A journey into the eyes and mind of a naturalist.

Another Trip to the Zoo

One of the perks of being a teacher is having an entire week off between Christmas and the New Year.  I took the opportunity to go to Como Park Zoo and Conservatory with my wife, Kelly,  and newborn daughter, Claire.   Claire thoroughly enjoyed all the animals and showed her enthusiasm by sleeping the entire time.  I guess it was just a little too much to handle.  Our trip to the zoo had to be cut short because she was getting cranky.  I missed out on taking pictures of orchids but Claire takes the priority over some crazy looking flowers.

I used to work at this zoo and got to know most of the animals by name.  This is Cloe the sloth and, like Claire,  the zoo must be just a little too exciting!  Sloths have a slow metabolism because they eat leaves almost exclusively.  Leaves are hard, and slow, to digest so the sloth compensates by slowing down too.  In the wild sloths will only come down to the ground for one purpose, to poop.  They usually only do that once every week or so.  Another interesting fact about sloths is, in the wild, they have an algae that grows in their fur.  This algae is found nowhere else on the planet.  Talk about a weird symbiotic relationship!  The sloth gets some free camouflage and the algae gets and nice warm and wet place to live!

You can call this penguin a Jackass.  This is the African Black-footed Penguin, also known as the Jackass Penguin for its donkey like call.  Due to the uber-sensitive public most people will never know they are called the Jackass Penguin (wouldn’t want to offend anyone!).  These penguins, as their name suggests live in Africa,  yes Africa.  If they were to be put on the frigid shores of Antarctica they would freeze to death in a matter of minutes.  When I see movies like Happy Feet and others I just thank Hollywood for mis-educating the public and perpetuating misconceptions about the natural world.  In fact there are penguins that live in the Galapagos Islands just a stones throw from the equator!

This is Amanda, an Orangutan (note:  not OranguTANG!!).   Orangutans live on the islands of Java and Borneo and are critically endangered.  In Indonesian the name for Orangutans literally means “people of the forest”, and name they are more than worthy of.  Orangutans are solitary apes that spend a majority of their time in the trees.  Juveniles will spend up to 5 years with their mothers learning how to survive in the forest.  Amanda here is incredibly intelligent.  She is the brains of the bunch and always keeps the zoo keepers on their toes.

Spider Monkeys are New World monkeys, meaning they are found in Central and South America.  They have a prehensile tail, which means they have a tail that acts as a fifth limb.  The underside of their tail even has a “fingerprint” unique to each individual.  Only New World monkeys have a prehensile tail.  Not all New World monkeys have one but they are only found here in the Americas.  Old World monkey are from Africa and Asia and none of them have prehensile tails.


Dahl Sheep are found in the northern stretches of the Rocky Mountains.  They have adapted thick fur and white coloration for life high in the mountains where it is eternally winter.  This sheep seems quite at ease taking a nap in a snow trench.


Polar Bears, like the Dahl Sheep are adapted for life in the cold.  These bears are the largest member of the bear family and will prey on a variety of different animals.  These bears spend so much time in the water that they could almost be considered marine mammals.  They are just as comfortable swimming as they are walking.  That said,  they still need lots of ice to hunt seals, their favorite prey.  One way they hunt seals is to sneak up to a seal’s breathing hole in the ice and wait for the seal to pop up.  As they sneak to the hole Polar Bears have been observed covering their black nose with their paws to avoid detection by the keen eyed seals.  Polar Bears have also been known to attack, kill and eat Beluga Whales!!


Snow Leopards are another animal that is highly adapted for a life in the cold.  These cats live high in the Himalayan Mountains of Asia.  They have a very long thick tail for balance and warmth.  When they sleep the wrap their tail around them to keep all exposed parts nice and toasty.   This is another critically endangered species due to over-hunting and trapping for their beautiful fur.

Sometimes an overexposed photo turns out pretty sweet!   I took this photo before I had a chance to adjust to the new light setting.  I took the color out and increase the contrast but otherwise this is the photo I took, no photoshop for me!  I think this one really illustrates the concept of camouflage for these cats.  Image this cat stalking its prey in a mountainous rock field covered in snow.   It’s camouflage would allow it to blend into the background.  Evolution is an amazing thing!!


Up Next:  Cabin Fever!!


One response

  1. mom

    I thoroughly enjoyed your great photos & informative & interesting facts!

    January 11, 2011 at 19:15

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