Baby Animals and More at the Zoo

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Baby Animals and More at the Zoo
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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!

https://www.sbzoo.org/

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Sun Dec 09, 2021 06:25 PM
Baby Animals and More at the Zoo

PBS has numerous excellent wildlife documentaries ...filmed in the wild, one gets a better appreciation
for nature.

sbrobert Dec 09, 2021 12:32 PM
Baby Animals and More at the Zoo

Thank you for the lively discussion of the merits and demerits of zoos. The issues are complex and cannot be reduced to all or none answers, in my humble opinion.

John Muir created the Sierra Club primarily to preserve nature for nature's sake. But he also realized that people are more likely to want to preserve nature if they interact with it.

Zoos allow us to interact with inhabitants of remote parts of the planet without consuming vast resources. Zoos have come a long way in my lifetime from bare cages to enclosures that allow more natural lives for the animals. Yes, they are still captive.

Yes, most animals bred in zoos will never be released to the wild. But some of their descendants may.

"Yes, and" is helpful. Yes, we should do all we can to preserve natural ecosystems. And yes we should also have zoos as a backup for species that are on the brink of total extinction. And also for the education and motivation to care about other beings.

As for PETA, I support reducing suffering of all living things. But PETA makes no distinction among different uses of animals for human purposes. Interestingly, in their ideal world there would be no pets. From a resource standpoint, this would actually make a surprisingly huge difference in helping natural ecosystems.

LUCKY777, MARCELK, QMC, ESL TEACHER, BABYCAKES and others I do appreciate the kind words of support. There are many important issues and actions and we can't do everything. But we can at least support those who are working for a better world.

Sun Dec 09, 2021 04:43 PM
Baby Animals and More at the Zoo

A better way to educate, holograms, watch this amazing footage...
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=veTWyKcyNp4

Sun Dec 09, 2021 04:06 PM
Baby Animals and More at the Zoo

I am all for education and awareness, however there are better ways to educate then incarcerate animals. Simply going outside you are immersed in nature on a small and large scale. One just has to observe from the tiniest of insects to larger ones, to birds, wild animals etc....
Technology has an excellent tool ...Virtually reality and Augmented Reality, holograms for vast herds It can be both educational and very entertaining at no expense to wildlife. Having a wild elephant, big cat, an elegant giraffe, sweet otter, big whale etc...appear in front of your very eyes in holographic form. You can almost reach out and touch it, and I am sure technology will get there. Children/ Adults can be educated on these beauties and help protect the environment for these majestic animals. Zoos are well cruel, can't image anyone on this list to who would enjoy being in a small confinement for life, never travelling...even if you had a doctor and abundance of food... We need to advance and better use tools to educate and protect wild animals. and there environment.....

ESL_teacher Dec 09, 2021 10:58 AM
Baby Animals and More at the Zoo

Thank you for sending us those great photos, Robert. In addition, the zoo benefits by attracting more visitors. We all agree there are arguments against keeping animals in zoos, but there is a huge educational value in learning about animals that live in other parts of the world and most zoos nowadays are keenly aware of their responsibility to inform and enlighten.

Sun Dec 09, 2021 07:51 AM
Baby Animals and More at the Zoo

PETA asserts that “most animals” in zoos are not truly endangered and that the motivations of the zoos are not necessarily aligned with true conservation.

“Zoos aren’t breeding animals with the intent of replenishing threatened populations,” PETA says. “Babies bring visitors through the gates, and captive breeding gives the public a false sense of security about a species’ survival. But that belief undermines support for and diverts resources from in-situ conservation efforts.”

How many animals has the Zoo released into the wild to replenish endangered populations? Animals born and raised in Zoos do not have the skill set to survive in the wild. If the intent is to protect wild animals, protect their land.

On the other hand, many rehabilitation centers /conservation centers take care of injured animals or who raise animals to release back into the wild have been successful in helping endangered populations. It's not a zoo and there is limited human contact.

We all experienced lock down, imagine living that your entire life as an incarcerated animal ...having people walk by freely to look at you? At least we humans , cats and dogs were able to move around during lock down, Zoo animals live their entire life in a small confined area, not natural and does not preserve their ability to survive out in the wild.

If you truly want to protect the wild, protect their lands and invest in recognized organization that have successfully increased wild populations by releasing them back into the wild.

Babycakes Dec 09, 2021 07:40 AM
Baby Animals and More at the Zoo

Nothing could be further from the truth for anyone who thinks that zoos are jailing, incarcerating, or otherwise harming all of these animals. I have visited zoos all over the globe (my favorite zoos are in Sydney Australia, Anchorage AK, Hong Kong, and our very own along the beach!). Plenty of research indicates that zoo animals are much happier than those in the wild, and certainly safer and better fed. Imagine being a wolf in Yellowstone during the dead of winter having to scrounge for tidbits/scraps/leftovers and garbage dumps....it would be horrible. Now take that same wolf and put it in a zoo....warm, out of the elements, living without fear, and a bucket of meat each day. "Yeah, I'll take a comfy zoo any day," says the wolf. That broke-neck giraffe Gemina wouldn't have lasted two minutes in the wild, let alone been an inspiration to hundreds of thousands of children. Some of you may totally not agree with Robert's approach to life, politics, and religion, but he is simply reporting on the good life that these animals have and 99.999 percent of the world's population agrees with him. Another thing, look into the eyes of zoo animals and you will see happiness and content. When I visited India, I saw what happens when animals freely roam amongst us. Believe me, you don't want to walk down State Street along with hippos, lions, and elephants.

a-1639113073 Dec 09, 2021 09:11 PM
Baby Animals and More at the Zoo

"99.999 percent of the world's population agrees with him."
Babycakes, please don't presume to speak for others.
I enjoy shared opinions though.

I can only agree with Robert; it's not a simple issue and I don't have a clear stance, as there are good arguments on both sides. And I'm a strong pessimist about how the environment and humans are going to treat animals.

sacjon Dec 09, 2021 04:03 PM
Baby Animals and More at the Zoo

PIT - so should we spay any animals brought to zoos for rehabilitation or rescue (or abort the fetuses of those who came in already pregnant) so their offspring aren't forced to entertain you?

PitMix Dec 09, 2021 03:53 PM
Baby Animals and More at the Zoo

Sac, a captive born animal is just an entertainer for us. Unless you show me where they signed up for that limited life out of choice. Same for an injured or sick one. Usually injured by human activities, right?

There have been studies that conclude that zoos don't actually spur people to save habitat or animals.
New Yorker
"The World Association of Zoos and Aquariums recently commissioned a global survey of the impact of zoos on the public understanding of biodiversity; its report included some data supporting the “dreamy stuff” argument but hurried past the finding that zoo visits made people seventeen per cent less committed to take action on habitat protection and creation, and nine per cent less likely to act against pollution and climate change."

sacjon Dec 09, 2021 01:46 PM
Baby Animals and More at the Zoo

PITMIX - "If a zoo is not providing the same space for an animal that they would have in the wild, they they are being kept alive in an artificial environment for our entertainment." Wrong, not always. What about the thousands of captive born animals that are unable to be released safely into the wild? How about those who were brought into captivity due to injury or sickness and are not able to return safely to the wild? Don't forget all the species that are on the brink of extinction that are being protected in captivity.

It's not always for our entertainment (and education), it's many times for their wellbeing and the very survival of a species.

PitMix Dec 09, 2021 12:50 PM
Baby Animals and More at the Zoo

If a zoo is not providing the same space for an animal that they would have in the wild, they they are being kept alive in an artificial environment for our entertainment.
The only one I would consider visiting is a sanctuary or the San Diego Wild Animal Park.

"The sources of stress in captivity are many, including cage restraint, human presence, an unfamiliar environment, and other, more subtle stressors, such as artificial light conditions (reviewed in Morgan and Tromborg, 2007).

Byzantium Dec 08, 2021 09:28 PM
Baby Animals and More at the Zoo

Just think of all the cats and dogs that remain incarcerated in this city as family pets, being enslaved by tyrannical owners when they could all be out free-ranging the way nature intended. Unleash Fido and Free Fluffy. Now.

Bird Dec 09, 2021 05:56 AM
Baby Animals and More at the Zoo

Cats and dogs have been domesticated for hundreds, if not thousands of years. Giraffes and lions and most allu birds not so. Maybe in a hundred or hundreds of years when there are no more big cats, nor other increasingly rare wild creatures except insects and rodents, and pigeons, crows, and gulls, there will be a justification for small zoos with tiny living spaces as the Santa Barbara zoo. Now it looks like a prison for those 4 giraffes in a tiny space and it’s a sadness for those mammals born and raised and living in those enclosures.

Bird Dec 08, 2021 08:40 PM
Baby Animals and More at the Zoo

These pictures made me feel sad. The Zoo's captive breeding program just produces more captives. Some of the condors have been released to freedom (I think so, anyway) but not a chance for these unfortunate cats or giraffes and even birds, kept in small space for the pleasure of humans. It took many years before we recognized and now even talk reparations for human slavery; how many more generations before we recognize that non-humans have a right to a free life?

PitMix Dec 09, 2021 12:53 PM
Baby Animals and More at the Zoo

Animals communicate, and grieve, and use tools. To argue they are not sentient beings worthy of being able to live out their lives in their natural habitat is the height of selfish and unenlightened human behavior.

Byzantium Dec 08, 2021 03:07 PM
Baby Animals and More at the Zoo

Zoo animals actually live longer on average than their counterparts still out in the wild with a lot fewer daily stresses in the eat or be eaten wild world. SB Zoo is a leader in preserving and breeding endangered species. Visit the zoo and talk to their very helpful staff who will teach you more about their exemplary preservation programs.

Minibeast Dec 08, 2021 01:30 PM
Baby Animals and More at the Zoo

How ironic. A man who professes to love the great outdoors and ranging far and wide in nature promotes and condones humans incarcerating animals in cages, forcing those hapless creatures to live stunted and unnatural lives ----- for human entertainment.

qmc Dec 09, 2021 08:56 AM
Baby Animals and More at the Zoo

Mixed feelings on zoos, however, due to human activity many animals are being forced to extinction. Zoos are the last hope of reintroducing lost species. SB zoo, to my knowledge, has helped in the reintroduction of the California Condor and the Channel Islands Fox. Unfortunately for the Amur Leopards, reintroduction is probably a lost dream due to human poaching/predation. As for Robert's character, he is one of the few people I know who actively/physically participates in change for our community. How many of us armchair lurkers can actually say that?

MarcelK Dec 09, 2021 01:34 AM
Baby Animals and More at the Zoo

What a grossly offensive and ignorant comment. Robert has done vastly more for the defense and protection of wildlife and the environment than you could ever dream of. Robert has done a lot to promote marine and wildlife sanctuaries--do you want to attack him for that, too? Here's an idea ... go find Merlie and insult her to her face about having asked her husband to go to the zoo--all because you have a deep misunderstanding of how zoos operate and what they do. The SB Zoo isn't the one destroying habitat, poaching, overfishing, and the like. If you want to target someone, try these guys: https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/donald-trumps-son-game-hunting-photos/

Sun Dec 08, 2021 07:50 PM
Baby Animals and More at the Zoo

I agree incarcerating animals for human entertainment is not enjoyable for animals who naturally are free to travel miles if not hundreds of miles. Death is part of all life, animals die in zoos as well. Out in the wild at least they experience freedom. Instead of zoos, we need to protect the land where these animals reside and not permit large corporations from stealing the land for palm oil, big agriculture, fossil fuels, etc...

Lucky 777 Dec 08, 2021 09:47 AM
Baby Animals and More at the Zoo

Wonderful photos Robert, you brought the zoo alive for so many people who don't think of going. I worked there for 2 years in college and so wish every school child was taken there annually for a visit, to be in the presence of the animals serving as ambassadors for their species. I'm just sorry that the video of the Geochelone sulcata tortoises did not capture the audio they make when "dancing." I have two in my yard and I'm amused to imagine what "afternoon delight" people walking by on the sidewalk imagine is occurring behind the fence, it is a quite passionate grunting and moaning.

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