Tag Archives: Sacramento Zoo

Behind-The-Scenes “Natives” Tour, 04-18-19

Today, I was treated to a behind-the-scenes “natives” tour at the reptile house and got to visit with a Burrowing Owl at the Sacramento Zoo.  There were two school buses full of kids there, so I didn’t hang around much after the tour, but I still got to see and learn some cool stuff.  My tour guides were Kathryn, a keeper named Bill (who did all the reptile house stuff) and a keeper named Mike who showed me the Burrowing Owl.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

Inside the back of the reptile house it was warm and kind of humid (which is what most of the reptile need to feel comfortable). The place is laid out like a snake, in a serpentine pattern, with the back sides of the habitat enclosures along the outer walls and other tanks and materials along the center spaces and inside walls. Each enclosure has pouches on the door with cards that tell when the animals’ feeding scheduled are and what work has taken place during the week, and also give the keepers detailed information on each animal inside the enclosure.  Some of the enclosures have one or two specimens inside, but others, like the one for the tiny Dart Frogs, can have a dozen individuals in them. Somehow – usually by color pattern – the keepers can tell who each individual is.  Everybody gets weighed about once a week to make sure they’re on track physically.

The first thing I had to do when I got inside the reptile house was dip the soles of my boots in a disinfectant bath to make sure I wasn’t tracking in anything that might harm the animals inside. (And we did the same thing just before leaving the building.)

Some of the critters don’t get enough UV light inside their enclosures (because the light is set in the ceiling of the enclosures and the animals (like turtles) can’t climb up to it.  So, sometimes the critters are taken off exhibit and allowed to bask under UV lights in separate terrariums to make sure they get all the “sun” they need. When I was there, they had some handsome Hamilton’s Pond Turtles (Geoclemys hamiltonii) doing the basking thing. The Hamilton’s have beautiful black-and-white polka dotted faces. I don’t remember ever seeing them before, so getting to meet a couple of them was a treat.  [They’re native to the Ganges, not California.]

I also got to see the Venomous Bite Alarm: a red phone that automatically connects directly with the local fire department.  So, if a keeper or a guest gets bitten by a venomous snake, all someone has to do is knock the receiver off the phone and an alert goes out to emergency personnel who are dispatched immediately.  All of the enclosures that hold the venomous snakes also have red warning cards on them, and a garbage can underneath the door, so if the snake lunges out at someone, it falls into the can instead of on a person.  Sometimes, the low-tech stuff is what works best.

And I got to see the food room for the reptile house, which is kept separate from the food storage for the other animals in the zoo because it’s comprised mostly of live insects and small frozen mice. There were egg crates crawling with live crickets and bottles of different kinds of worms… Some of the creatures, though, are vegetarians, so there are also greens, small flowers and other goodies for them to eat.

The tour was so cool! I got so much information from the staffers, that I don’t know if I’ll remember it all. But I’ll give you some of the highlights.

I got to see the zoo’s California Newt (Taricha torosa), our state’s endemic newt (found here and nowhere else on earth).  The are considered a Species of Special Concern because their numbers are dropping due to habitat loss and having to deal with invasive species like Bullfrogs and Red-Eared Slider Turtles. They’re often confused with Rough-Skinned Newts and Red Bellied Newts, but although they’re all from the same genus, they are separate species.

The newt’s poison (which it excretes through its skin) is so potent, it can kill a dog within 4 minutes. It’s believed that the Common Gartersnake is immune to the toxin.

California Newts breed in February and March in the wild. To keep the newts from going into breeding mode with its associated “water drive” (that causes them to leave their terrestrial homes to go find water in which to breed, preferably the same water source in which they were born) the zoo controls the temperature of their habitat to “skip” the spring and jump from winter directly to a cool summer.  So far, depriving the newts of their spring time doesn’t seem to adversely affect them.  Because their habitat had to be kept cooler and drier than the rest of the reptiles’ habitats, they have their own room that’s kept around 65° for most of the year.

Like the California Newt, the California Tiger Salamander (Ambystoma californiense) prefers the cool weather, too, so it’s kept in the same enclosure as the newt.  It’s also a native and endemic species. It’s considered an Endangered Species and is gone from most of the state.  A “mole salamander”, it spends most of its life underground and only comes out for any extended period of time to breed.  Although they go through courtship rituals, the males and females don’t actually touch one another to reproduce. The males deposit balls of sperm on the ground or in the water, and the female then drags her body over it.

They breed in vernal pools which are temporary water features, so the baby salamanders either have to develop, absorb their gills and start breathing with their lungs before the pools dry up, or they have to “overwinter”, buried under the ground in a sort of stasis that can last for a year or more and then finish developing the next spring. Amazing.

The spots on their bodies can change as they age, but are always unique to each individual, so the keepers at the zoo can tell who’s who by looking at and tracking the spots.

Next up was the California Giant Garter Snake (Thamnophis gigas). A threatened species, and another endemic one, they’ve lost about 98% of their habitat (!) so there are a lot of efforts throughout the Sacramento Valley to try to reestablish habitat for them – and a lot of that is in and around rice fields. The zoo got their female, which is the snake I met, from a farm after she’d been accidentally run over by some of their equipment. Her body has scars on it she’s blind in one eye, and a good portion of her tail is missing… but she was very mellow and seemed very comfortable with her keeper, who said that these snakes, despite their size, aren’t as aggressive as other gartersnakes and seldom bite. Their defense mechanism is to dive under water (they spend the majority of their time in or around water) or “skunk” their attacker with musk from their cloaca.

The Giant Gartersnake can grow up to 5½ feet long, and although some of the other gartersnake species can get almost as long as the Giants, they don’t have the Giants’ girth. These are thick snakes, like rope. Their diet is mostly made up of aquatic species, lots of fish and frogs.

Then I got to meet one of the zoo’s Common Chuckwallas (Sauromalus ater), a big male with orange staining on his back. I always forget that we have these guys live in this state. I always think of them being from Arizona or Nevada… They do “push-ups” like our Western Fence Lizards do as a warning and territorial display, but their main defense is their skin.  They have extra skin hanging from their sides that they can inflate, like a balloon, when they feel threatened. Usually, they’ll climb into a rock crevice, inflate their bodies to wedge themselves in, and wait for whatever is bothering them to leave.  Bill, their keeper, said he could tell what their mood was like just by how they felt in his hands. The male Chuckwalla was super docile, and I bet he could have gone to sleep if Bill hadn’t kept moving him this way and that so I could take photos of him.

They have special longer scales around their ears (tympanic membranes) to protect them when the lizard digs into the ground or wedges itself in rocks. And they also secrete excess salt from their nose – which Bill says then then rub onto the front of the glass of their enclosure, dirtying up the glass with their salty snot. Hah!

Although they have a pair of Chuckwallas, a male and a female, the male has yet to fertilize any of the eggs the female lays.  Sometimes, they can tell the female is pregnant with eggs, but then she reabsorbed them into her body before they get laid because they don’t get fertilized. Interesting.

Their diet consists of nothing but veggies, and I got to see some of their feeding dishes with included a variety of greens and little flowers, and some protein powder.

Next up was the Pacific Pond Turtle (Actinemys marmorata), California’s endemic turtle which is considered a “vulnerable” species. It’s lost a lot of its territory to the invasive Red Eared Slider Turtle which was brought into California for the pet trade, but then – when people found out how difficult water turtles are to keep – they were just dumped in the wild.

Unlike the Slider Turtles, the Pond Turtles have smooth marginal scutes (the “scales” along the edge of the shell in the rear) and they don’t shed their scutes. Instead, to grow, the scutes add rings to the outer rim of each one (like the rings of a tree). Like the Slider Turtles, male Pond Turtles wave their fingernails in front of the female’s face as part of the courtship ritual.

There are a couple of different ways to tell the males from the females at a glance. The easiest way it to look at the skin under the chin: if it’s a plain creamy color, it’s a male; if it has spots, it’s a female.  The female’s cloaca is also closer to the edge of the shell than the male’s is.  Both sexes have flat plastrons (the bottom half of the shell).  In some other turtle species, the female’s is flat, and the male’s is concave (so he can climb up on top of the female’s shell without rocking off).

As an aside: the Sacramento Zoo is the only zoo in the country that has a clutch of natural-born Pond Turtles. There’s a pond on the zoo property that local wild turtles went into and where they had their babies. At first, the zoo staff didn’t know that they were there, but then they saw crows snatching the babies out of the water, so the staff rushed in to rescue the little ones and now keep them as exhibit animals °and breeding stock.

When we were done with the reptile house visit, Kathryn walked me out to behind the amphitheater where their teaching animals are housed.  These included Cameron the Bateleur Eagle, Foster the Laughing Kookaburra, Charlie the Great Horned Owl, and sister Burrowing Owls, Sapphire and Ruby.

Cameron greeted us by lifting her hackles and bowing down on her perch. Rather than it being a threatening gesture, what she was actually doing was asking for someone to scratch her neck. Hah!  Charlie was being quiet in his enclosure, peeking out between some lengths of fire hose. He was a rescue and release owl who refused to fly off when he and his fellows were released in the wild. He just sat on the ground, preferring to be with humans than other owls.  Mike the keeper who looks after the educational animals, said that it’s the breeding season right now, so a lot of wild owls have been flying into the trees around Charlie’s enclosure eyeing him and hooting to him. Hah!

What I really wanted to see were the Burrowing Owls (Athene cunicularia), and Mike brought out one of them on the glove so I could get a close look at it. The zoo has several Burrowing Owls, but the educational ones are sisters, Ruby and Sapphire. Ruby was being anti-social this morning, so Mike brought out Sapphire. She was super mellow, and just sat on his hand, looking around while he talked about her.  (He said she has the worst mouth-breath, but I didn’t notice that. Hah!)  The owls, which are native to California, are losing their habitat all over the state, so they’re considered a vulnerable species and Species of Special Concern.

In most raptor species, the females are larger than the males, but this isn’t true of the Burrowing Owls. Males are larger and have a lighter color than the females.

It was so great to see all of the animals up so close. I got to touch most of them (except for the newt and the owl) and took photos of everyone. It was a fun tour; I’m so glad I was able to do it.

Went to See the New Okapi at the Zoo, 02-21-19

I headed over to the Sacramento Zoo with the hopes of being able to see their new okapi. When I got there, I realized that the electronic membership pass I had to get into the zoo had not transferred from my old phone to the new one, so, I had to go see the membership department to get that resolved. I also got a printed pass just in case the fix for the electronic one fails again.

As I mentioned, I’d come mostly to see the new okapi – which look like a cross between a zebra and a giraffe. Only one was out in the enclosure, but, wow, what a beautiful weird-looking animal. The coat is amazing; smooth, glossy, brown here, striped there. It’s tongue is so long it can lick its own eyeball.

Thursdays are “bone day”, so all of the big cats had cow bones to gnaw on. Coconut the baby Snow Leopard was out with his mom, Misha, hoarding all the bones for himself and pouncing on his mom whenever she came near them. I could watch those leopards all day; they’re so gorgeous. While I was there, an English couple with their two small children came up. The dad was enamored with the big cats and kept taking photos and video with his phone. As if they knew he was interested, Coconut and Misha put on a show for him, running and jumping around, rolling on the ground, leaping from rock to rock.

I asked the couple if they knew coconut’s story, and they said no, so I told them all about him (how he had swimmer’s legs when he was a cub and couldn’t walk, his physical therapy, the operation he had on his eyelids, etc.) I think the dad videoed that, but I’m not sure. The mom said, “Thank you so much for that!”, when I was done. What was funny about the whole thing was that while I was talking, the parents were totally enthralled – and behind them their kids were totally bored. “Can we go see the giraffes now?” they kept saying. Hahahaha!

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

The lions had bones, too, but the big male was generous and let the female eat what she wanted to. He’s feeling amorous right now, so I was figuring that any second the kids at the zoo would get an eye-full. They didn’t get that from the lions, but they did see some of that from the River Otters. Horney little dude kept chasing the dark female all over the place, and then one or the other of them would dance-poop all over the place. At one point, the male went right up to the glass wall of their enclosure, and put his hands on the glass, glaring at us humans. The “do you people mind?! I’m trying to get busy here!” was so obvious on his face that it made me literally laugh out loud.

All of the chimpanzees were out and crowded into the sun-shiny parts of their enclosure, so it was easy to get photos of them. They’d just been given branches of leaves and piles of grass with veggies hidden in them, so everyone was munching away or digging through the grass looking for tidbits. The orangutans were also out, but one was lying in a hammock so you could only see his fuzzy shoulder, and the other one was snuggled in her blankets in a little cave. So, not as many cool photo ops there.

At the kangaroos’ exhibit, they were all in the sun, too, and while I was photographing them, two of them decided to lay down and stretch out in a warm spot and scratch their butts and bellies. Animals. They crack me up.

Around 11 o’clock, I stopped to get some lunch from the café and ended up with a plate of veggie nachos (no beef) and a Sobe water. Then I made another round past my favorite exhibits – and skipped the reptile house – before heading out.

I stopped briefly at the middle pond at William Land Park (across the street from the zoo) and took some photos of the ducks, a couple of cormorants and a Great Egret hanging around the pond. I got home around 1:00 pm

My Behind-The-Scenes Tour at the Zoo, 02-07-19

Around 10 o’clock I headed over to the Sacramento Zoo to participate in their behind-the-scenes “hoofed animal” event. I got there a little early, so I walked around the flamingo pond, and was able to get a video snippet of one of the Crested Screamers screaming.  It was in the 40’s outside, so you can actually see the bird’s breath as it squawks. Around 11:00 am I was met by a woman named Kathryn who introduced herself as my tour guide – and let me know that I was the only one who would be going on the tour, so we could take as much time as we wanted, and I’d have her all to myself.  Cool!

I let her know that I was with Tuleyome and told her about our program on one of the wishing wells in the front of the zoo. Instant bonding. She liked talking with naturalists, she said. She asked me how long I’d been a zoo member and which animals I liked. I told her I really liked the “weird” ones like the Red River Hogs and the Abyssinian Ground Hornbills — and Coconut, the baby Snow Leopard, but everybody likes him. Hah!  She said they’d set up a tour for the Hornbills but had to pull it from their schedule because they were going into their mating season and could get aggressive with strangers. They can also do special tours – for a fee – if you’d like them to; just tell them what animals you’re interested in and they’ll work up an encounter for you. The cost is a bit prohibitive for me, $150 per person, but not overly pricey for someone with a good income.  This is the first time the zoo is doing these behind-the-scenes tours (inspired by “The Zoo” television show on Animal Planet), so their staff is excited to see how things go.

Anyway, Kathryn walked me back behind the animal hospital on the grounds and into the hoofed animal pathway along the back of the zoo.  First stop was the kitchens where meals are prepared for all of the animal every morning (and sometimes in the afternoon). Kathryn picked up a bowl of carrots and leaf lettuce and then we were on our way to see the animals.

CLICK HERE to see the full album of photos. (I was so engrossed with the tour, listening to Kathryn, that I forgot to take many photos during it. D’oh!)

As we walked along, Kathryn let me know that ALL of the plants on the zoo property and non-poisonous, so if an animal is able to reach outside the confines of its enclosure and grab a snack from a nearby bush or tree, it won’t get sick. She also said that the animals are checked at least once month for any zoonotic diseases (diseases which are communicable from one animal to another, or from animals to people and vice-versa) – and that’s done in part because there’s no way for the zoo to effectively keep errant birds, squirrels, mice and rats from coming into the zoo from the outside.

First stop was the giraffe pen, and Kathryn showed me the “squeeze box” areas that the giraffes walk into when they’re going to get seen by the vet or checked out by the keepers. Because the giraffes are so tall, of course, everything is on a huge scale. When we walked along the back of their paddock, the big Masai male giraffe came up to the fence to greet us – and ask for food.  He was super picky, though, and didn’t want the lettuce or carrots we had for him. He wanted acacia leaves. So, Kathryn got a bowl of them, and I was able to feed him those. You know about the giraffe’s long purple tongue, I’m sure, but did you know that their saliva is like thick slime? It’s to protect the tongue from injury when the giraffe pulls leaves and twigs from trees. I found out just how thick it was when the giraffe licked my knuckles as he was taking the acacia leaves from me.

Also, in the pen with him, among the other giraffes, were sister Reticulated giraffes, Sky and Goody. They’re super bonded to one another, and Sky kept giving Goody lots of kisses. Goody had a malformed foot, so the zoo staff along with a medical team from UC Davis, fitted her with a special boot to even out her footing. Sky came to get some acacia leaves, too, but Goody was more shy.

Then we walked around to the zebra enclosure. All of the zebras there right now are older females who have arthritis and other health issues. Their enclosure has mostly flat ground with only a few shallow knolls, so the old gals don’t have to worry about steep climbs or uneven terrain. Each one, of course, has its own unique stripe pattern, and their keepers can immediately identify who’s who just by looking at the pattern on the zebras faces. One of the zebra came up to get carrots, but I wasn’t allowed to feed her myself because the zebras have big sharp teeth, like a donkey, and can get a little food aggressive.

Then, we went to see the Bongos.  Mama Penny and her daughter Taylor (Swift) were in the large exhibit pen and the dad (I don’t remember his name) was in the smaller one. The Bongos are actually “forest” dwellers and are larger and heavier than gazelles or other similar species. They’re also slower moving. Males are darker in color than the females, but only when they’re young and virile. When they get older and their testosterone levels drop, the take on the same coloring as the females.

Taylor had made headlines about a year ago when she escaped from the exhibit and went running through the zoo.  There had been a violent rain and wind storm one afternoon that caused tree limbs to fall into the exhibit.  It spooked her and she jumped the fence from her exhibit into the Red River Hogs’ exhibit, where the fencing was lower, and then jumped the fence there into the zoo. Luckily, the zoo had just had a fire-drill about animal containment a couple of days before Taylor’s escape, so they were able to use baffle-boards (boards with handles on them), to surround Taylor and guide her back around behind the vet clinic – along the same route I was taking with Katheryn, to get her back where she belonged. It took all of 10 minutes. Phew!

When we were done with the bongos, Kathryn and I walked back to the vet clinic where I was “released into the wild” of the zoo. I really enjoyed the one-on-one time with someone so knowledgeable about the zoo and its animals and would love to go on other excursions if they’re made available.

I left Kathryn and I walked over to the area where the big cats are, and was very happy to see that Coconut, the baby Snow Leopard, and his mom, Misha, were out on exhibit. Coconut is getting so big now that he’s almost the same size as his mom and, at first, I mistook him for his dad, Blizzard. The keeper who was standing by the exhibit said he’s now about 9 months old and may be able to stay with mom until he’s almost 3 years old – but that will depend on Misha. When she gets to the point where she thinks Coconut is big enough and feisty enough to fend for himself, she’ll stop caring for him and tolerating him.  He’s getting pretty food-aggressive right now, but so far Misha has been patient with that and lets him have whatever her wants. Today was “bone day”, so there were a few large cattle bones in the Snow Leopards’ exhibit. Coconut greedily confiscated all of them and put them in a pile so he could gnaw on them. Hah!

There was a lot of construction going on throughout the zoo. The new Okapi exhibit is being finished up and is slated to open on February 15th. Although they’re hoofed animals, too, I didn’t get to see them on my tour because they were still in quarantine. The zoo if also refurbishing the jaguar exhibit and will be expanding the lion exhibit soon… Lots of changes.

Cosmo the Baby Flamingo and Other Critters, 01-22-19

I treated myself to a walk at Sacramento Zoo to celebrate my birthday. It was bright and clear outside, and on the cold side. It was about 44° when I got to the zoo and only in the 50’s when I headed back home.

Tuleyome’s post-wildfire restoration project was up on one of the wishing wells in the zoo (and it will stay up there all year).

You get a metal token when you winter the zoo, and you can toss it into one of the three wishing wells lined up along the front of the zoo. There’s a pot of money set aside for the well projects, and whoever gets the most tokens, get the most money out of the pot… So, I’m trying to get as people as I can to put tokens into Tuleyome’s well. Hah! We’re up against a wildcat rescue group and a Grevy’s Zebra project.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

Because it was chilly, some of the animals were vying for sunny spots in their enclosures. The White-Ruffed Lemurs, for example, were lined up along the fence, some of them stretched out in the sun with their arms over their heads to warm up their limbs and bellies.

On top of their enclosure, there was an Eastern Fox Squirrel who found a warm metal corner on the screen and was stretch out on top of it with his chin resting on top of it. Hah-2!

The Wolf’s Guenon monkeys weren’t out when I went by their enclosure. Their latest baby, Rori, died suddenly of a respiratory illness last week, so maybe the momma was still in mourning.

I had never heard the big Crested Screamer birds scream before, but today, the keepers had returned one of the Screamers on exhibit, and the other two Screamers yelled when they saw him. What a racket! The one that had been returned had been off-exhibit for several weeks because it had a bad case of vertigo and couldn’t walk. Tests couldn’t find any indication of infection or disease, so they just kept the bird quiet for several weeks until it recovered by itself. It was still walking a little bit like a drunk today, and the other two Screamers kept close to it to help it along.

What was extra cute about the situation was the fact that the Screamers were followed everywhere by a little brown Fulvous Whistling Duck. The keepers said, that particular duck had bonded with one of the Screamers and followed it everywhere. When the Screamers nest and lay eggs, the duck sits in the nest with them… Awwwww… I guess he doesn’t mind the screaming.

Although I didn’t get to see Coconut today, I did get to see baby Cosmo, the young flamingo chick. She was walking with her keepers and went to the flamingo pond for a bath. At first, she didn’t want to go into the water, and kept fast-walking, just out of reach of her keepers, when they tried to grab her to set her into the pond. Finally, she walked into the water by herself and gave herself a bath for about 20 minutes. While she was doing that, the adult flamingos on the opposite side of the pond were having a fit, flapping their wings and honking at each other in excitement.

Cosmo didn’t seem to recognize them and didn’t acknowledge them in any way. She was the single hatchling in 2018 and was raised by humans, so I guess she doesn’t know she’s a flamingo yet. She is starting to pink-up, but still had a lot of gray feathers and though fully fledged is still pretty small.

The Meerkats were out, and always make me laugh. They rush all over the place, sometimes chasing their own reflections in the glass around their enclosure. And today, one of them found its way to the top of the high tower in the middle of their exhibit and kept looking around like a little furry telescope. A couple of them also spotted a helicopter flying overhead and tracked it all the way across the sky. So funny.

In the Chimps’ enclosure, one of them was lying in the sun on the floor, while the others were up near the open roof… And two of them decided to pee and pooped all over everything just as I was taking photos of them. I couldn’t help but chuckle. So rude! The orangutan was a little more polite.

The lions came out just as I walked by their enclosure, and the male was feeling kind of randy. He kept following the female around, making overtures to her, trying to get close to her back end, licking her tail. At one point, he put one of his front paws against her inner back thigh and kind of tugged softly at her. She just gave him a dirty look and kept on walking. Snub. Poor dude.

They’ve had several successful pairings in the past. They had their last litter about 5 years ago, though – three cubs – so maybe dad thinks it’s time to have some more.
I noticed the lioness licking at the wooden structures inside their enclosure (which is where the male usually “sprays”). I wonder if she wanted the uretic salt or something. I tried to get some close-up of where she was licking, and it DID look like there was something there, but I couldn’t tell for sure what it was.

I also got to see the sloth today. He’s hardly every out, but it’s really hard to get photos of him because he’s inside an enclosure that has a really tight fence-weave. The camera can’t ready see through the openings.

I had lunch at the zoo — a club sandwich, side salad and tea — but couldn’t eat it all. Their portions are either too large or my stomach is getting smaller (which would be okay with me).

I walked for a little over 3 hours, so I was at the edge of my limit for the day. I wanted to try for one last go-round to see if Coconut the Snow Leopard had come out before I left, but I just couldn’t walk anymore, so I went back to the car.

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.

Lots of Photos from the Zoo, 10-17-18

DAY 12 OF MY VACATION. I headed over to the Sacramento Zoo for a walk there.

Wednesdays are apparently a good day to go to the zoo because there were hardly any people there and I got the first spot in the parking lot (closest to the crosswalk from the lot to the zoo gate). The weather was lovely all the while I was there (about 56º when I got there, about 76º when I left.) Bookends: as I was going into the zoo I saw a squirrel and took its picture, and when I came out of the zoo, I saw another squirrel and got his picture, too.

I had gone specifically to see Coconut again, the baby Snow Leopard. When I first stopped at the Snow Leopard enclosure, the dad, Blizzard, was out, so I walked on. When I came back to the enclosure about an hour later, the keeper was cleaning it out and setting out toys for Coconut to play with. So, I was one of the first people at the enclosure when she opened up the door and let out Coconut and his mom, Misha. I think I took over 200 photos of them. They’re so beautiful, and the baby is so funny.

He’s at the “let’s pounce on mom” stage, and play-attacked her from different angles. Most of the time, she saw him coming and just braced herself for the impact. (She’s really gentle with him.) But, once he came at her from a ledge above her and startled her enough to make her run off a bit. You could almost see how proud he was about that. Hahahaha!

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

As an extra fun moment, baby Cosmo, this year’s only baby Flamingo, was also out and walking around. She’s all gray right now and hasn’t started to pink up yet. Because she was the only flamingo born this year, was rejected by her mom and had no siblings, her keepers are allowing her to bond with them in the hopes that even when Cosmo joins the flock in the zoo later, she’ll still come to them whenever they lay down a little white blanket for her.

They were working with her today where everyone could see her, giving her hugs and praise and a clicker-treat (brine shrimp) when she came to her white blanket (“station”). Later, as the keepers were walking away, one of them had the white blanket with her, and little Cosmo walked right along after her on the sidewalks and paved paths of the zoo (without any enclosure or leash or anything else). It was so cute!

Among the other birds, they have a Plain-colored Amazon parrot who’s learning to “talk” and interact with people. It said “Hello” to me several times and made a “purring” sound. The sign beside its cage suggested that you sing and dance for the birds, but… uh, no. I wasn’t going to do that. Hah!

About halfway through my visit, I stopped at the café to have some lunch: a tri-tip sandwich, fries and a large soda. Their food is always good, but their portions are so large I can never finish it all. The food is expensive, too, but you have to keep in mind that about 30% of the price goes to the animals so… eat and shut up. Hah-2!

Other critters that I hardly ever get to see were also out: The sloth was moseying around in its enclosure, but it’s hard to get photos of it because its in a cage with tiny openings in the mesh that my camera can’t see through. The male jaguar was also out, but he was upset and pacing, so I couldn’t get any clear photos of him either. In the reptile house, though, I had better luck and got pretty good photos of the chuckwalla, Amazon Milk Frogs, and Dart Frogs… and also got to see the Rhinoceros Iguana, which I had never seen before. He was a big dude, about the size of my leg. It would have made a good “dinosaur” in a cheap monster movie.

I ended up seeing about 45 different species and getting some good photos, so I was very pleased.