Vacation Day 12: Sacramento Zoo

DAY 12 OF MY VACATION. Up at about 6:15 this morning. I had a leisurely breakfast and checked on my email and whatnot before heading over to the Sacramento Zoo. This was supposed to be the only clear day in the week before the next rain storm arrived, so I figured if I wanted to get to the zoo, this would be the best day to do that. It was 56° when I got to the zoo, and it was about 73° when I left around noon. It was a beautiful day, and for the first hour I was at the zoo, I was one of only two people there…

I started out in the reptile house, and was happy to be able to go through it entirely alone, with no pushy screeching kids around. The zoo has a lot more different Turtles now, and their breeding programs for the endangered Western Pond Turtle is going really well… There was one tank that had hatchlings swimming in it.

I got my first viewing of their new Eastern Bongo – such a handsome animal. And the chimps and orangutans were out and moving around when I went by their enclosures. The zoo seemed to be full of students or docents-in-training who were walking around with clipboards, taking notes, and using their cell phones to take photos. Zoo personnel tried to keep them moving throughout the park, but sometimes the students would get fascinated by this animal or that one and would stall and just take pictures. When they were watching the orangutans, I heard the over-seeing zoo lady tell the students, “Well, I see now that I shouldn’t have brought you over here…” and they all started chuckling.

The Wolf’s Guenon were just waking up when I went by their cage, including the baby who walked around with a piece of grass in its mouth for quite a while. It’s mom had been snatching leaves off of the bamboo plants growing outside of the cage, but the baby couldn’t reach that far, so it ripped up some grass instead. Hah! Later, I saw it clinging to its mom and nursing a little bit. I guess the grass wasn’t very filling.

I always complain that I “never” really get to see the aardvark there or the little Fennec Foxes that share its enclosure. Today, the aardvark had walked out into its sandy enclosure, rolled onto it back, and just laid out in the warm morning sunlight with its belly and feet up. Hah! So cute. I actually laughed out loud when I saw it. A lady came over to me and asked, “What IS that thing?” Aardvark belly… and balls. Definitely a boy. Hahahaha!

The Fennec Foxes were inside their cave, and kept going to the door to look out at the aardvark, like they couldn’t believe he was that “exposed” either. I got some photos a little video of them. Across the pat from all of this, the giraffes were out having breakfast, including the baby Masai giraffe.

Among the felines in the zoo, the male and female African Lions were out, dozing in their enclosure. The male was sitting right next to the fence, separated from viewers by only a couple of feet. And the Jaguar, which I hardly ever see, was also out. He was standing in the middle of his enclosure, listening to the rustling of the zoo keepers who were inside his night-time cage cleaning it up. I’m sure he was waiting for them to get out of there so he could get his breakfast.

The Snow Leopard was out, too. At first it climbed up to the top of the enclosure and watched the zoo keepers cleaning up the space next to it (which was closed off while reconstruction is going on). Then the leopard jumped down to the bottom of its enclosure and landed so hard I worried that it had hurt itself. But it got up, rolled over onto its back, got up again and hopped around – like a kitten playing with string or something – and then climbed up onto the back of its enclosure, stretched and laid down up there in the sun. I’d never seen it so active before.

Among the birds, I got to see the Flamingos, the Azure-winged Magpie, a Comb Duck, the Emus, Fulvous Whistling Ducks and White-faced Whistling Ducks, the female Himalayan Monal, the King Vultures, the Orinoco Geese, and Southern Crested Screamers. In the duck pond there were also some wild Mallards, Canada Geese, and little Wood Ducks.

As I was walking, I took a few “Facebook Live” videos.  They posted immediately to my Facebook page so people could see what I was seeing just a few seconds after I saw them.  I’m listing them below, but I don’t know if you can see them:

By the time I’d posted the lunch video, my brother Marty posted the comment: “OK – enough videos!  ” Hahahahaha!

I spent about 3 hours at the zoo and then went home. It was a lovely morning…

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Mary K. Hanson is an author, nature photographer and Certified California Naturalist living with terminal cancer.