Glory and the Flehman Response, 10-30-20

I got up around 6:30 this morning in a LOT of pain. I’d been able to sleep through the night without getting up to take a pain pill, and I was paying for the long stretch without meds with burning nerve pain and deep-tissue muscle ache from The Poltergeist.

I had been planning on going to the Sacramento Zoo today to see the new baby giraffe, Glory, and I was worried that the pain would make that impossible.  I was grateful, then, when around 8:30 The Poltergeist was relatively quiet again.

The COVID protocols at the zoo were better enforced this time than they were the last time I was there. Everyone except the very youngest kids were in masks all the time, and there were few enough people so that everyone could easily do social distancing. Of course, there are always assholes who think they’re above the laws and do whatever they want. I was glad to see others “shunning” them, and giving them dirty looks when they got too close.  One guy started arguing with another about the benefits of masks.

Me and a witchy friend at the zoo.

The pro-mask guy was one who said he’d gotten COVID and it wasn’t a walk in the park. “When they made seatbelts mandatory, you wore one, right? When they made motorcycle helmets you wore one, right?”

            “But seat belts and helmet save lives!” the other guy complained.

            “So do masks!”

I wanted to hug him – but I didn’t. I did give him an enthusiastic thumbs up, though.

I was able to see lots of the animals I wanted to see as I walked through the zoo.  I think the only ones I really missed was the river otters. They weren’t out.  [And the reptile house was closed, so I couldn’t go in there.]

My mission was to see Glory, and I was pleased to find her out with her mom, Shani, her “aunties”, and dad.  Glory was born on September 20th of this year. The zoo held an auction for someone to have the right to name her and the winner paid $10,000 for the privilege.

Glory the Masai Giraffe

I got quite a few photos and a little video snippet of Glory, but also got to witness a “Flehman Response” from the male giraffe that I’d never seen or heard about before.

The male Masai Giraffe doing the “flehman response” behind a female giraffe

Lots of animals do this Flehman Response thing, including black-tailed deer. The animal inhales with its mouth open and upper lip curled to expose the scent/pheromone to the “vomeronasal organ” in the roof of the mouth behind the front teeth. The scent they take in helps them determine the pheromone levels and receptivity of the females so they can tell who’s mature and who isn’t, and who’s ready to breed and who isn’t.

            “…The behavior may be performed over particular locations, in which case the animal may also lick the site of interest, or may perform the flehmen with the neck stretched and head held high in the air for a more general gustatory or taste-related investigation… The flehmen response draws air into the VNO or Jacobson’s organ, an auxiliary olfactory sense organ that is found in many animals. This organ plays a role in the perception of certain scents and pheromones…”

Anyway, the male giraffe, a big Masai Giraffe, walked up behind one of the females and prodded her in the behind until she started to urinate.  Then he drank the urine as it flowed out of her. [[Kids seeing this all went, “Eeeeeeeeew!” and some of the parents did, too. Hah!]] After getting a mouthful, he lifted his head and let the stuff drain out from either side of his mouth while he inhaled its scent. He then followed after the female, continuing to sniff at her. 

The male Snow Leopard, Blizzard, doing the “flehman sniff”

Across the walk from the giraffes, the male Snow Leopard, Blizzard, was also doing a Flehman sniff, sticking out his tongue and curling his lips after sniffing and licking at the grass in their enclosure. I think the female had been out there earlier and he was working on her scent. He also rolled around in the spots where he liked the scent the best.

Boys are weird. Hah!

Among the other “newbies” at the zoo, like Glory,  I also saw the newborn Wolf’s Guenon (born on September 8th) with its mom, Mimi, and the three new Squirrel Monkeys, Blaze, Taco and Arlo. I was astonished by how TINY they all were.  The baby Wolf’s Guenon was so small it could fit in the palm of your hand…and the Squirrel Monkeys weren’t much larger. The baby Wolf’s Guenon was running around, exploring its enclosure, learning how to climb, but mom, Mimi kept a close eye on it.  Every now and then, she gather it up against her body and saunter off with it as if to say, “Okay, human, you’ve seen enough. Walk on.”

The baby Wolf’s Guenon

The little Squirrel Monkeys were in a small enclosure behind the lion exhibit. I wonder if the scent and sounds of the lions spooked them. It was chilly outside, and they all seemed cold and a bit afraid of everything. They stayed huddled inside a box in their enclosure behind some dirty plexiglass so it was hard to see or photograph them.

It was impossible to get any clear photos of the new Squirrel Monkeys.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

There were wild squirrels, ducks, and rats all over the place, taking advantage of the free food scattered in the different enclosures. There were lots of wild Wood Ducks in the Flamingo pond, and a Green Heron hunting for insects inside the alligator pit.  And, of course, being a naturalist, I was just as interested in the heron ad I was in the alligators.  I also took some photos of a big orb-weaver spider’s web near the pond. Hah!  [I wonder if anyone else noticed those things.]

The ostriches were out and about, but before I could get any good photos of the zebras, they were gone inside their barn. The Emus were out, as were the kangaroos and wallabies. I love the ostrich’s and emu’s feathers, they’re so big and so soft…

I avoided the meerkat exhibit because there were so many germ kids around it, putting their hands and faces against the glass. “High Contact Area”. I did look in on Padme the aardvark. She was fast asleep inside her cave with the heat lamp on her.

Around 11 o’clock I stopped by the café for a light lunch of soda and a fried pretzel with salt.

In among the birds in the flamingo pond there was a juvenile who still had gray feathering on her otherwise pink neck, some White-faced Whistling Ducks, Mallards, and Comb Ducks as well as an American White Pelican.

Caribbean Flamingos; one leaning on the back of another.

I walked through the place for about 3 hours before heading back home. The walk was nice and I saw a lot of critters so I felt it was a worthwhile excursion.

Species List:

  1. Aardvark, Orycteropus afer
  2. African Lion, Panthera leo
  3. American Alligator, Alligator mississippiensis
  4. American White Pelican, Pelecanus erythrorhynchos
  5. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
  6. Azure-winged Magpie, Cyanopica cyanus
  7. Bird of Paradise, Crane Flower, Strelitzia reginae
  8. Brown Rat, Rattus norvegicus
  9. Caribbean Flamingo, Phoenicopterus ruber
  10. Chimpanzee, Pan troglodytes
  11. Chinese Stripe-necked Turtle, Mauremys sinensis
  12. Comb Duck, Sarkidiornis melanotos
  13. Common Crow, American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
  14. Crested Coua, Coua cristata
  15. Crested Screamer, Chauna torquata
  16. Douglas Squirrel, Tamiasciurus douglasii
  17. Eastern Gray Squirrel, Sciurus carolinensis
  18. Emu, Dromaius novaehollandiae
  19. Green Heron, Butorides virescens
  20. Grevy’s Zebra, Equus grevyi
  21. Hawk-headed Parrot, Deroptyus accipitrinus
  22. Himalayan Monal, Lophophorus impejanus
  23. Japanese Aralia, Paperplant, Fatsia japonica
  24. Mallard duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  25. Masai Giraffe, Giraffa tippelskirchi
  26. Mongoose Lemur, Eulemur mongoz
  27. Ostrich, Common Ostrich, Struthio camelus
  28. Pigeon, Domestic Pigeon, Columba livia domestica
  29. Pyracantha, Firethorn,  Pyracantha coccinea
  30. Red Billed Hornbill, Tockus erythrorhynchus
  31. Red Kangaroo, Macropus rufus
  32. Red Panda, Ailurus fulgens
  33. Red River Hog, Potamochoerus porcus
  34. Reticulated Giraffe, Giraffa camelopardalis reticulata
  35. Snow Leopard, Panthera uncia
  36. Spur-winged Lapwing, Vanellus spinosus
  37. Squirrel Monkey, Saimiri sciureus
  38. Stinking Iris, Iris foetidissima
  39. Sumatran Orangutan, Pongo abelii
  40. Tawny Frogmouth, Podargus strigoides
  41. Thick-billed Parrot, Rhynchopsitta pachyrhyncha
  42. Western Spotted Orbweaver Spider, Neoscona oaxacensis
  43. White-faced Saki, Pithecia pithecia
  44. White-faced Whistling Duck, Dendrocygna viduata
  45. Wolf’s Guenon, Wolf’s Mona Monkey, Cercopithecus wolfi
  46. Wood Duck, Aix sponsa
  47. Yellow-footed Rock Wallaby, Petrogale xanthopus