Hee! The latest Listener interviews Jin the Otter after her month at large. In case the article disappears, I've put the text under a cut, along with the very cute chatty otter picture that was in the Listener but not on their site.
Cry freedom: interview with Jin the Otter
by Fiona Rae
Jin the otter is back at Auckland Zoo after nearly a month on the run. She gave the Listener an exclusive interview.
Welcome home, Jin, how do you feel? Well, Fiona, a lot of different emotions, actually. I’m glad to see my mates here at the zoo, of course, but I thought if I just laid low for long enough, people might forget and I’d be able to live the life I want to.
So, what was the original plan? The three of us were trying to get to Western Springs Park, because Burma the elephant told us there’s plenty of fish there and also birds’ nests [for eggs], but dang it all, the other two were nabbed by The Man and I got washed out to sea. Bit of a botch-up, really.
How long had you been planning the escape? Quite a while, actually. Burma’s walk in the park in 2004 got us talking and when they moved us to the new enclosure we saw an opportunity. I know it seems like a cushy life in the zoo, but frankly we were getting pretty sick of always "hunting" for food in that damn floating log. We tried to keep the keepers happy by acting surprised every time, but it got old real fast. I’m with Jane Goodall on this one, it has to be meaningful.
That was a huge swim across the harbour. I knew I needed to be at my peak fitness for the escape and loaded up on carbos and kept myself hydrated. Hamish Carter is a bit of a hero of mine; I think there’s otter somewhere in his whakapapa. I’d also been sneaking over to the sea-lions’ enclosure at night and doing some training. They don’t mind, as long as you don’t pee in the pool.
What was life like in the wild? Well, I won’t lie and say it was all easy pickings and crab on a platter, but I got by. I’m down to my fighting weight now. The younger ones [at the zoo] had been telling me I needed to slim down.
You’re not the first otter to escape from a New Zealand zoo. Yeah, I heard about Clyde from Wellington, but he didn’t get very far, just under a house in Newtown. Amateur. I did hear he was sent to a maximum-security zoo in Aussie, though.
There was quite an operation mounted to recapture you. Did you see the helicopter? We were hoping to slip away quietly, although we should have known after the fuss caused by Maya the red panda in 2000. The bastards shot her with a tranquilliser gun. But helicopters? Jeez, you’d think I was a serial killer or something.
Well, there were fears that you might be a threat to our native wildlife. I couldn’t possibly comment.
Let’s talk about the media coverage. Were you surprised at the level of interest? Well, no, it’s one of those classic otter-interest stories, isn’t it? In these media-saturated times, people think you don’t exist if you’re not on TV. I was half expecting Susan Wood to doorstep me in Devonport, that’s why I high-tailed it to Rangitoto. Had a nice little beachfront set-up, too – you wouldn’t get something like that in Auckland under a million. Those keepers love the limelight, though. They trade off our image on that show The Zoo and, you know, we’re not getting a cut of that. I’m getting my lawyer on to it as soon as I’m out of quarantine. And I’ll tell you what: if I see another pun on the word "otter" in a headline, I might just throw up. "You really otter"? "Need a lot of Jin"? "The trail gets otter"? Please.
So now you’re back at the zoo, but it sounds as if you’d rather be out there, free. Well, someone said, I forget who, that we feel freedom when we escape, even if it’s from the frying pan into the fire. So it’s a little like that for me. Of course, there are creature comforts here and I’ve got some plans to get the story into development, maybe shop it around.
Take it to a magazine, you mean? Well, there’s already the exclusive photoshoot with the Woman’s Weekly. That’s why I wouldn’t pose when I was taken off the boat. 20/20 are very keen, and I reckon I’d out-rate Nicky. I’m also thinking more along the lines of a film deal – like Chicken Run, but with otters. It’s about time we had some attention. Those media-slut meerkats have been hogging the spotlight for far too long.