For gardeners and plant lovers in general, we are often focused on that part of nature. But of course our natural habitats are filled with fauna not just flora. For those lucky enough to travel to various parts of the world that offer environments quite different than ours in temperate North America, they are offered the chance to see animals we won't see in our local environs. That is unless we visit a zoo. A friend and I did just that yesterday, visiting the small but interesting Oakland Zoo. Once a poorly run place, the zoo underwent a major makeover 20 years ago and is now one of the best small zoos in the country. A great emphasis was placed on creating natural environments for each animal and to give as space as possible for the larger mammals.
So, here a few photos from the day, each with a comment where appropriate.
Blue and Yellow Macaw. Many are familiar with this wonderfully colorful bird. Macaws are very smart birds. They are unfortunately being captured in the wild in great numbers, to supply the pet trade. Among the many truly awful aspects of this is that these birds mate for life and never leave that partner even for a moment so living alone is greatly difficult for them.
Siamang. Native to Sumatra, they are the largest of the smaller apes. They spend most of their lives in the trees. When walking they keep their arms raised for balance. One curious note. Since they use their arms for swinging and moving in the trees, they carry objects with their feet.
Aldabra tortoise. Native to the Aldabra Islands, near the Seychelles Islands in the Indian ocean. Males can easily weigh 500 pounds.
Aldabra or Desert tortoise. Not sure which now (I wasn't taking notes) but this guy has the appearance of really motoring! Must be dinner time.
Supercroc! This prehistoric crocodile lived 110 million years ago, was 42 feet long and ate dinosaurs! It's Sarcosuchus imperator for you Latin geeks and it lived in what we now know as Africa.
If this guy looks like an otter but somehow different that's because he's a River otter. The face is a bit different and so is the coloring of the fur. They're just as playful and social as ocean otters and just as efficient as devouring fish. The photo below almost makes him look like a woodchuck but that I think is due to the slightly more flattened face.
Gila monster (I think). These colorful little lizards are Gila monsters (at least that's what the Diorama sign said). This photo doesn't do justice to how colorful they are, with dramatic spotting.
Although the exhibition sign just said Tiger, I think these girls (there were five females in the enclosure) are Bengal tigers. They looked quite healthy and reasonably content. It's a large enclosure, complete with a large pond with a waterfall, an open grassy area, a "cave" where they can get out of the elements and these platforms for sunning themselves.
Cats groom each other of course and that applies to all the big cats. Here one is licking and grooming its 'sister.' Somehow that simple act being performed by a lethal hunter is sort of surreal. Surreal too that we stood a mere 30 feet away from these awe inspiring creatures.
Malayan Flying foxes (fruit bats). These enormous bats, one of the world's largest, have up to a six foot wingspan and can weigh up to 2.2 pounds (that's extremely heavy for a bat). Though this isn't the greatest photo, it gives an idea of how big these bats are. They are native to Malaysia, the Philippines and Sumatra. One thing not commonly known about bats -- they are the only mammal that truly flies.
Goats. The children's petting zoo had a number of very colorful goats and we decided to pay a visit. I love goats (hey, I'm a Capricorn) and it was great fun to hang out with them. I somehow imagine the creator saying "Okay, I need an animal that can live almost anywhere, including very tall mountains, is impervious to the cold, eats anything and yet can be domesticated and is safe around kids. Oh, I got it -- goats."
Squirrel monkey. Though this isn't the best shot I did want to include a picture of one of the cutest monkeys -- heck cutest animals on the planet period -- that you'll ever see. They're small, weighing only 2 pounds, but are very social and lively. While other monkeys are chilling, these guys are in perpetual motion.
Giraffe (reticulated). Interesting fact -- while the newborn of some large animals can be quite tiny, newborn giraffes are already 6 feet tall and weigh 100-150 pounds. They can stand, if a bit wobbly, in five minutes and feed after only 20 minutes. Offspring begin browsing for their own food in the first month, after which they stop nursing. It wasn't known how exactly giraffes communicate but recently scientists have discovered they use extremely low frequency 'rumbling' noises to communicate. These sounds can be heard over long distances.
Taveta golden weaver. These colorful birds hail from eastern coastal Africa and are very active. They are closely related to sparrows.
This 'odd duck' is actually a duck, specifically a White-faced Whistling Duck. I couldn't get my camera to focus properly but figured a slightly blurry photo was better than none. Also native to Africa, it behaves more like a goose or swan than a typical duck. A bit vain, they spend a lot of their day preening.
Hammerkop. Again, I couldn't get this unusual looking African bird to stay still and thus this is the best photo I could manage. The crest on the back of the head mirrors the stout beak and produces
the hammerhead shape from which the species takes its name. Hammerkops feed on frogs, fish and invertebrates.
Yes, this is a Spotted Hyena (two side by side). A few interesting things you may not have guessed about these carnivores. A hyena clan is a stable community of related females, among which
unrelated males reside for varying periods. Within the clan there is a
separate dominance hierarchy for each sex. The highest-ranking females
and her descendants are dominant over all other animals (thus it's a kind of matriarchy). Hyenas are very smart and well organized, skills they use to hunt much larger prey.