"" Writer's Wanderings: The Secret Garden

Saturday, October 09, 2004

The Secret Garden

In the middle of all the neon and noise, all the glitz and grandeur, we found an oasis of nature captured in a quiet shaded garden--a secret, hidden in the heart of Las Vegas.

While in Vegas this week, we stopped in at the Mirage to see Siegfried and Roy's Secret Garden. The secret is a mini zoo on beautifully landscaped hotel property. Who would have thought! There are spacious areas for the animals to play and roam and three huge pools for the dolphins to exercise and show off.

The dolphins are the first attraction as you enter. There are 11 dolphins, three of which were born in the Secret Garden. The puppy dogs of the ocean, they were ready to play and display their talents. About every hour there is a team of behavioral scientists that play with the dolphins. It is not a choreographed show but they do jumps, spins, tail walks, flips, and retrieve objects in the water. I assume it takes the boredom out of being confined even if the pools are large.

Next we entered the shaded garden area and received an audio wand to hear the commentary given by Siegfried and Roy about their animals. I always thought of the pair as performers but our visit changed my mind. They are more conservationists than performers. You can feel the concern for the animals in their commentary. The white lions were first. They are unreal. Almost a pure white with a huge soft mane framing their faces, they sat regally on the rocks, blinking a hello and acting as though they knew how good they looked. They were about 8 feet in length and had to weigh at least 400 pounds. I was surprised to see two males together but apparently the males bond together to protect the pride.

A sleek black panther and a couple of cheetahs were in the next display. A little mouse ran out from one of the enclosed areas and a cheetah paced impatiently waiting for his "playmate" to come back in.

The next area held an Asian elephant, Gildah. Asian elephants are smaller than African elephants and have light markings across the nose area and around the head. She munched her hay and occasionally dipped it in the water before raising it to her mouth--kind of like chips and dip. She was looking good for a 56 year old.

Next we admired the beauty of the white tiger. Our commentary told us that the stripes of the tiger are like fingerprints--no two tigers have the same pattern.

The real show however was around the corner where three baby leopards, born in March, played with each other as well as a couple of caretakers inside with them. They would hide behind some clumps of high grass, one paw separating the blades for a better view, and then pounce on their sibling as s/he came by. An unsuspecting caretaker would find himself wearing a leopard hat all of a sudden if he wasn't careful. Toys were strewn all over the area to be picked up and discarded on a whim. Bundles of energy, they entertained us for quite a while.

You can find information about this little secret at www.siegfriedandroy.com/animals .

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