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The Accidental Zoo

(Morelos Park, Tijuana, Mexico)

It started one night In the Bambi nightclub on Avenida Revolución, when an abused albino python was seized from one of the strippers.

Then there was the day, soon after, a burly border traffic cop showed up with a jaguar kitten in one hand and a Bengal tiger cub in the other.

And then Gonzalez, the street trader, opened his coat and a dozen cherry-headed parrots flew out to form the core of the first flock.

And so opened the accidental zoo, a makeshift menagerie, animals landing like so much contraband, brought in by police, border guards, bemused citizens.

148 acres of haphazard enclosures, tossed together from materials at hand: chain-link, patio trellis, spare breeze-blocks, a tire swing.

And still they came: the possum plucked from the verge of Highway 5, a macaw escaped from a junior member of a murderous cartel,

a caiman who slithered from a hotel’s swimming pool, the camel rescued from a Mexican circus, hummingbirds found stuffed up someone’s sleeves.

Animals hidden in roof-racks, wheel hubs, boxes of coffee (the smell deters sniffer dogs). Animals in glove compartments or hidden under hats.

Where else would you see a Xoloitzcuintli* a Mexican hairless dog, sacred to the Aztecs, cuddled by a trio of trafficked spider monkeys?

Not the San Diego zoo, just over the border with its hundred-bucks-a-ticket, with its chorus line of pink flamingos and penguins in a mini refrigerated arctic.

But this little sister zoo, in the lea of the Tijuana hills, with the retired donkey who spent his life on a tourist cart, painted in zebra strips and wearing a sombrero.

*Pronounced: (show-low-its-QUEENT-ly)

Amy Wack

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