A journey into the eyes and mind of a naturalist.

A Trip to the Zoo: Part 1

Last week I took a trip to the Minnesota Zoo with my students.  I do not usually take too many pictures at the zoo because the lighting is usually really bad and there is something that just doesn’t seem right about taking pictures of an animal locked in a cage.  Don’t get me wrong modern zoos are much better than in years past but still seeing a Siberian Tiger in a paddock only a couple acres in size is kind of depressing.  These are animals who, in the wild, have home ranges that are hundreds of square miles in size.  I would be pacing too.

I worked in the education department of the Como Zoo for three years,  I know that the zoo staff is dedicated to ensuring that the animals are kept in physical and mental shape through any means possible.  But seeing a Grizzly Bear in the wild is a whole different experience than seeing one in a zoo, probably for the bear too!

These pictures are of an Amur Leopard.  These are a critically endangered cat that shares its range with the Siberian Tigers.  These leopards are closely related to the common leopards found through much of Asia and Africa.  The Amur Leopard is adapted for a life in a more temperate climate with short hot summers and long cold winters.  These amazing cats will more than likely become extinct in the wild by the end of this century.

Mountain Lion, Puma, Panther, Cougar, Catamount.  By any name this is the largest cat small cat in the world.   The big cats (lions, tigers, jaguars, leopards) lack the flexible throat muscles to purr while inhaling and exhaling.  Instead they can only purr when exhaling, but can also roar.  Mountain Lions, on the other hand are just like domestic cats,  they can purr while breathing in or out but cannot roar.

These cats were once found throughout all of North and South America, from the northern stretches of the Rocky Mountains to the Patagonian plateau.  Today they they have been all but extirpated from much of their eastern range.  BUT they are making a come back.  Here in Minnesota we have had an increase in the number of sightings and sign.  In fact there was a Mountain Lion hanging out right by my school in suburban St. Paul last fall.  That same lion was later spotted in northern Wisconsin later last winter.

How do you conserve animals that need home ranges in the hundreds of miles?

What is the future of the magnificent animals?  What will the world be like when top predators like these are no more?

Unfortunately these are hard questions to answer but are imperative to ask.


Up Next:  More Zoo!


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