Baby Animals and More at the Zoo
By Robert Bernstein
We let our Santa Barbara Zoo membership lapse during COVID. But my wife Merlie has been bugging me to go visit again because of several new baby animals. It seems that the Zoo doubled its membership price. But I went ahead and renewed anyway and we headed over for a visit on Sunday. We were quite fortunate to see all the babies!
Here are my photos of our little visit.
We started with the new lions. "Baby" Pauline is actually a year old now, so not a total baby. Here she snuggled with father Ralph as mother Felicia kept watch.
After spending time with the lions we went to the next enclosure with African Spurred Tortoises. We were treated to this fascinating activity which I recorded on video.
A family stopped by at one point and the parents explained to the child that the tortoises were "dancing".
Then we went to the enclosure on the other side of the lions to watch the giraffes for awhile. They were continuously moving, mostly at random. But at one point they lined up in this perfect formation!
The furthest giraffe (in the center) is the "baby" Twiga. He is also not such a baby anymore, born exactly when the COVID shutdown began on March 27, 2020. "Twiga" means "Giraffe" in Swahili. Kind of how our local mountain peak is called "the peak" in Spanish.
We thought it was odd that the lions are housed next to the giraffes and we noted that the lions spent a lot of their time watching this potential food. We wondered if this stresses out the giraffes. The staff person we talked to laughed and said it is just the opposite. The giraffes take pleasure in coming over to tease the lions, knowing they are safe!
A new Zoo highlight is the Walkabout which is not quite open for walking about, but we got a peek inside. Here two wallabies were sparring, hopefully in play.
This Emu in the Walkabout looked me right in the eye.Our next stop in search of babies was the Amur Leopard enclosure. Amur leopards are reputed to be the most endangered big cats in the world. The Zoo is doing its best to breed as many as possible, but space is limited. They have a breeding pair, but they can only have one baby on site at a time, so they have to keep the adult male Kasha separated in between breedings.
Here mother Ajax struck a magnificent pose for us.
Here she was hanging out with baby Marta who was born August 5 and really is still a baby.Baby Marta came over and stared at us up close and personal through the glass.One interesting moment: A squirrel entered their enclosure, seemingly oblivious to the danger. Ajax leaped over in an instant for an afternoon snack. But the squirrel barely made it back out. It stayed in the tree above, flicking its tail.
Nearby we entered the Asian birds aviary and saw this baby with its fancy mother. Believe it or not, these are a variety of pigeon!
This Luzon bleeding-heart dove is closely related. Luzon is the big island in the Philippines where Manila is located.
My special passion in the animal kingdom is the world of amphibians and reptiles. Especially frogs. As you probably know, frogs are the canary in the coal mine for environmental threats. Frog skin is highly vascularized with blood vessels for respiration, so they are easily poisoned with environmental contaminants. Here were some beautiful poison arrow frogs (which I have been fortunate to see in the wild in Central America).
They had just been fed tiny pinhead crickets, so they were very active.
This Amazon milk frog posed in a precarious spot. These are now bred as pets and I have seen them for sale at Sensational Pets.This toucan is in a cage, but with the magic of a real camera with a real lens I was able to get a good photo of him looking at us.We made one more stop back to the lion enclosure where we started and father Ralph made this regal pose for us.If you look at the rest of my photos you can see he was doing a bit of "dancing" as well.
Next to the lion enclosure is this fennec fox, native to the area around Egypt and Israel. It is the smallest fox in the world and also has the largest ears relative to its body size. Very cute, but this is not a baby!Please visit the Santa Barbara Zoo web site for more information. Because of COVID, they are requiring advance reservations when you visit. As Simon and Garfunkel once sang: It's all happening at the zoo!