Tag Archives: Sidewinder

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.

Baby Animal Bonanza at the Sacramento Zoo, 09-09-17

I went to the Sacramento Zoo today because I wanted to see all of the new babies.  Along with the six baby flamingoes who were born a few weeks ago, on Labor Day two of the other animals took “labor” seriously and had newborns: an Eastern Bongo (whose name is Penny), and the mama Wolf’s Guenon, Mimi,  (who already two other babies, Zuri and Kaci, still growing up around her).  The three Black and White Ruffed Lemurs born in May were now finally on exhibit, too.  So it was baby bonanza there, and I wasn’t disappointed.  I ended up taking over 1400 photo and video snippets!

CLICK HERE to see about 200 of them.

I think all of the animals were happy about the fact that it was a slightly cooler morning (around 68º) and were out and about, and I got to see all of the babies.

As soon as I walked into the zoo, I went over to the duck pond and got to see the American White Pelicans snoozing in the sun and the Southern Crested Screamers posing for photos.  There were also Mallards, Wood Ducks,  White-faced Whistling Ducks, some Orinoco Geese and the adult flamingoes.  In the enclosure for the Thick-Billed Parrots there was a Roadrunner rushing around.

Then it was off to see my favorite Red River Hogs; the whole family was out, scruffing around in the dust. And in the enclosure next to them was the Eastern Bongo and her baby.  OMG, that calf was soooo cute!  It hasn’t grown into its face yet, so it’s all ears and has a wrinkly muzzle.  Every now and then, mom would poke at it with her muzzle or try to herd it by using her horns to steer it around. At only about 4 days old the baby Bongo seems to be able to get around okay on its own, although it did stumble a few times chasing after its mama.  The zoo staff isn’t sure of the gender of the baby yet, and it doesn’t have a name. Same is true of the new baby Wolf’s Guenon.

The whole family of Wolf’s Guenons were out: mom, dad, all of the babies – including the newborn who was clinging to mama’s chest. From where I first saw it, it was hard for me to get any clear photos.  So, I walked around to the other side of the enclosure, and then was able to get some really sweet photos of Mimi and her newborn.  Every once in a while, she’d groom the baby too hard or pinch it in the wrong place while she tried to move it around, and it would give out a loud squealing cheep!  The other youngsters were running around and wrestling with one another, and would stop periodically to look at the newborn, but they never approached it or tried to touch it.  Mama Mimi was very protective of it.

Across from her, the Sumatran Orangutans were out in their enclosure and I got some good shots of them.  Not so with chimpanzees. There were too many gum-chewing ferrets around, and of course none of them have been taught any manners by their moronic parents. I had several of the kids literally shove me out of their way. One of them even elbowed me in the stomach to get past me… And these were “little” kids, maybe 6 to 10 years old (not teenagers)… I hate humans.

Of the big cats, all of them were out except for the Snow Leopard.  The African Lions have a new “cat tree” built in their enclosure with several layers that give them more space to climb and also gives them extra sources of shade.  The male was walking all around it, spraying pee on it and rubbing his face against it.  Hah! Cats are cats… The Sumatran Tiger was out pacing around and at one point jumped up on the ledge in front of the viewing window and scared the crap out of some little kids.  In his enclosure, the male Jaguar was taking a nap.

I then walked over to the giraffe enclosure because I knew the baby Flamingoes would be brought out on a shallow lawn near there, and all of the giraffes were out, including both the Reticulated one and the Masai ones.  The big male Masai was trying to each foliage from a nearby tree, while the others munched on the zoo-provided breakfast of greenery and twigs.

And then, around 10:30 the baby flamingoes were finally brought out and allowed to play in a trio of wading pools.  They were just darling – all these long-legged fuzz balls nattering to one another and jumping around, greeting the group of viewers with wing flaps and little dances. Because they’re so young, they’re still varying shades of white and grey. The keepers said it would take a year for them to fully fledge into their pink feathers.

Among the babies there were four boys and two girls, and all of them are named after cocktails: Tiki, Mai Tai, Bellini, Daiquiri, Blue Hawaiian and Margarita.  The keepers said that eating in the water is instinctual, so they didn’t have to train them to do that. They’re feeding the babies a special flamingo-chow made by Purina.  It has the keratin in it that will turn the birds feathers pink as they fledge out. I stood there, watching them and taking photos of them for almost 30 minutes; they were just so much fun to watch.  Little Mai Tai, a female and one of the smallest in the group, kept going over to this keeper or that keeper, and laid down between their feet.  The keepers said that’s what the babies do in the wild: snuggle down between their parent’s feet to rest. Awwwww.  The babies were also fascinated by the leaves on the ground and tried to untie some of the keepers’ shoes.  Hah! (Oh, and a fun fact: the oldest Flamingo in the zoo is 23 years old; she came as a 2-year old to the zoo in 1996!)

When I was done watching the babies, it was about 11 o’clock, so I had some lunch: a hot dog and a rootbeer float.  While I was eating I watched the giraffes and the Fennec Foxes.  One of the foxes kept moving back and forth against a door on its enclosure, not realizing that there was an open door just a few feet away from it.  It was getting more and more frustrated, but the one by the open door didn’t call to it or otherwise let it know where the entrance was to their “cavern”… The foxes are supposed to have a wide variety of vocalizations, but I’ve never heard them make a peep at the zoo… They’re such pretty little things; I love their faces.

A few of the Straw-colored Fruit Bats were hanging out… but it’s always so hard to get photos of them because you have to shoot through a chain link fence AND deal with the fact that they hide out under an overhang that shades them.

I circled around, back past the Bongo – who was lying in her barn with her baby in the back of her enclosure by that time.  I’m glad I got the photos of her earlier in the morning.  Then I stopped at the Black-and-White Ruffed lemur enclosure.  I saw two of the three babies there.  Most of the lemurs were lying down and resting, so I was able to get some good close-ups of them.  Across from them the White-Faced Sakis were out (but not the Three-Toed Sloth).  The female Saki (who doesn’t have a white face like the male) always looks like she could kick your ass, and today was no different.  She makes me laugh.

Before I left the zoo, I stopped in at the reptile house.  The snakes were unusually active today.  Usually they lie around with their heads tucked into their coils, but many of them today were stretched out and showing off.  I got photos of the Honduran Dwarf Club-tailed Iguana, Madagascar Rainbow Sand Lizard, Madagascar Tree Boa, Madagascar Flat-tailed Tortoise, the Smooth-fronted Caiman, Prehensile-tailed Skink, a Brazilian Rainbow Boa, Pacific Gopher Snake, Ball Python, a couple of European Legless Lizards, a Northern Pacific Rattlesnake and a Sidewinder, a Fiji Island Banded Iguana and a Common Chuckwalla.  I was also there when a keeper fed a tiny pinkie-mouse to a Giant Garter Snake.  In other terrariums were a Mexican Red-kneed Tarantula, several Blue Poison Dart Frogs, California Tiger Salamanders, Golden Mantella frogs, Phantasmal Dart Frogs, and Yellow-banded Poison Dart Frogs.  Phew!

The only part of the zoo that I didn’t get to – because it was getting too hot for me outside – was the Australian section where the ‘roos and wallabies are (along with the Red Panda exhibit and the Hornbills). Next time.