I Went to See the Alligators, 07-13-20

I headed over to the Sacramento Zoo for a visit. Haven’t been there since the COVID lockdown started months ago.  It was 71° when I got there, and got up to 95° by the late afternoon.

I parked across the street in a shady spot, and while heading toward the street and the zoo’s main gate, I stopped near the big Valley Oak tree along a part of the sidewalk where, each year, I see jumping galls in the summer months. 

It’s early in the season for them, but it’s been so hot, I thought they might have been “activated”.  I was right.  There weren’t a lot, but they were out there.  I got some video of them hopping on the pavement.  Each tiny gall (about the size of a mustard seed) has a wasp larva in it. The larvae thrash back and forth in the gall, making it jump, so they can get into the shade in any nearby leaf litter.  I got a little video snippet of them jumping. 

While I was watching the galls, there was a Red-Shouldered Hawk in the tree above my head, calling and calling…

The zoo had set up protocols for COVID-19, including having to wear a mask and distancing 6 feet or more from others… but they weren’t enforcing anything. So, after some people wore their masks to get through the main gate, they took them off as soon as they got further into the zoo and out of sight of the gate-keepers.

In the photo areas where they normally have little cut-outs you can put your head through, the zoo had the holes blocked off with masked faces.

And there were kids were running around, cramming in against one another, touching everything, grabbing onto people they didn’t know… no masks, no clue about social distancing. At the meerkat exhibit, for example, they were touching the glass, putting their faces against it, jockeying for position around whomever else was nearby. Their parents should have been teaching them better, should have been protecting them better, but they just stood around gabbing to one another or talking on their cellphones.  It was kind of disgusting to watch. 

With my cancer and diabetes, I’m immunocompromised; so, whenever I saw someone wearing a mask, I thanked them for it.

The only time I removed my mask was to lift it while I drank a soda and ate some French fries.

Hard to eat fries with a mask on…

And speaking of the food: the zoo had some protocols in place there, too, but they hadn’t really worked out the kinks yet. They wouldn’t accept cash, so you had to pay for everything with a credit card. That made sense to me, because so many different people touch money before it ever gets into your wallet… What I didn’t like was that you’d place your order at one station, get you food at another and your soda at another—so, in instead of being waited on (and exposed to) ONE person, you were exposed to THREE. Then the young man who served me my plate of fries handed it to me with his gloved hand, but then dropped packets of ketchup on top of the fries with an UNGLOVED hand.  How was that helpful? 

There was seating outside the zoo’s café, but I had no idea when they’d been sanitized last, so I tried not to touch the table with my hands and sat on the seat on my walker. They should offer you a sanitary wipe with your meal.

[[If I come down with COVID-19, you’ll all know where I most likely got exposed to it.]]

All of the exhibits in the zoo were open, except for the reptile house, but it was warm outside, so not all of the animals were willing to venture out into the heat. The otters, snow leopards and anteaters weren’t making themselves visible.

I’d gone specifically to see the new alligator exhibit, and was pleased to see one of the gators (out of the 6 the zoo has) out in the water sun-bathing and swimming slowly around.  It kept following me as I walked around its pond.  I think with my mask on, pushing my walker, I may have looked like one of its keepers delivering food.

American Alligator, Alligator mississippiensis

The lions and jaguar were out, but as it got warmer, they laid down to nap in the shade where they could.

African Lion, Panthera leo

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

In the Red Panda enclosure, one of the adults and the young Gizmo, who was born at the zoo last June.  His face is whiter than the adults’, so he’s easy to spot.  He was in a special enclosure with his mom the last time I saw him, but he’s old enough now to be out and about on his own.  And, besides, Gizmo’s mom, Amaya had a new cub just this month.  (She actually had twins, but only one of the babies survived.)  The name and sex of the new cub haven’t been revealed yet.

Gizmo the Red Panda, Ailurus fulgens

After I had my light lunch of fries and a soda, I stopped by the flamingos, and saw several of them sitting on their mud-mound nests.  Some of them grabbed feather that were floating around the area on the wind and stuck them onto or into the mud.  One of them reached out to a nearby unused mound and scraped bits of mud off to add to her own pile. She wasn’t very successfully as most of the mud rolled right off the side of her nest when she tried to set it down.

I walked down by the vet hospital in the zoo, and they were working on a female Giant Garter Snake (who wasn’t so giant). The Giant Garter Snake, Thamnophis gigas, is an endangered species that’s endemic to California.  This particular snake had been brought in from the DFW, and the zoo was doing a health check on her and getting her ready to tag before she is released back into the wild.

After, doing some x-rays, however, they realized she was preggers (and was full of eggs), so they decided not to put her through the stress of implanting a tracker into her. Instead, they continued with her health check, which included getting some swabs done. At one point, they used a credit card-like thing to open her mouth so they could get a swab of the inside of her mouth and throat. 

As I was leaving, I stopped by the alligator pond again, and was surprised to see several different species of dragonflies and butterflies around it: Western Tiger Swallowtails, Cabbage Whites, Flame Skimmers and Twelve-Spotted Skimmers.  I hardly ever see the 12-spotters, so they were like and extra treat.

Twelve-Spotted Skimmer Dragonfly, Libellula pulchella

Species List:

  1. African Lion, Panthera leo
  2. American Alligator, Alligator mississippiensis
  3. American Robin, Turdus migratorius
  4. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
  5. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  6. Cabbage White butterfly, Pieris rapae
  7. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  8. Caribbean Flamingo, Phoenicopterus ruber
  9. Chimpanzee, Pan troglodytes
  10. Chinese Stripe-necked Turtle, Thread Turtle, Mauremys sinensis
  11. Comb Duck, Sarkidiornis melanotos
  12. Common Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
  13. Crested Coua, Coua cristata
  14. Crested Screamer, Chauna torquata
  15. Eastern Bongo, Tragelaphus eurycerus isaaci
  16. Emu, Dromaius novaehollandiae
  17. Flame Skimmer Dragonfly, Libellula saturata
  18. Giant Garter Snake, Thamnophis gigas
  19. Goldfish, Carassius auratus
  20. Grevy’s Zebra, Equus grevyi
  21. Jaguar, Panthera onca
  22. Jumping Oak Gall Wasp, Neuroterus saltatorius
  23. Koi, Cyprinus rubrofuscus
  24. Laughing Kookaburra, Dacelo novaeguineae
  25. Mallard duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  26. Masai Giraffe, Giraffa tippelskirchi
  27. Meerkat, Suricata suricatta
  28. Okapi, Okapia johnstoni
  29. Ostrich, Struthio camelus
  30. Red Kangaroo Paw, Anigozanthos rufus
  31. Red Kangaroo, Macropus rufus
  32. Red Panda, Ailurus fulgens
  33. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
  34. Reticulated Giraffe, Giraffa camelopardalis reticulata
  35. Sumatran Orangutan, Pongo abelii
  36. Thick-billed Parrot, Rhynchopsitta pachyrhyncha
  37. Twelve-Spotted Skimmer Dragonfly, Libellula pulchella
  38. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  39. Western Tiger Swallowtail, Papilio rutulus
  40. White-faced Saki, Pithecia pithecia
  41. White-faced Whistling Duck, Dendrocygna viduata