Meerkats at the Zoo (and Coconut Returns), 11-30-18

Since this is the only day for about a week that is supposed to be without rain, I decided to try taking a walk at the Sacramento Zoo.

It was a perfect day for that. About 56° outside, mostly sunny, hardly any people at the zoo. I really enjoyed it – AND my tumor pain was down to about 2 while I was there. So, it was nice.  Volunteers from The Hilton hanging around everywhere. They were trying to sell gift packages that included admission to the zoo, but also had access to some golf carts. I was able to get a couple of them to drive me short distances around the zoo – playing the “old lady” card sometimes works. Hah!

When I first went in, I came across one of the volunteers holding “Timbuktu” a Mali Spiny-tailed lizard.  The volunteer had put “Tim” on a heating pad to keep him warm, but for some reason didn’t seem to realize that once he was warmed up, Tim would be very active and mobile. The lizard kept trying to climb out of the volunteer’s hands; a real squirmy worm.

I’d gone to the zoo mostly to see their new Meerkats exhibit, but when I first got to the enclosure, the animals were all inside and workmen were setting up heaters for them because it was too chilly for them. “Come back in about 30 minutes,” one of the workmen said. So, I did that, and sure enough, all of the Meerkats were out by then. Some were still dozing inside a little dog-kennel-like thing, but others were busy digging holes everywhere and protecting the perimeter. I was surprised by how small they were; I expected them to be larger. But they were so active and so expressive. Really fun to watch.

CLICK HERE to see the full album of photos.

In an enclosure right next to theirs was Padme, the zoo’s resident Aardvark. She was sleeping in the sun in her “cave”. The cave is heated and has windows on the side, so you can see her when she’s in there. Every time I walked by, she was sleeping but in a different position. Apparently, she’s a restless sleeper.

When I first went by the Snow Leopard enclosure, the big male, Blizzard, was out, and I was able to get a few photos of him. The next time I went by, the mom Misha and little Coconut were out instead. On and off, they were rushing around, rolling over one another, and ambushing each other. Mom got little Coconut to run up the faux boulders along all three sides of the enclosure, exercising his muscles and teaching him out track prey at the same time.

At one point, Coconut ran from one end of the enclosure to the other and jumped on his mom, and a group of pre-teen boys standing near me all went, “Oooo, woooow!” really loudly. They were so loud that they startled Coconut and he stopped in his tracks for a moment. Then, brave little thing that he is, he walked right up the front of the enclosure, as close as he could get to the boys, and stood up with his paws against the fence looking at them.  Behind him, his mom, Misha, was starting to curl her lips and show her teeth. She apparently didn’t like her baby interacting with the kids. Eventually, she got Coconut to follow her up onto the boulders again, and they both sat and rested there for a while.

Yesterday’s rain had left puddles all over the zoo, and piles of wet leaves. The Red River Hogs seemed to like having a new “wallow” in their enclosure.

In their habitat in another part of the zoo, the Wolf’s Guenons were out, including a mom, two babies and the dad.  The mom didn’t like the fact that the Mongoose Lemurs had been moved into an enclosure next to hers and she kept “bucking” at them and rushing the fence to drive them away… then one of her babies came up to her begging for food and milk. He’s really too big to nurse, and she kept pushing him away from her breasts with her hands.  Then he sat down next to her and started to groom her, and she sat for that… until he made a grab for her teat again. She used one hand to moosh his face down and then walked over him to get away from him. Hah!  The dad seemed very much on the alert today, and on several occasions put himself between me and the mom and kids, blocking my view of them. So, I took some close-up photos of his face that turned out pretty good.

I thought with the cooler weather, the Red Pandas would be out and about. And they were both out, but they were both napping. In the kangaroo habitat next door to the Red Pandas, there was a male emu showing off for the female. He was strutting around with all of his neck feathers fluffed out – like a model on the runway with a huge feather boa. Among emus, the males build the nests, incubate the eggs and raise the chicks. It’s a little late in the season for the male to be strutting, but it would be neat to see if he builds a nest.

The only disappointment of my visit was when they let all of the chimpanzees out into their habitat. I heard the chimps all hooting, excited, and went over to see them. They were all sitting on the floor, grabbing up treats BUT the glass on the sides of the enclosure were all so fogged with the chimps’ excited breath that I couldn’t take any photos through it. Chimps in the Mist.

Around noon, I stopped to have some lunch before finishing off my zoo visit: chicken stir fry and tea. It wasn’t great, so I didn’t finish it. I understand that a big chunk of the price you pay for food at the zoo actually goes to the animals, so I didn’t feel the purchase was a total waste.

After lunch, I walked around a little bit more and took some more photos of the Meerkats and Snow Leopards and then headed home.

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