Tacoma won’t soon forget him, just as the lady walruses in his tank won’t soon forget the way he whistled, bellowed and belched on cue, making them swoon with pinniped desire.
We’ll always remember the way he flashed his ’stache with the panache of William Howard Taft. And the way he zipped and flipped his 3,450-pound frame underwater with the grace of a mermaid, inspiring obese citizens all over the 253.
We’ll think of him each time we straddle the back of the E.T. replica on the Point Defiance Carousel and take him for a spin.
E.T. left us 33 years of memories to treasure. Perhaps the Hollywood character he was named for said it best at the end of the movie when he pointed his glowing finger at young Elliott’s forehead and promised: “I’ll … be … right … here!”
Now please pass the jumbo box of Kleenex, and pardon the sound of a big Nose blowing.
Don’t worry. We’ll get over it.
Or at least we would if those beautiful beasts at the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium would ever stop dying.
Too much grim reaping: There’s no question the zoo has been on quite a death streak lately.
A red wolf named Havana expired in February at age 11, which for her species would make her older than Fidel Castro. And speaking of old ladies, a lemon shark named Lizzie, believed to be the oldest of her kind in any North American aquarium, went to the great shark tank in the sky in December.
Don’t get us started on all the countless, nameless starfish who have caught wasting disease and kicked the bucket. Or Glacier, the 19-year-old polar bear who’s hanging on to dear life while getting chemotherapy for advanced liver cancer.
At this rate, by Christmas time there won’t be any critters left to see, except maybe the mole rats. And who wants to look at them?
Let your imaginations run wild: Some of you incurable optimists will say this is just the circle of life — hakuna matata, and all that jazz.
But we won’t settle for that excuse here in Schnoz land.
When Point Defiance animals die, it’s devastating for their trainers and staff, and heartbreaking for the schoolchildren of the South Sound.
More to the point, it’s a real downer for Snores Truly. We go there to escape the cares of life.
Imagine a zoo where animal mortality is a thing of the past. A place where the zoo poobahs have no nagging ethical concerns, like whether to send the last two geriatric elephants to a sanctuary or keep them behind bars to live out their days. A place where scientists have no silly distractions, like playing matchmaker so the critters will fall head over paws in love and breed in captivity.
Imagine a zoo where millions of dollars in taxpayer bond funds aren’t spent on food, medical treatments, secure exhibit space and aphrodisiacs.
Imagine giving all the zoo animals their parole papers and a bus pass.
Imagine. It’s easy if you try.
What if Point Defiance were to switch to:
▪ Fiberglass statues! If fake leopards and giraffes are good enough for zoo visitors in Myanmar, they should be good enough for us.
▪ Animatronics! Think about the Jungle Cruise ride at DisneyLand, or those cool robot dinosaurs that invaded the Tacoma Dome last year.
▪ Holograms and digital light shows! One company has pioneered realistic computer graphic whales, dolphins and other animals. It’s like a zoo-sized version of the aquarium channel on your TV at home! (Or like Zoolights all year long.)
▪ Stuffed animals. No, we’re not talking about taxidermy, though some Third World zoos have resorted to stuffing their dead animals and putting them back on exhibit. We’re talking about Beanie Babies, teddy bears and other plushies, posed in a natural habitat.
With any of these options, zoo visitors would never again be frustrated by inconsiderate animals retreating to their caves for privacy or shade. And the clouded leopard cubs would stay young and adorable forever!
Critics may scoff, claiming that Point Defiance visitors would never pay to see lifeless exhibits or static displays.
To which we reply: Have you never heard of Never Never Land?