I'm not crazy about locking up wild critters in zoos. But I understand there are some very good reasons for zoos: Keeping gene pools alive when the wild population is severely threatened, educating people about animals so they want to do more to save the wild ones, etc.
Lovely Daughter #1, the biology major/med school student, calls these critters "charismatic megafauna." That is, big life forms (on the scale from one-celled creatures on up) that appeal to people. Like this cute little guy. I can't remember what it is--not a gerenuk or a dikdik, that I know. Anybody recognize this faux-hawked sweetie pie?:
And these baby Giant River Otters, just one month old, with their eyes still closed like newborn kittens or puppies:
One of my favorites is the zoo's colony of Meerkats, which freak out when a plane goes overhead because it looks like a hawk to them:
(Insert picture of pretty Hibiscus flower here, just to break things up):
Who doesn't love a Zebra? I mean, really! They are just about the most gorgeous thing on four legs:
Oops. I forget what this is. Ibex? Goat on steroids? Anyhoo, an impressive set of horns, there:
BTW: "Horns" are kept year after year; "antlers" are shed yearly. So there ya go.
I had fun watching people watch the animals. Folks seem much better behaved than in years past, when I can recall idiots banging on the glass, throwing things at the animals to get a reaction, etc. Our docent friend says that it's true; people are learning (finally!) how to be good zoo-goers.
The docent says people are invariably upset that the tigers are asleep. Tigers are almost always asleep. They snooze something like 20 hours a day.
This gorgeous bird is an Eagle Owl. He is huge--stands almost 2 feet tall. I remember at a swanky seaside resort outside Santa Barbara, I met a falconer handling an Eagle Owl. It flew around the grounds to scare the seagulls away from the patrons eating lunch outside. She told me this species of bird can kill a full-grown antelope by driving its talons right through its prey's skull. Yowza!
A giant tortoise. As we watched, he clambered out of his wading pool, over the rocky lip, and trotted off across the green grass. I've never seen a tortoise move so fast:
This tapir was trotting back and forth, then round and round, a large enclosure. He looked a little bored, poor baby:
But the elephants were having a great time. When we got to their new, multi-acre enclosure, the gals had just been let out of their barn. The keepers had hidden food treats all over the area, and the wrinkled darlings were running around like little girls at an Easter Egg hunt, looking for carrots tucked in hollow trees, cabbages under rocks, and such. It was adorable!
This beauty is some sort of vulture, of African origin, I think. Such lovely feathers. I like how the black and white patches play off the palest pinky-cream ones:
The zoo is beautifully landscaped. This was an area in the "Thailand" part of the park:
Can you see the snow leopard? It was snoozing right up against the front of its large enclosure, no more than five feet from out fingers. Magnificent!
Reptiles are not my cup of tea, but this one had awfully pretty markings:
Some of the prettiest markings, on some more charismatic megafauna: