Connecting With Animals
While growing up I have always had love and respect for animals and now that I am all grown up I still feel the same way. For the past several years animals have been very important to me in my life. I feel like I am connected to them and they have a connection with me.
For over three years I have been a member at the San Francisco Zoo and I go to the zoo almost every week. Over the past three years I have built a bond with the animals at the zoo. The animals get excited to see me when I visit them and I am always excited to see them.
My favorite animal at the San Francisco Zoo is a Sumatran Tiger by the name of Padang. Padang just recently turned 18 years old and in captivity a Sumatran Tiger's lifespan on average is between 18-20 years. She is the oldest big cat at the zoo and I am so lucky to have a bond with her that is stronger then any other animal at the zoo. Padang use to be in an enclosure that you could actually sit right next to her behind glass but do to another Sumatran giving birth they moved her out of this enclosure to make room for the other tiger and cubs. Each week I would spend an 1 1/2 to 2 hours with her. During these weekly visits created a friendship between us. The friendship I guess started while I was photographing her and I noticed when ever I would go form one end of the enclosure to the other she would follow me. When ever I would come to visit her she loved to run up to the glass and greet me. I started putting my hand up to the glass as if I was going to pet her and she would rub her head up to the glass where my hand was. Then I started to place my cheek against the glass to see what she would do and she again would rub her face against the glass as to rub against my face but then she would also lick the glass as to try to lick me. I have so many great memories of things she would do with me during my weekly visits which I miss being able to do and I look forward to the day they are able to put her back into that enclosure again so I can spend quality time with her.
Padang is not the only one I have build a bond with at the zoo. I have built a bond with all the big cats and I have also built a bond with the several of the primates and the bears.
I have three primates that are my favorites which are Jaho (Ya-ho) the male Mandrill, Oscar Jonesy the male Western Lowland Gorilla and Zura which is Oscar Jonesy's half sister. Jaho I love because I will call his name and tell him he is a handsome boy and then he turns to me and almost always gives me the prettiest smile. Zura has always been one of my favorites because she will act like a class clown when I visit her by coming up and siting in front of the camera and then she starts to wiggle her tongue at the camera. It took me around 2 years to earn the respect of Oscar Jonesy since he is not really big on people but one day I called out his name and he turned to me and smiled really big. Since that day he pays closer attention to me when I visit him and instead of running off and hiding he sticks around and lets me photograph him.
My connection with animals also goes beyond zoos because I have noticed this connection even out in the wild. When I go hiking in Rancho San Antonio Open Space Reserve I have had deer and bobcats walk almost all the way up to me. I believe these animals know I will not harm them and know that I have a connection with them.
Animals is my passion and I am very passionate about photographing the connection that the animals and I share with each other.
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Photo credits: Susan Pettitt.