Laura and Lee See What's New at the Zoo

May 16, 2000

This trip report is going to be a little different...no pictures!!!

Lee and I had some free time one afternoon and were in need of a break, so we took a mid-week late afternoon trip to the World-Famous San Diego Zoo. (You can't just say the San Diego Zoo, you know...it is the WORLD-FAMOUS San Diego Zoo. :-) )

It was spur of the moment, and so we didn't take a camera...and so of course we could've gotten LOTS of really cool animal pictures. Sigh.

(Note to animal lovers...much of the following is tongue-in-cheek, and does not necessarily represent our true opinion of some of these animals and their struggle for continued survival...but on the other hand it might. :-) )

It was 2:30 by the time we arrived, and as we had hoped, most of the school groups and tourists had gone home by then. So we had many of the exhibits to ourselves, or without too many other people around.

We went down Tiger River first, and saw the Fishing Cat (awake and active, but not fishing) , and the tapir (boring). And then we got up close and personal with a VERY large tiger...snoozing just about 4 feet away from us (four feet and 4" of glass, that is. :-) ). Wow. I don't think I've ever seen one that close - they are HUGE. And me with no camera. That sight alone made the whole trip to the zoo worthwhile...but there was more to come!

Near the tiger was something called the "Slow Loris" - which is equipped with toxic scent glands. I've known a few people like that... :-)

From there we passed into the area called "Ituri Forest". The okapis were about as exciting as the tapirs, but then we came to Hippo Beach. The mom and baby were on exhibit - sleeping in their tank with baby's head resting on mom's back so he (she?) didn't have to raise the head much to breathe. Amazing the way their tank has a large convenient rock for them to stand on which is close to the front of the tank so that people can see them... :-)

There's an exhibit which is home to two kinds of monkeys and some river otters. We love watching the otters - as Lee says: "There otter be otters" - and today we got quite a good show. There was one otter rolling around on the streambank, and two monkeys were sneaking up on him. Maybe they were playing "tag", because after that the otter was obviously "it" and went into the water and started chasing one of the monkeys. The monkey was swinging on the tree limbs staying just out of reach. The otter tried walking across one of the tree limbs but wasn't very adept at it - those feet don't wrap around branches very well! They were having a great time, and were a lot of fun to watch.

We passed by the bongos - "Masters of the Forest" according to the sign. We don't think so...

We reached the Giant Panda Research Station not long before 3:00 when the pandas were scheduled to go off exhibit. The line wasn't too long and was moving pretty well. In case you haven't heard, a baby panda was born at the Zoo last August - the first cub born in the U.S. to survive more than 4 days. Her name is "Hua Mei" (pronounced Wah-May), which means "China USA". She's only been out on exhibit for a few months - which has really boosted zoo attendance. :-)

Neither of the two adult pandas was visible at the time, but Hua Mei was up in her usual place on the sleeping platform in one of the trees, doing what she does best - sleeping. She looked more like a large beanie baby than anything else. :-) (We were back at the Zoo again several days later in the morning, and Hua Mei was actually awake and moving around a bit - playing with a bamboo stalk and making motions of eating it - she's not weaned, but should start eating bamboo fairly soon. On a cuteness scale of 1-10, she's at least an 11. :-) )

From there we went up to "Hoof and Horn Mesa" passing by the takins (boring), the Most Giant Elands, who share an enclosure with the Most Giant Birds (the Maribou storks), and we passed by other assorted prey-type antelope things (boring) on our way to Polar Bear Plunge.

Only the adult female was on exhibit rather than the four adolescents, and watching her eat was, guess what, *boring* :-), so we moved on to see some of the other animals in that area. The Siberian reindeer had quite a rack of antlers - very impressive considering that when we were last here in mid-January they had no antlers at all.

There were two Siberian Yellow-Throated Martens who were awake and active - they were playing with their food, scratching their bellies, and whatever else martens do. Definitely not boring. :-) We pondered names for them...perhaps Marten Sheen and Marten Short? :-)

Back out to the end of Hoof and Horn Mesa, where we went past some sort of endangered antelope thing. Boring. And if it weren't so boring it might not be endangered! :-) Then the final exhibit was the bentangs - the "world's most beautiful cattle". They were quite pretty, though Lee says the calf was "dog-faced". The ugly duckling of the family, I suppose.

The Birds of Prey were next - we got an up close and personal look at the harpy eagle. That's a large bird (though not as big as the Most Giant Maribou Stork). We also saw the Andean Condor and the Fishing Eagle, but they were further away.

We ended up back down near Hippo Beach again, and saw the bongos and red river hogs again, and passed by the Panda Research Station (closed for the day). We went by the area where the large cats are kept, but didn't see any of them except a *very* male black jaguar. He was pacing back and forth in the front of his cage - close enough to touch, actually, but I wouldn't recommend it. :-)

The small carnivores were next - the Fossa was curled up and evidently having a very interesting dream - he was grunting and twitching. The Tayra looked a lot like the Siberian martens, and he was going back and forth sticking his nose though the wires and sniffing. I didn't think we smelled that interesting. :-) The foxes were sleeping way high in the back and we couldn't see the caracal.

We took the Kiwi Trail up to the Kiwi house - since the kiwis are nocturnal they keep their house dark during the day and lighted at night, so that people might actually have the chance to see them. We didn't, though. Boring.

On Elephant Mesa we found an area off to the side that had small wildcats in it - and they were actually all awake and moving around. There were 2 margays, a pair of Gordon's Wildcats (who looked like they could just be someone's pet - so we're wondering if a keeper named Gordon just needed someplace to keep his cats for a while...), an Arabian Wildcat, and a mongoose, which of course is not a cat, but it was there, too.

In the koala exhibit the koalas were sleeping, though we actually saw one of them move a little. Honest, it really moved! :-) And koalas rank so darn high on the cuteness scale that you just can't relegate them to the "boring" category. :-)

Also in that exhibit were some wrestling tree kangaroos. Hmmm...does this mean we'll be seeing the World Kangaroo Wrestling Federation on UPN this fall? :-)

That concluded our afternoon at the Zoo, oops, I mean the World-Famous San Diego Zoo. We didn't even cover half of the area, but we still saw a lot, and had a good time.

I'm sure this report would have been much more interesting with pictures...hopefully next time.


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Laura Gilbreath lgil@cts.com
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