Coriolanus Rowland's Guide to Pokémon Husbandry
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April 5th, 2012 (3:21 AM).
Gone. May or may not return.
The Misspelled Cyrpt
Pokémon for the Zoo
The zoological garden is a tradition that stretches back millennia; there were menageries in Rome and Babylon, and kings and potentates without number have put together collections of animals for their entertainment. However, adding Pokémon to the mix is often a dangerous move for the unwary; think of the Great Fire of Rome in AD 64, caused by an ill-starred attempt on Nero's part to add a pair of Charizard to his collection – or the collapse of the Rhodes Colossus in 226 BC, the work of a lone escaped Tyranitar.
It is obvious that there are some species that simply cannot be kept safely. We can add most of the dragons to these: Dragonite, Gyarados, Charizard, Garchomp and Hydreigon are all far too powerful to keep in the conventional sense. It is true that at least the first three of these species have been tamed (or perhaps 'rendered less wild' would be more accurate) by the reigning Indigo League Champion Lance Sørenson, the so-called Dragon Master, but it must be remembered that he is an exceptional case.
In addition to these species, we must add Tyranitar, the notoriously cantankerous and surprisingly small dinosaurian Pokémon; also Muk, which has an irritating habit of oozing through even small-mesh wire and subsequently engulfing visitors. I recall one zoo where they kept a Muk in a sealed glass container, which solved the issue; however, they could replenish neither its air nor its food, and consequentially it perished in the agonies of suffocation.
It seems there are plenty of Pokémon that one cannot keep – what of those that you can? The primary objective of the zoo is supposed to be to entertain, to research and to establish captive breeding populations for those creatures that are scarce in the wild; while such work is in theory to be commended, I shall pass over it here in favour of the way of thought that suggests a zoo ought to contain the biggest, most impressive and most beautiful animals, while keeping to a minimum of danger*.
How can one find a big, impressive Pokémon without it being dangerous? Even a small one could well kill a visitor if it felt like it; larger ones tend to be even more powerful, and less good-natured. This is a difficult question to answer, and my response to it after several years as a consultant in such matters is to build strong cages, don't encourage petting, and, if you can, get each visitor to sign an indemnity waiver as they enter the zoo. (I once knew someone who managed to get this trick into the ticket-buying process; fifty visitors a year arrived and never departed, and no one did a thing for four years, when the deaths stopped. Entirely coincidentally, that was when the zoo's Drapion died, apparently from a build-up of tooth fillings in its throat that choked it.)
Ultimately, what you want to consider is containability. A zoo Pokémon must, as has been mentioned, be large and impressive – and for your part, you must be able to contain it. Believe it or not, there are a few Pokémon that people will want to come and see that can be (relatively) safely held behind bars; it is with these, and a couple of the more tempting lethal ones, that I concern myself here.
Big, bad and dangerous to know, Krookodile (
) is the first truly big predator that we will cover in this book. Approximately the same size as a grizzly bear – discounting, of course, their long tail and gigantic mouth – they are the terror of the Unovan desert, roving alone over the dunes in search of distant prey. They also have the advantage of having markings over their eyes that greatly resemble sunglasses, and this, coupled with their general fearsomeness, makes them rather popular in zoos.
As ever, though, there is a caveat: Krookodile are highly carnivorous, and in the wild have a reputation for not letting prey go once they've seen it; should yours escape, then it will most likely kill at least one visitor. It may regard the crowds of fleeing humans as something of a game laid on for its entertainment, and endeavour to see precisely how many it can kill; unless you particularly enjoy having your source of revenue closed down, you really ought to try and avoid this.
Of course, a Barrier-reinforced enclosure is a must, but there are further complications. Krookodile is a Dark type, and Barrier is a Psychic-type move; it will break through the bars far faster than other creatures of equivalent strength owing to the type advantage. In addition to this, its proximity continually wears down the Barrier even when it is not directly attacking it, and it will have to be reinforced frequently.
If your Krookodile does get out, though, you will have to take a different tactic. They are not overburdened with brainpower, and if you can present them with something confusing they will stop dead to ponder it. Given their extraordinary eyesight and ability to zoom in its vision, optical illusions work well; anything that appears to vibrate or wobble when stared at will make them completely forget what they were doing, and induce a trance-like state. Keeping the image in front of the Pokémon's eyes, you can then simply walk it back into its enclosure and patch up the fence. Do take care to remove the image afterwards, though, or they will remain staring at it until they starve to death.
Like crocodiles, Krookodile can go a long time without food; the less they are fed, however, the more torpid they will become, until eventually they enter a state of suspended animation and wait for more bountiful times. On the other hand, feeding them too much will fill them with enough energy that they will start wanting to chase things, especially visitors and unfortunate zookeepers. A steady stream of small meals is the way to go, with each meal being composed entirely of red meat – or interns, which are notably cheaper.
Strength is key. You will want essentially a flat dirt area with perhaps a tree or two to break the monotony and provide shade, but otherwise furnishings are unnecessary; the only real consideration with Krookodile is keeping them firmly behind bars. Do not make the common mistake of adding pools to its enclosure; it is not a crocodile, however much it might resemble one. Water makes it angry, and you would not like it when it is angry.
Around two metres long from forehead to the hindquarters; double this if you include the long snout and tail.
Being members of the crocodile family, Krookodile are naturally long-lived; this is further compounded by their great size. They regularly reach seventy, and on occasion have been known to reach a century. Growth rings in the teeth of one Krookodile in the Castelia Zoo, known by staff as 'Methuselah', show that it is at least 120 years old, and possibly older.
There is not much entertainment to be had in exhibiting Sandile, which are not nearly as impressive or indeed as active as Krookodile; they are also far more timid, and will spend most of their time hiding under the sand. If you wanted a good compromise between safety and awe factor, I would suggest Krokorok, but I would venture to suggest that he who chooses Krokorok is taking the coward's way out.
Inadvisable. The female is fiercely protective of her eggs, and Sandile are possessed of emitting a certain shrill squeak that alerts all nearby adults of the species to the fact that they are in danger – and being so very nervous, are rather prone to using it. Since Krookodile have excellent hearing, entering the exhibit might well become impossible until the Sandile mature to Krokorok, at which point the parents will probably stalk and kill them. I am told that Krookodile breeders suffer a great many sleepless nights.
They are fairly common in zoos worldwide, and there are always new-bred captive specimens to be had via the zoo exchange network.
Three tons of stone with arms, legs and teeth, Golem (
) are indisputably one of the single hardest species to contain in the world. Capable of breaking through almost any wall, burrowing through concrete and leaping over fences via explosive propulsion, they are a formidable threat to the stability of any zoo environment. For once, though, this is not because they are liable to eat guests; Golem are exclusively herbivorous, and rather gentle. No, the real danger is that their armour is so very strong that they do not care at all what obstacles lie in their path, and will cheerfully walk through walls and roll down streets, freeing other animals, crushing people and causing an enormously expensive amount of damage.
By this point, you are very probably wondering what has possessed me to include Golem in this book; it seems untameable, uncontainable, and generally undesirable. The answer is, of course, that properly-kept Golem are possibly the biggest source of money that your zoo will ever house. Once a year, the great spherical shell that houses their soft body collapses into its constituent boulders, to allow for further growth. (Golem steadily increase in size as they age, much like lobsters; also like lobsters, they appear to display negligible senescence.) The important thing here is that Golem shells are composed of a mixture of granite, calaverite and sylvanite – the latter two being gold-containing compounds. I doubt I need to spell out what this means for your zoo's finances, but I shall just point out that in this sort of situation, experience at embezzlement does come in handy.
Actually, I recall one instance where I was called in as a consultant for London Zoo, and managed to catch someone red-handed in the act of stealing gold ore; as I remember, I didn't hand him over to the authorities, but I did have to take an abrupt and lengthy holiday immediately afterwards.
The renowned Professor Oak holds that Golem and its relatives subsist solely on rocks, but has perhaps neglected to consider how much nourishment an animal can actually derive from stone. They do eat pebbles, it is true, but only to supplement their shells and to help grind the tough, fibrous plants they live on.
One would expect strength to be key here, but it is in fact cunning. Golem are rather dim-witted, and tend to solve most problems by rolling into them. They should be kept in pits, the sides of which are comprised of steep slopes set at an angle of precisely 56°. A tall, sturdy fence should be put up around the rim of this pit; while useless for containment purposes, it does prevent guests from falling in, which tends to be make for bad PR.
The system works on the premise that should the Golem attempt to roll up the slope, they will lose momentum and roll back down; should they attempt to roll through the slope, they will find themselves directed inexorably upwards (and then back down again) by the gradient. Some Golem are, of course, intelligent enough to realise that they can climb the slope with the aid of their strong claws and limbs, and in cases such as these you would do well to take a leaf from the books of such notable rulers as Idi Amin and Joseph Stalin, and have them executed as an example to the others.
They grow continually throughout their lives, but the shell-shedding process, which involves not only removing their outer carapace but the rocky lining of their throat, tends to kill a great many of them. Consequently, it is unlikely that you will ever see one above six or seven feet tall.
They tend not to make it past fifty years, though certain specimens have been recorded as up to one millennium. It seems that if they avoid illness and shedding-related fatalities, their lifespans are more or less unlimited.
Golem are one of those Pokémon that react peculiarly to the energy fields of a Poké Ball, and when in the possession of a Trainer must therefore be traded to evolve; however, in their natural state (which, in a zoo, they will be) they mature naturally from Geodude through Graveler to Golem over the course of six years.
Haphazard, to say the least. Being perfectly spherical with stubby limbs and no external genitalia makes copulation almost impossible for Golem, though it has to be said that watching them try is very entertaining. It resembles a game of self-propelled bowls, and usually results in at least one broken limb on the part of one participant.
Amusing as it may be, it is best to keep the sexes separate until they shed their shells – when, soft and fleshy, they can successfully mate without risk of injury.
Geodude are found worldwide in large quantities, and so all members of their family are relatively inexpensive. The real cost is in the housing – or, if you live in Northern Europe, where the Gigalith family have created a a Golem-free zone, the price of importing creatures that are tragically prone to scuttling cargo ships and destroying freight planes.
The last surviving giant marsupial of Australia, Kangaskhan (
) is a familiar fixture in zoos and so-called 'Safari Zones' worldwide, where her massive bulk, imposing presence and surprising agility have made her as popular as the elephant or the lion. She is also, incidentally, the only Pokémon that I find holds any real attraction for me; my first ever experiment was conducted on a Kangaskhan, and yielded the valuable information that, deprived of any progeny to care for, these creatures do in fact seize the nearest smaller animal and maintain their sanity by pretending it is their child. (I think perhaps three weeks was longer than my wife would have liked the experiment to continue, but as I later told her, she had made an invaluable contribution to science.)
Kangaskhan are the largest species of kangaroo, and have forsaken the more familiar hop of their smaller cousins in favour of drastically increasing their bulk. Their size means that they lack all predators save the likes of Allan Quartermain; clinical trials have shown that bullets of a surprisingly large calibre simply lodge harmlessly in their skin and muscle. In fact, they hardly even feel anything below a .455 – though an overzealous assistant of mine did discover that most rocket-propelled grenades cause them serious injury. I believe it was at around this time that we had to leave the zoo.
Kangaskhan is a surprisingly peaceful creature, as long as her young is left alone, and will not give the cautious zookeeper too much trouble. However, as with many human single mothers, the pressure of looking after her baby will get to her at times, and she will abandon it as far away from herself as possible while she spends a few days letting off steam by means of senseless violence and occasional heavy alcoholism. This is actually the basis for an interesting phenomenon explored at greater length in the 'Breeding' section, but for now I shall content myself with cautioning you not to allow any alcoholic beverages near the Kangaskhan enclosure, or she will stop at nothing to get at them.
Exclusively herbivorous. A large proportion of their bulk is gut, for the digestion of the tough shrubs they habitually eat.
Though their large size means they need a certain amount of space, I do not recommend you give them too much, or they may end up not finding their young again after abandoning them – which has detrimental effects on both mother and child.
Seven or eight feet tall, though the herd matriarch often reaches nine.
Thirty to forty years.
Khubb evolve into Kangaskhan slowly during the third year of their life, if not abandoned. However, if the mother fails to take them back after a few days, their bodies rapidly degenerate owing to a lack of the essential nutrients they gain from their mother's milk. The skin flakes from their face, as does the majority of the muscle; after a few days, most of their skull is exposed, and the necrosis has spread across their body, leaving it brown and decaying. This form is known as a Cubone, and is a famous looter of graves for bones to use as weapons; oddly enough, it does not die, but evolves further into a beast known as Marowak, which is ninety per cent grave earth and ten per cent nightmare fuel. In order to ensure your visitors actually return for a second visit, or indeed to prevent them being stalked and killed, you may wish to ensure that any unattended Khubb are returned to their mothers before they begin to display any symptoms of necrosis.
No male Kangaskhan has ever been discovered. They appear to reproduce solely by parthenogenesis, though they seem to have unusually labile DNA that means there is always a little genetic variation between them and their offspring. As for breeding a Marowak; well, at the time of writing, no one has yet dared to try.
Easy enough. Kangaskhan are so common in zoos and safari parks across the world, and so readily bred, that plenty are available on the exchange programme.
Large, spectacular, and incredibly dangerous is the theme of this chapter, and Galvantula (
) does not buck the trend. With a maximum legspan of nine feet, they are capable of tackling prey as large as an Unovan hippopotamus – though they rarely attack directly. They belong to the trap-laying family of spiders rather than the hunting, and prefer to play with their food before eating it.
It is inevitable that your Galvantula will fill their enclosure with their characteristic pale yellow webs, and so I must recommend full-body insulation for the keeper who looks after them: each web is connected via a series of slender strings to the Galvantula's main nest, where it sits and waits to feel the vibrations of whatever hapless creature stumbles into one of the traps. This in itself would not be cause for insulation, except that Galvantula's response to these vibrations is to send pulses of electricity down the lines, repeatedly electrocuting the hapless victim in the web.
At this point, the spider likes to emerge from hiding to watch its prey twitch; it seems that it enjoys the convulsions the electrical discharge induces. For this reason, Galvantula also take pleasure in watching interpretive dance, although they do tend to assume that the dancers are trapped prey and therefore fair game to eat. There is even one specimen in Antwerp that appears to have some appreciation of ballet, though this seems to have arisen from the fact that it has lived exclusively on swan for its entire life. Attempts by dancers' unions to have it put down – or at least barred from the theatres – have failed; nicknamed 'Danserverslinder', or
, it has become something of a national icon, much beloved of the public for no adequately explained reason.
They aren't fussy. Once their prey is finally dead, they inject concentrated enzymes into them and reduce their insides to a drinkable consistency. If you overfeed them they will build up a larder of stored corpses, which tends to cause nightmares in the public and subsequent loss of revenue; therefore, I recommend one Royal Bengal tiger per week per group of three. If you belong to that group of people who don't have ready access to large quantities of illegally-imported Royal Bengal tigers, I suggest cows.
Galvantula are excellent climbers and very capable diggers, and can hang from almost any surface; for this reason, they must be kept behind plate glass, or they will certainly make their way out when they tire of the scenery. Males are solitary, but females will happily live in groups of three or four, ideal for display.
Up to nine feet across the legs.
Like many tarantulas, they are rather long-lived for an arthropod; they take eleven years to fully mature, and females may live for many years afterwards. (Males die soon after mating, and so do not often survive past five.) The oldest on record died at the age of thirty-four, but most live for eighteen to twenty years.
Joltik take a year or two to develop into Galvantula. During this childhood period, though, they are much more active and characterful – even displaying signs of affection. Unfortunately, this prompts some to buy them as house pets, with the predictable result that in eighteen months' time they end up dancing the electric tarantella hanging from the ceiling of their attic.
As simple as introducing a male to the enclosure. It will mate with each female in turn, then attempt to leave. At this point, it is probably best to put it down, as it will slow down, lose its hair and perish within a month, its life's work accomplished. There are a great many retired men who I wish would follow the same principle; I intend to do so myself on completion of this book.
They are found throughout Unova, though the fossil record shows a sister species once existed in Iceland. No one is entirely certain why this species died out; it was larger, faster, more cunning and longer-lived than its Unovan counterpart, and the top Icelandic predator. The prevailing theory at present is that it got bored.
The third Unovan predator of the list is also, surprisingly, the least dangerous. Druddigon (Bucerebrum gargouille) is naturally a lethargic creature, being a very primitive species of dragon that lacks the warm blood of its more advanced cousins (think of Dragonite or Salamence, for instance). Its 'wings' are in fact thermoregulatory devices similar to the famous sail of
or the plates of
– the predecessors of the wings of present-day dragons and Dragon-types.
Because it spends so much of its time warming itself in the sun, Druddigon is only active in the afternoon, when it is capable of moving at speed to chase down prey. For the rest of the day, it will sit on its haunches at the highest point it can find, wings spread and head lowered in the pose that has since been adopted as that of the Gothic gargoyle. It can remain utterly immobile like this for hours on end – though if a large enough crowd gathers, many specimens like to jerk suddenly into life and leap forwards, roaring loudly. It is best to keep the elderly and those with cardiac conditions away from Druddigon's quarters.
Though usually placid (after becoming habituated to their keepers, some specimens will even consent to being fed by hand) Druddigon can be roused to an extraordinary state of rage if something angers them. While under the bloodlust, as it is referred to in the business, they will attempt – and very usually succeed – to destroy everything they can find, including (but not limited to) the furnishings of their enclosure, the walls of their enclosure, their keepers, the guests, the other animals and, if you happen to be on-site, you. Since their natural tolerance for pain is dramatically increased during this state, they are almost unstoppable, and the only way to do so is either to kill them or to break their limbs.
Thankfully, this state may easily be avoided. All you have to do is avoid annoying the Druddigon. This means not coming too close to it when it wants to be alone, not allowing guests to crowd around the enclosure when it is trying to sleep, not feeding it too little, not feeding it too much, keeping any annoying biting insects away from it, remembering to serve its food at precisely the same temperature as its body, not staring into its eyes, not baring your teeth in its presence, keeping it cool in summer and warm in winter, and making sure that no other animal ever upstages it. If you avoid these minor inconveniences, then there should be no problems whatsoever.
Anything with a pulse. Not being particularly intelligent, Druddigon tends to let its stomach do the thinking and will happily attack even enemies many times its size.
Whatever you use to contain it, a Druddigon under the bloodlust will break it; consequently, it is best to use its natural laziness against it, and make its enclosure as comfortable as possible. Make sure it can be higher than everyone else, preferably on an imposing rock, and it will be loath to move.
Five feet at the shoulder, and about nine over all.
As with most Dragon-types, Druddigon are naturally long-lived, typically maturing by the age of thirty and reaching one hundred and twenty before dying.
Owing to their sandpaper-like skin, Druddigon avoid mating if at all possible; this is probably the cause of their rarity. If you want to breed them, I suggest keeping a fire extinguisher handy; the friction tends to cause them to catch fire.
They are to be found throughout Europe, in the mountainous areas favoured by their species. Occasionally, they turn up in cities, which, like rock doves and peregrines falcons, they seem to mistake for cliffs. These sorts of mistakes usually have tragic consequences, like Madinat az-Zahra or Pompeii.
You may choose to disagree with me here. After all, if there is one Scolipede loose in the zoo and no one knows where it is, it does keep both guests and staff on their toes, which may be ideal if you don't wish them to linger.
The Thinking Man's Guide to Destroying the World
The Rocket Case
The Rocket Revival
Neither Here Nor There
Coriolanus Rowland's Guide to Pokémon Husbandry
Robin Goodfellow's Christmas Carol
Stranger Than Fiction
My Trip to the End of Time, by Pearl Gideon
A Smell of Petroleum Pervades Throughout
For information about A Grand Day Out, a bizarre short story in video game form, click
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