I sat down for the carnivore TAG meeting, knowing I needed to bring up the arrival of the dholes. It would be ideal if they could be transferred to us sooner rather than later, so they have time to settle into their exhibit.
“Um, can I start first?” I requested.
“Sure, go ahead, Jumilah,” Jimmy permitted.
“We’ve been successful with getting our licence, as you would know. The next step is transferring animals.”
“From a carnies perspective, that’s my remit,” Sam spoke up.
“Yeah, that’s what I was kind of getting at.”
“I’ll look into the flights which would be available and send you through some options, so you can choose."
"Thank you, that would be great.”
With that settled, Jimmy ran the discussion about the red panda breeding program.
“Renu, our female, is post-reproductive now,” Reuben mentioned. “She’ll live out her days here. After that, we would appreciate the opportunity to breed again.”
“Red pandas can reach sexual maturity at eighteen months of age. It’ll only be another year until Scarlett at Australia Zoo will need to be transferred. Perhaps she is a good candidate for Melbourne Zoo, with an unrelated partner.”
“I would be agreeable to that,” Reuben confirmed. “Any unrelated male would do.”
“We do have capacity for two groupings,” Hunter mentioned. “That wouldn’t necessarily have to entail retaining our most recent litter.”
“Perhaps if you retained the male past the age of maturity, he could be paired with an unrelated breeding partner from elsewhere.”
I found myself zoning out, until the bloke from Cairns was talking.
“We’ve got the two females, yeah, Samira and Jhami, a pair of sisters born at Symbio. They were transferred earlier this year. Of course, we’d love to breed, but we know that, for the moment, we’ll retain the non-breeding pair.”
Zoom makes it difficult to feign that you’ve forgotten someone’s name. Rob has a great head of hair on him for his age. I reckon that he would have been quite the looker back in the day, although the Queensland sun has aged his skin.
“From my perspective, breeding Kumari at Tasmania Zoo is a priority. She’s currently unrepresented within the population.”
“Is Tenzing a genetically suitable breeding partner for her?” David wanted to know.
“Well, any male would be suitable.”
“We have the facilities to separate Pabu from the females,” Sam noted. “We’ve done that for contraceptive purposes before. I would have thought that Maiya and Krishnakala should be put into breeding placements. Their mother is a founder within the regional population, after all.”
“Symbio are without a female. They could be transferred there.”
“That would suit us.”
“Well, let’s plan for that, then,” Sam decided.
I continued to stare at my laptop screen, disconnected from the pleasant formalities of the meeting, which had nothing to do with me.
“Shifu at Mogo will need to be moved sooner rather than later.”
“We do have two exhibits,” Julie pointed out. “Especially with contraception, we can delay the move for a year or so.”
I was starting to think about the possibility of acquiring red panda for ourselves, but didn’t mention it.
“Let’s move onto the member reports. Auckland Zoo?”
“Our new Sumatran Tigers have arrived.”
Unable to hide his grin, Gerard showed some photos on his phone.
“They’ve got to spend a week in indoor quarantine, then we can let them out on exhibit.”
“That’s great, mate.”
“Nothing else for us this week, mate. The only thing is that I’ll be coming up to Sydney next week for the conference.”
“We’ve had a loss, our male Sumatran Tiger. We made the decision to put him down due to his health complications.”
“I’m sorry to hear that, Peter,” Amy responded.
“Hunter Valley Wildlife Park?”
“First things first, I’d like to also pass on my condolences to the team at Sydney.”
“We’ve been keeping busy, but no major developments.”
It’s a little strange to have Reuben in the carnies meeting.
“Nothing for us, mate.”
“I’m sorry to report that both of our male coatis have passed away,” Jimmy told us.
It seemed to be a day for losses, perhaps unexpectedly. Joel would have worked with those coatis, being a species within his department, but I didn’t recall ever speaking with him about them. I remembered that Sam had talked about housing coati in the new South American precinct at Taronga.
“That’s no good, mate.”
“Is there anything else we need to cover?”
Nobody said anything, instead answering with a chorus of headshakes.
“Alright, see you in Sydney next week.”
After the TAG meeting finished, I left for Patrick’s place. While driving over, thoughts of the zoo raced through my mind. The actual trip to Patrick’s place was a blur. A substance fell onto the windscreen. As I continued to drive, I realised that it was very lightly snowing, despite being November, and was almost tempted to pull over. For a few minutes the ground was white, although it very quickly melted away. I parked, getting out of the car with a shiver. Grace opened the front door, allowing me through into the house. She passed a drink into my hands, which I thanked her for, even though I already felt a little light-headed without needing an alcoholic buzz. I walked upstairs, to find him standing in the threshold of his bedroom, wearing a black suit.
“You look really, really handsome,” I praised, with a smile on my lips.
“Thank you. Listen, I’ve got something that I need to tell you.”
We both sat down, Patrick on the end of the bed and me on his desk chair. My heart thumped, uncertain.
“Mary’s parents, they live in Longford. Now that Frank’s out of the picture, she’ll need more help with the kids.”
“Is Sloane moving, with Joanna?”
“Yes, and I’ve decided that I will too.”
“So, you’re going to move to Launceston.”
“Yes, that’s what I’ve chosen to do. I think that’s the best. It’s the best for both of us.”
“That’ll be lovely, it’ll mean you’re closer to your dad.”
I had been caught off guard, and didn’t know how to keep the conversation flowing.
“What did you want to tell me?”
I almost didn’t want to say.
“Well, we’re opening the zoo on December 26.”
“Oh, that’s great.”
“You’ll be around, won’t you? I’d like you to come and see it when it’s all ready, if you can.”
“Yeah, of course I will. I’m so proud of you for everything. I really am.”
He started to well up, then pulled himself together. Patrick kissed me on the cheek. Grace took a photograph of both of us together, smiling at her phone.
“Beautiful,” she praised. “I’ll text that to you.”
It seemed strange, like the photo would be an anachronistic artefact. Patrick slipped out the front and got into the back seat. The car drove away. I tuck some strands of hair behind my ear. Gentle snowflakes fell. It would have been beautiful to get pictures outside, but it was too late now. I bid farewell to Grace, then drove home. Parking out the front, I walked inside. Mum greeted me with a smile, but I simply dropped myself onto the lounge beside her.
“Patrick is moving to Launceston.”
Mum sat forward.
She stroked her fingers through my hair.
Abbey Sim is the founder of Huldah Media. She is a creative writing, law and theology student who lives on the lands of the Dharug people in Sydney, Australia. Abbey has long had a passion for the weird and the wonderful of stories, sport and zoo animals. 'From the Wild' is her first anthology