New Cheetahs at the Zoo, 05-18-21

I got up around 7:00 this morning and leisurely eased into my day before heading off to the Sacramento Zoo. They still have their COVID protocols in place, which I appreciate. But I was surprised – with it being TUESDAY and not the weekend — that there were so many people in there, including way too many hideous gum chewing ferrets with no masks and no parental control.

They didn’t look like school kid tours, they were like a couple of families grouped together — and not properly supervising any of the children. Kids ran all around me, bumped into me, cut in front of me. I heard a lot of comments like, “Stop pestering that poor old woman”, and “Stay away from the woman with the death stare.” Hah!

Among the animals, I saw a lot of usual suspects: zebras, giraffes, chimps.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

I had gone to the zoo, however, specifically to see Rowdy and ZigZag, the new 4-year-old cheetah brothers. When I first approached their enclosure, one of them was standing up on a log, mewing. Just as I got my camera up to film that, a group of the raucous kids ran up and startled him. [Grrrr!] He then retreated to the back of the enclosure with his brother… where they started to groom one another.

The enclosure where the cheetahs were used to be used for the kangaroos. The ‘roos were moved to another enclosure in the front of the zoo where there was a lot more shade, and I think the ‘roos appreciated that. They looked very comfortable.

In one tiny cage with a really tight wire mesh around it I could see a Red-billed Hornbill bird fussing around the opening of a nesting cavity inside. Signage nearby explained that I was seeing was the male hornbill attending to his breeding female.

When the chicks are born, mom busts out the front of the nest again, so there’s enough room for everyone to get in and out, and both parents feed them.  Sooooo, interesting!  I wondered if the zookeepers would let her keep her babies when they hatched, or if they’d take them and hand-raise them… I just wish I could have seen the birds better. The old-style mesh was horrible.

She goes into the nesting cavity, and the male brings her grasses and bark to line the nest. Then the female closes herself up inside the cavity by sealing the entrance hole with mud, leftover food, and her own droppings, leaving an opening only large enough for her beak to poke out.  The male then feeds her while she lays and incubates her eggs. I could see him feeding her pinkie mice through the hole.

Near the Kampala Café, I found one of the American White Pelicans standing right on the other side of a pole fence, grooming itself. There are signs around warning folks not to feed or pet him because he’s known to bite, but he behaved himself well while I took some photos and video of him.

In the flamingo area, some of the flamingoes were sitting on their tall mud nests but I didn’t see any eggs, and in the alligator pit, I saw about twenty bright reddish-orange Flame Skimmer dragonflies that occasionally posed for photos while I drank a cherry Icee.

Caribbean Flamingoes, Phoenicopterus ruber

In the meerkat enclosure, I saw one of the meerkats lay down on the ground in the “full sploot” position (belly on the ground, all four legs extended out). The meerkat that was standing guard on the tower seemed to be concerned about this.

I saw a female meerkat go up into the tower to take point on the watch, relieving the one that was there. That meerkat climbed down from the tower and went over to the one that was splooting, and sat beside her for several minutes. I don’t know what that was about, but it was kind of nice to see.

I walked for 2½ hours before heading home. By then it was getting too warm for me, and the crowds annoying. I always have my “naturalist eyes” working, though. Out in one of the flower beds near the parking lot, I saw some Iceplant Scale. So, I stopped to take photos of those before driving home. 

The scale are interesting in that, if you look closely, you can see the females at various stages of development: pale green crawlers, to reddish brown crawlers, to larger sedentary forms with a cottony, mealy ovisac that’s two times the size of its body.

It’s this white ovisac that makes them most visible to the eye, kind of looking like bird droppings on the surface of the iceplant leaves. Opening the sac reveals dozens of tiny babies. What’s additionally interesting about the scale is that its crawlers are dispersed by wind and by contact with the bodies of animals (or human clothing). Example: a cat walks through the iceplant, and some of the scale rubs off onto its fur. It can then be carried that way for about 2 hours before dropping off at a new location.

Because the scale are plant suckers, they can do a lot of damage to plants if the infestation is great enough. It’s interesting to me that a lot of the information available about the scale was done by the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) whose personnel did studies of it on iceplant planted along the freeways. 

“…In 1973 a survey of ice plant along highways in Alameda County was conducted by the Calif. Dept. of Transportation, and it was discovered that there were really two scale species present.  Pulvinaria delottoi has one generation per year and colonizes the mature lower portions of the plant, while P. mesembryanthemi has two generations per year and favors the new terminal growth…” 

Caltrans and the Division of Biological Control at the University of California, Berkeley got together and did a three year study of the critters, and found that by introducing the scale’s natural enemies (mainly different species of wasps) the scale could be controlled. “…The impact of the natural enemies has now almost eliminated the need for insecticidal sprays along freeways in California…”  How cool is that?!

This was hike #46 of my #52HikeChallenge.

Species List:

  1. African Cheetah, Acinonyx jubatus jubatus
  2. African Lion, Panthera leo
  3. American Alligator, Alligator mississippiensis
  4. American White Pelican, Pelecanus erythrorhynchos
  5. Bear’s Breeches, Acanthus mollis
  6. Black Crowned Crane, Balearica pavonina
  7. Caribbean Flamingo, Phoenicopterus ruber
  8. Chimpanzee, Pan troglodytes
  9. Chinese Stripe-Necked Turtle, Mauremys sinensis
  10. Citron Day-Lily, Hemerocallis citrina
  11. Comb-Billed Duck, Knob-Bill, Sarkidiornis melanotos
  12. Common Bird-of-Paradise Flower, Strelitzia reginae
  13. Coquerel’s Sifaka, Propithecus coquereli
  14. Eastern Gray Squirrel, Sciurus carolinensis
  15. Emu, Dromaius novaehollandiae
  16. Flame Skimmer Dragonfly, Libellula saturate
  17. Grevy’s Zebra, Equus grevyi
  18. Hawk-Headed Parrot, Deroptyus accipitrinus
  19. Iceplant Scale, Pulvinariella mesembryanthemi
  20. Kangaroo-Apple Nightshade, Solanum laciniatum
  21. Laughing Kookaburra, Dacelo novaeguineae
  22. Lion’s Ear, Leonotis nepetifolia
  23. Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  24. Masai Giraffe, Giraffa tippelskirchi
  25. Meerkat, Suricata suricatta
  26. Mongoose Lemur, Eulemur mongoz
  27. Nasturtium, Tropaeolum majus
  28. Northern Red-Billed Hornbill, Tockus erythrorhynchus
  29. Okapi, Okapia johnstoni
  30. Orange Bush Monkeyflower, Diplacus aurantiacus
  31. Orange Day-Lily, Hemerocallis fulva
  32. Ostrich, Common Ostrich, Struthio camelus
  33. Peruvian Lily, Alstroemeria sp.
  34. Red Bush Monkeyflower, Diplacus puniceus
  35. Red Kangaroo, Macropus rufus
  36. Red Panda, Ailurus fulgens
  37. Red River Hog, Potamochoerus porcus
  38. Sea Thrift, Armeria maritima
  39. Southern White-Faced Owl, Ptilopsis granti
  40. Tawny Frogmouth, Podargus strigoides
  41. Thick-Billed Parrot, Rhynchopsitta pachyrhyncha
  42. Umber Skipper, Lon melane
  43. White-Faced Whistling Duck, Dendrocygna viduata
  44. Wood Duck, Aix sponsa
  45. Woolly Hedgenettle, Stachys byzantine