is not used to driving the area, it can be kind of confusing – especially when many of the roads have a name and a route number. The first time I ventured into South Jersey myself was a mess of frantic phone calls every time I came to another town and felt for sure I had got off on the wrong exit. With the assurance that I had followed the directions and just had to trust my natural navigating skills, I came upon Avalon as the sun was beginning its slow descent below the horizon and immediately knew I had in fact found my way home. Laughter and a loving smile were also waiting to greet me, but that is a different story I have yet to tell – the point being I was glad we were able to help her find the turn she had missed.
Noted as being the first in New Jersey, the Cohanzick Zoo began in the 1930’s when citizens of the town thought a herd of deer it was in possession of should be put on display. It was named for the Lenape Indians who occupied the banks of the Cohansey River which is supposed to flow through the park but is currently absent due to construction. As I previously mentioned, there is no fee to get inside though donations are extremely welcomed as they are put towards taking care of the animals while providing them with comfortable surroundings that are familiar as opposed to artificial. There is also a membership that makes you eligible for a number of perks, and you can even adopt an animal to help offset costs of providing services such as veterinary care. Another unique feature is the fact it is set inside a city park and what I would consider a ‘open air’ zoo in that there are no heavy iron bars restricting the animals, but rather plexiglass windows and wired cages where bamboo and other plants offer plenty of shade.
There is a warning in the parking lot that peacocks may attack your vehicle during mating season, and I am sure there are people who are wondering why they are even wandering around. Well, it seems the majestic birds are resident natives of the zoo – my husband tells me stories of a neighbor who had them and would often see them lounging on the fence in the backyard, and there are other tales floating around tied to Jungle Habitat that suggest free-range peacocks are a result of the animals being set free when it was closed down. Now most people associate them with tropical climates and envision them strutting around remote islands where bathing beauties sip cocktails out of coconuts, but they seem to thrive in the pine-filled forests of New Jersey just as well and I find that to be one of the many charming aspects of its southern regions.
While there were plenty of other families wandering around, it was not too crowded and I was able to not only see most of the animals advertised by the education signs posted in front of their pens, but had the opportunity to take out the camera and snap photos without being interrupted ever five seconds. They were as active as they could be on a cloudy day, though I was finding entertainment in the amount of ducks that were waddling through the bushes in search of food. The Fennec Fox was absolutely adorable, rolling on its back with paws drawn up to its belly as if contemplating which of its many toys to play with. Other birds I saw besides ducks and peacocks included hawks, owls and parrots, each with a sizable cage adorned in perches and a nesting area that it could retreat to at any time. We got to watch a bear sit on some rocks as though we were just as engaging and I filmed some of the peacocks when my mom got a phone call. There was a white one [not albino] that I wanted a picture of, but it was too far away and the feathers reflected too much light for a clear shot, so I thought a video would be better and a bit more fun.
A few hours later we were on our way out and my mom kept saying how nice everything was which made me really happy. On the way back to the Jeep she made a remark about how she noticed all of the little girls looking at me. It was endearing since I am sure she thinks it’s funny, but I had been enjoying myself too much and have a tendency to tune that sort of thing out anyway. She stayed for dinner which was fresh salmon fillets my husband prepared, and we gave her a brownie cheesecake cupcake topped with mocha icing and sprinkles to take home. We have not had the best relationship over the years, but at least she makes some sort of effort to stay involved in my life, even if she doesn’t always exactly understand why I like some of the things I do and prefer a low-key existence. It seems that she would rather have sporadic contact that none at all, which is more than can be said about the other parent who continues to refuse to communicate on any level despite having stressed the importance of doing so when I was a child. Funny how that works.