Mujambi, the lion.

Meet Mujambi the lion, who lives at the Adelaide Zoo. I met him recently when I went to the Zoo to draw some of the animals. Mujambi  is 13 years old, small for a lion, and the lioness eats his dinner when they are put in the same pen. It’s doubtful he would have survived long in the wild, as he also has a genetic condition that needs constant medication. But what a gorgeous beast!

Mujambi the lion reminded me of my little dog Jasper:

Jasper the Sheltie, the most spoilt dog in Beechmont.

Neither beast would survive long in the wild. But both have a comfortable life, seem quite happy, and are adored by many people.

This is partly why I have mixed feelings about zoos. Should animals be held in cages and on display? Is it cruel, or would many of these animals not survive in the wild anyway?

Is it useful awareness-raising or just banal entertainment for the masses? What do you think?

The day I went to the Zoo was bitterly cold and drizzling. But I was rugged up warmly and didn’t really mind – the number of human visitors was down anyway, so that left me with better views of the animals! Even though many of the critters were hiding away in their dens to keep warm, the tiger decided to leave her heat pad at feeding time:

I was drawing rapidly to try to capture impressions of the animals – that’s why the drawings are sketchy and many didn’t work out. When drawing moving animals you just need to keep trying to look closely, glimpse and remember a shape or a look or a pose, and then scribble it down the best that you can on the page. It can help to try to draw several different poses of the same animal on the page – the creature might return to a pose it was in some minutes ago, and then you can skip back to the relevant drawing. Practice like this improves your ability to see, to remember, and to capture an impression with just a few strokes.

Later, you can go back and add colour to your sketches if you like.

After drawing the tiger I was nearly frozen, so I found myself in a cozy and warm auditorium watching a live wildlife show. At the end of the show we could walk past the presenter who held Truffles the brush-tailed bettong in a cloth pouch. This is a threatened species that was once widespread across parts of central and southern Australia. The Adelaide Zoo is part of a breeding program to increase the population of these threatened marsupials, and release them into the wild. Another gorgeous critter:

Truffles the bettong in his cloth pouch.

Adelaide Zoo is probably most famous for its pair of Giant Pandas, which I think are the only ones in a zoo in the Southern Hemisphere. I’ll let you decide whether that’s a good thing or not for an endangered species. I had never seen live pandas before, and it was an amazing experience. There is something about the combination of that cuddly bear shape (and shambolic walk) and those clownish markings that make them utterly adorable.

So these were just a few highlights of my zoo visit. There were many more wonders, but too many to draw in the one day. Whatever you think of zoos, they are great places for seeing and drawing animals that you may never otherwise encounter.

Before I sign off, here are a few shameless plugs (I need to earn a living somehow you know [icon icon=icon-smile size=16px color=#000 ] ):

Check out the Events page if you’re interesting in attending a nature journaling workshop – they are all in south east Queensland but there are numerous dates and locations over the next 6 months. Come along and have some fun – I’d love to see you there!

I still have a few organic cotton tea towels and tote bags with the colourful Gondwana Rainforest Birds design. This is a limited print run, so get in quick if you’d like one for yourself, or for a gift.

Even though you may not stumble across a lion, tiger or bear on your next stroll, there are still plenty of amazing critters and plants all around, if you know where to look. For example this fine beast which is a common garden visitor in many parts of Australia:

Blue-banded bee, drinking. An illustration created for Pollinator Link, thanks to funding from the Brisbane City Council.