The Zoo

From Lee Daniel Quinn, this tale was posted on the groaners listserv. The author is unknown.

One day in mid-February the keepers at the Bronx Zoo in New York City where all agog. A female camel named Matilda gave birth to her first offspring. It was a male, and when the keeper saw it, he immediately called in the chief zoologist, J. Bradford Symington. (He was dubbed “Brady” by his fellow workers who thought his name sounded too “stuffy.”)

He left his office in a bad mood. He had just been putting the touches on his doctor’s thesis, “The Psychology of the Naming of Zoo Animals for Public Appreciation.” The good man had wracked his brain for a line of study that hadn’t been done to death when a keeper mentioned that a swan named Leda had made the best adjustment to zoo life and was the largest and most beautiful of all the birds in her cage. The keeper swore that the bird was so proud and happy with her name that she flourished.

Brady laughed it off and when on about his work. That was, until another keeper made the same remark about a tiger who was named Burning Bright. Again, Burning Bright grew to a sleek, well-muscled, adult male who attracted all the attention in his enclosure. Over the years, as Brady sought his thesis subject, this same event happened three more times; with Pogo the kangaroo, Winnie the bear, and even a hyena that some wit had named Henny Youngman. All not only thrived, but became the dominant animal in the group.

Finally, Brady decided to write his thesis on this unusual fact. The only thing that was holding him up was the discovery of at least one more example.

But, getting back to Brady’s interruption, he walked over to the camel hall and found about a dozen keepers and vets gawking over a pitifully small newborn camel. “How foolish,” he thought, “the poor mother was blocked from her offspring by this human hoard! I’ll have to do something about that.”

Bustling through the crowd and dispersing the with a sharp, “Get along, now!” he crouched down next to the little beast and, along with the keeper-in-charge, examined this animal that had taken him away from his thesis.

“See there, Brady, do you see that!” said George Tukos, the house veterinarian. “This poor little beast should have two distinct humps, and he has none. He was born premature and so different — I don’t think he will make it — poor tyke.”

“Well,” said Brady, “this IS unusual. I would suggest that you clear out all the crowd and let the mother do what she can, and you do whatever you can to help her. And, I will see that the pair are undisturbed by closing off this section and keeping the press away.”

Returning to his office, Brady did what he promised, and then dismissed the whole thing from his mind. He was soon deep in the minutia of zoo staff work.

Two days later, when he came in to work and found George waiting for him. He looked worried. “The little no-humped creature is barely holding his own. I’ve given him shots of vitamins and such, but it doesn’t look good.”

Brady replied, “Well my morning is free, let’s go over and see him.” And the two men walked in silence for ten minutes to get to the small building that the vet used to treat animals in difficulty. During the walk, he kept trying to think of something that might help. Twice he was on the brink of an idea, but it slipped away in his crowded mind. Then it hit him! What an idea. Not only may it help the little deformed camel, but — at the same time — it could be the solution to his own problem!

When he entered the small cage containing the newborn and his mother, he said to George, “Leave me alone with the animals for a while.” This startled George, but he was the boss!

George went back to his office and, without thinking, snapped on the cage’s TV monitor. The small screen showed Brady kneeling down to the little beast which was unsteady on its feet. It looked as if he were whispering in the little one’s ear! Then he got up and went over to the mother and whispered in her ear too! Then, he left the cage and went into George’s office and said, “I’m trying an experiment. You continue with your treatment and keep me informed if there is any change.”

The next morning, George reported that was a slight change for the better, and each subsequent day, the report got better until, after two weeks, the little animal was out of danger and was transferred to be among the other camels!

It rankled George that his boss — a paper pusher! — did something to cause a miracle cure. He couldn’t get anything out of Brady but a sly smile when he asked what he had done.

Now the press was called in. The science editors were intrigued with the story of the humpless camel and the zoo got great press coverage.

Eventually, the little tyke was well enough to be put on view to the public. Brady took complete charge of the event, even going so far as to order an engraved brass plaque for the little one’s cage with his name in bold black letters. It said “Humphrey, the Camel.”

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