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Posts Tagged ‘San Diego Zoo’

Winston was waiting for us in the corner of his exhibit with his female partner, son Monroe and other family members behind him because Winston is the dominant silverback lowland gorilla at the World Famous San Diego Zoo Safari Park (SDZ Safari Park). Fernando, an anteater, just awoke from a nap and Zinvvhi (ZenVee), a giraffe, was waiting on us too. The one thing they all had in common was food. Each one clearly loved their cuisine.IMG_2275 (1) Winston gorilla 2018

For Winston, age 48 and 600 pounds, lunch included a large whole green squash. Clutching the squash in his huge plastic-like polished leather right hand, he eagerly stuck it in his big pink mouth and chomped it in half. Several chews later, he finished off the other half. Next was a huge carrot which he finished in two bites.

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The gorillas and orangutans just love these treats and they have to find them wherever they are given to them.

After several rounds of mixed whole vegetables, it was time for the grand finale, corn. It obviously was his favorite as he loudly smacked and chewed and smacked till it was gone. He hit the wall with his big right hand telling his keeper, Mandi, he wanted more corn and she gave him another corn on the cob. As he took his first bite, young Monroe could no longer maintain his composure and suddenly lunged to grab Winston’s corn. Winston lunged back at him.

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Mandi showed us one of the gorillas bedrooms. And the keepers keep it nice and clean for them so they can relax and sleep. The bedrooms are connected and the gorillas choose who they want to sleep with each day.

Winston was hitting the wall again wanting more corn. And when we left, Winston was smacking loudly eating more corn. The other seven members of the gorilla troop watched, waiting patiently for Winston to finish so they could eat their lunch at the eating station.

The San Diego Zoo in San Diego, California USA  has four Orangutans who are known as the clowns of the apes. They will keep you laughing at their funny antics.DSC_0095 Our visit coincided with their afternoon snack time. Each day, volunteers take the snacks and put them in different objects so the orangutans experience different ways of extracting food from various objects that Tanya gives them.

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Karen was peeking through a glass wall to look at the people looking at her. A glasss wall has to separate them because orangutans can get any illness a human has. So, the glass viewing wall keeps the orangutans well.

Clever and smart, orangutans quickly figure out how to get the snack from an object. Watching the discovery process is great entertainment for the zoo guests.DSC_0013

One treat was encased in a round plastic ball with several holes and each hole stuffed with excelsior. To get to the snack, each orangutan had to pull the excelsior from the ball to find the treat. It was so much fun watching each one figure out how to get to the treat of in-shell peanuts.

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Aisha, the youngest orangutan, is learning to hunt the treats.

And then watching their plastic-like polished leather hands peel the shell from the peanut and put the nut in their big pink mouth was both intriguing and fun to watch. They all were just so precious.

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Karen had finished her snack when she started rolling over and over for the guests.

Then there was Fernando, an anteater from a South America Rain Forest, who lives at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. DSC_0296.jpgDSC_0289At 10 am, Fernando had just awakened from his nap and was ready to eat. So, with a bowl of soupy tan liquid with tiny pellets in the bottom, Fernando began to slurp and slurp and slurp the liquid and suck the pellets into his mouth the same way he would slurp up ants. His tiny mouth and long skinny tongue are perfectly designed for sucking up ants, his favorite food.DSC_0290

Fernando is an “Ambassador Animal” at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. He goes around with his keeper, Ryane, for guests to pet him and learn about anteaters on an up-close-and-personal basis. He obviously loves being petted by guests.DSC_0287

Another Ambassador is Milo, a Kinkakou, a native mammal of the South American Rain Forest. His thick, short dark brown hair made him look like a live fur collar on Ryane. Goldie, a male Cockatoo, was ready to show us his tricks. Goldie is very smart and loves the attention he gets being an Ambassador. Some of his tricks included hollering like a hawk, swinging upside down and fluffing his head feathers like he is mad.DSC_0318

Zimvvhi, a giraffe, had a baby just two days before we met her. During our tour of the 1800-acre Safari Park, Zimvvhi came up to our Caravan Safari truck seeking a treat. And of course, we just happened to have her favorite leaves.DSC_0444

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Kinvvhi’s 2-day old baby

Her best friend, Mara, approached us, wanting to join Zimvvhi’s party. We loved watching their long dark tongues wrap around the long skinny leaves we were giving them. It was exactly like giraffe’s eat in the wild from Africa’s Acacia tree. And each person on the Caravan Safari gave them more and more.DSC_0561 - Copy

As we fed Mara, we spotted Kacy with her new Rhino baby, Justin, the 97th Southern White Rhino baby born at the SDZ Safari Park. Two other female Rhinos are pregnant and due in July, making the 98 and 99th baby Rhinos born at the SDZ Safari Park.DSC_0600.JPG

Rachel, our guide for the Caravan Safari, said when babies are born at a zoo or animal park it means the animals are happy and comfortable there. When no babies are born, something is wrong. The Safari Park is using in vitro fertilization to produce the almost extinct Northern White Rhinos.DSC_0605

The Safari Park’s terrain closely resembles some areas of the bush in Africa. Our very popular Caravan Safari truck came upon Maoto, a Southern White Rhinoceros, who also wanted a snack. Each person on the truck gave Maoto his most favorite leaf snack. How thrilling it was to be so close to a dangerous wild animal and have our photo taken while feeding him!

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L to R Barbara, Sharon and Rachel showed us some of the snacks we could choose. In the background is our Safari Caravan truck we rode in all over the Safari Park. It was like we were on an African Safari. Caravan Safaris offered are 2 hours or 3 1/2 hours.

And then a surprise happened just like on an African Safari. We stopped for OUR snack and restroom break half-way through the 3½-hour tour. Waiting for us right in the middle of the wild open land was a portable potty made private by a bamboo fence, and a short walk away, a covered patio with table and chairs. At the serving table displayed three large trays of all kinds of snacks, vitamin drinks and water served to us by Rachel, our guide, and Barbara, our truck driver. We were as delighted as the animals we had just visited to get OUR snacks and potty break.DSC_0486DSC_0525

Refreshed, our Caravan Safari truck came upon a herd of Somali Wild Asses, including a barely dry baby born that morning. So cute. A camel was accompanying them.

Next, we saw a Black Rhinoceros which had just arrived from Florida that morning. A Roan Antelope’s new baby was hiding motionless in the grass just like they do in the wild, to be safe while Mother is away eating grass. And we saw a beautiful Kudu with big antlers.DSC_0508DSC_0535

As we toured the big park, we learned that 9,000 pounds of food is fed to all animals per day at the Safari Park. The San Diego Zoo and Safari Park have 750,000 plants and 197 species of birds, with over a thousand specimens available for viewing. Mammals total 138 species, with 1728 specimens on view. Reptile Amphibians number 16 species with 40 specimens on view.

The 100-acre San Diego Zoo in San Diego, California and 1800 acre SDZ Safari Park in Escondido, California, 35 miles north of the Zoo, contain more than 4,000 different animals.DSC_0338

Another beautiful experience was The Bird Show at the Safari Park where we were able to see some of those bird species. Jenn, the MC and keeper of the birds, just loved those in the show and each one was presented with its attributes. We got to enjoy Gazzy, an East African Crown Crane, who flew over our heads to another keeper who had a snack. And then Gazzy flew back to another keeper and then to its perch.DSC_0347

Then, all of a sudden, a Red River Hog from Africa named Rudy, walked from one end of the stage to the other and didn’t say a word. He was so cute, colorful and so funny that everyone laughed. He made several trips back and forth on the stage and stole the show. Then a huge owl flew over our heads to a keeper with a snack and back to another keeper with one.DSC_0355

Next, it was Nelson’s turn to fly over our heads and fly he did. He was so fast, if we blinked, we missed him. Nelson, a Falcon, is known as the fastest bird in the world. And he presented a show for us to see his attributes and abilities.DSC_0401

The final bird at the Bird Show was the Secretary Bird, Aren. He was so beautiful and colorful and large. We learned why the bird is called a Secretary bird because the person who named him many years ago in Africa said “he walks like my secretary.” So, the bird was named the Secretary bird for her strutting walk. And Aren is a perfect Secretary bird.

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Twelve guests from the audience volunteered to line up side by side and hold out their arms with hands in a knot while this Hornbill walked from one person to the other. Sharon did a good job letting the hornbill pass over her arms twice.

We couldn’t leave the Safari Park without seeing the Lemurs from Madagascar at the Safari Park. DSC_0226The Ring-tail Lemurs were sunbathing themselves with their arms straight out to make sure every inch received sun. DSC_0232 Lemur 2019And this Coquerel’s Sifakas Lemur was viewing the entire area and seeing what was happening while doing a little sunbathing.

We left the San Diego Zoo and the Safari Park loving each one we had a personal encounter with and agreed to return to the world’s best zoo again and again for there were hundreds more animals for us to meet. And when we left Winston, was hitting the wall again wanting more corn-on-the-cob and Monroe was still trying to grab it from him.

Photo Copy © 2019 carolyntravels.com

DSC_0241 pinl orchard 2019DSC_0394Carolyn at the Zoo 2019

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Instantly, we became tigers and others became lions, elephants or hippos. And, in case we forgot, a simulated tiger skin wristband imprinted with our tent number reminded us. Next came a t-shirt. Then the tiger group was on its way to a roaring and snoring good time on a safari in the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

Hand luggage in tow, we began searching for our tent, one of 46 overlooking the African savannah where giraffe, Northern White Rhino, Cape buffalo, African crowned crane, grant gazelle, oryx, and giant egret roam daily in the Safari Park, 35 miles north of the Zoo.

Finally, we found our tent #37 written on a tree stump stool. Unzipping the tent “door” revealed a normal hotel room encased in a heavy canvas tent. The electric lamps, fan, heater and hot and cold water all worked so we were in business next to the elephants..

The 17 elephants were putting on a welcome show for us: eating hay,  pooping, swimming and submerging trunk and all under water, rocking and rolling and twisting to their silent music, and flipping over in their daily ritual. And they could do this because their exhibit compound had just been cleaned by 4 keepers who had hand raked and collected their poop from the previous day. Each day, 2,000 pounds of poop is gathered and placed in a Bobcat bulldozer and larger truck, then delivered to local farmers for fertilizer.

Too soon, the tiger group had to leave the elephants and continue our orientation tour.  This time our hunt was for the restrooms, as there were none in the tents. A block or so away we found our target, full-service restrooms including showers.

The dinner bell was calling us so off we went for cocktails, then chicken, green salad, squash, and cake overlooking the Park’s African savannah. All 87 of us ate dinner on wooden picnic tables while watching the sun and animals end another day.

On our safari, we were given a glimpse into “as the elephant world turns.” Drought-stricken Swaziland, Africa, allowed the San Diego Zoo to acquire 7 elephants, arriving via 747 aircraft. They were going about their daily lives, eating, pooping, sparring and resting with each other. Since males only associate with females for mating, one solitary bull elephant was by himself and was busy throwing dust all over his body to kill insects, to cleanse and to cool.

Meanwhile Umngani, a female elephant, was standing in the elephant yard nursery waiting her third calf’s birth. Her male and female offspring, Ingadze and Khosi, were visiting every day to see if they had a new playmate.

As we became more involved in the elephant world, we learned that male and female African elephants have tusks, but only the Asian males have them. So, when an Asian bull elephant first saw a female African elephant, he didn’t know she was female. He only knew females did not have tusks. After a few days, he figured it out and started showing her what a strong elephant he was by picking up a log and running with it and dropping it near her over and over.

In the Rhino world, two female Rhinos looked like they were in relationship as they napped side by side in the savannah.  But then we learned only one male and female  Rhino pair was put together in an exhibit, but no baby Rhinos were born. By
1972, the solution was discovered when another female was added to their exhibit. Like elephants, a female Rhino only associates with a male when she is ready to mate. The rest of the time, female Rhinos prefer being with their female Rhino friends. Now, there are many baby Rhinos.

After a break for S’Mores and hot chocolate by the fire pit, we revisited the elephant world to find six elephants of all sizes and ages taking a late-evening bath. They totally submerged themselves in the water, rocked and rolled over with all four feet in the air, and did elephant acrobatics. What a soothing and calming experience this was to watch.

After dark we entered the lion family world, invited there by the lion’s keeper into their kitchen and bedrooms. Their freezer was filled with large round stickless popsicles made from meat blood drippings. “The lions LOVE them, the keeper told us. And every time she works with the male lion, Izu, she collects hair shed from his huge mane and keeps it in a plastic container for all to feel. It was downy soft. What an unexpected and rare glimpse into a world we would never have known.

Finally, it was time to snore at this Roar and Snore safari adventure. We had no trouble meeting the 10:30 PM “lights out” curfew. Having been warned that elephants would trumpet and lions would roar during the night, we asked others if they heard the sounds. We didn’t know since we slept so soundly in our comfortable bed in the tent. So at breakfast, everyone we asked said “Yes” and we never heard one sound as we enjoyed snoring in our tent.

The grand finale was petting and feeding a rare Rothschild giraffe, Chomoa, and a rare Northern White Rhino, Bhopu. Caravan safaris are a regular event at the Park and these two animals know treats are available from the truck. So, each voluntarily nonchalantly sauntered straight to the truck to pose like a movie star with each person for photos in exchange for their favorite green leaf snack. Amazingly, each animal knew when all photos were taken so they just turned around and sauntered off just like they had come. The movie star Choma was finished with this truck and awaited the next safari to arrive. Then it was time to leave an awesome roaring and snoring fun safari adventure in the San Diego Zoo Safari Park and return to our normal everyday lives. But it sure was hard to leave those precious, priceless animals and their fun, unique personalities.

Photo Copy ©  2015 carolyntravels.com 

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Three orangutans with toe sacks over their heads, a bear that used to dance, a jaguar wanting meat, and an elephant having a pedicure were part of a unique animal experience Christina and I had on our behind-the-scenes tour of the 94-year-old San Diego Zoo. Stepping into the lives of this menagerie of animals for a few minutes reminded me of my many African safaris. And visiting one of the top zoos in the world for preservation of species and humane treatment of animals was a thrill.

The purpose of my trip to the 100-acre San Diego Zoo was to see the seven elephants in their new multi-million-dollar state-of-the-art Elephant Odyssey and Care Center. As I came upon the center, I was surprised to see that the custom-built treatment enclosures were in full public view.

In one, a huge, 10-foot-tall African elephant had a foot sticking out of a hole in the enclosure. The elephant’s veterinarian was filing its toenails. Having seen hundreds of elephants in zoos and on African safaris, I had never seen anything like this. How such a huge animal could submit and place a foot out of a hole in the fence was beyond my comprehension, even though I had cared for many cows, bulls, and calves on our dairy farm when I was growing up.

I learned it takes months of training to show the elephants how to do the procedure because the San Diego Zoo uses cooperative training where the animals are never forced.  One thing that kept the elephant cooperative was the keeper sitting next to the veterinarian. This keeper was feeding the elephant 18-inch-long lettuce leaves. As the elephant got its pedicure, it would stick its trunk out of another hole in the 15-foot-tall steel fence to grab a lettuce leaf.  It did this every 10 seconds throughout the pedicure. I just couldn’t believe what my eyes were seeing.

When I watched veterinarians and keepers shining a flashlight into the eyes and ears of another elephant, I asked what was wrong. One veterinarian replied, “She has an infection.” As we watched, they gave the elephant a shot in the hip to cure the infection.

Our next stop on the Zoo tour was a visit with Tanya, the keeper of the Orangutans. It was so funny because it was raining and two orangutans were sitting on a tree branch with a toe sack over their heads to keep dry. Next to them on another branch was another one with a toe sack over its head. Keeper Tanya told us that 39-year-old Clyde, the adult male of the bunch, was in his bedroom because he did not like getting wet. Also with him were Satu, Inda and Janey, who brushes her hair every morning, loves to paint and has sold several of her paintings. Janey is the only Sumatran orangutan in the Zoo. The rest are all from Borneo.

The highlight of this stop was when keeper Tanya went into the orangutan habitat and fed them a morning treat of grapes and other fruits. Two of them stood up on their back legs ready to receive the grapes thrown to them just like humans stand to catch a ball. Tanya told us the orangutan gang loves air-popped popcorn, nutritional biscuits, leaves, fruits, vegetables, termites, honey, and barbecue sauce.

Tanya explained that the Zoo has a glass wall to separate the public from the orangutans because “they don’t have immune systems like we do so they easily catch human diseases.” The final fact we learned was why the concrete viewing area floor was covered with shredded rubber tires. I thought it would be to keep my feet and legs from hurting after standing for so long enjoying the antics of the orangutans. But no, that was not the reason. It was because the orangutan’s bedroom was right under the viewing area and the rubber “rug” would keep the bedroom quiet while the orangutans rested!

Our next stop was to see a Sloth Bear. Now, I had never heard of a Sloth Bear until the keeper told us it used to be known as the dancing bear that performed in circuses and animal shows. It would “dance” like a ballerina with skirt and all. Ken was the cutest bear, with long fluffy fur and long, long claws just like a sloth has. But the highlight of visiting Ken was when the keeper fed him a bottle of water and honey with a straw. A Sloth Bear’s lips are flap-like, enabling it to suck food and water. Watching Ken form those long lips tightly around the straw made us laugh out loud for several minutes. Even funnier, while he was noisily sucking the water and honey, Ken was sitting on his behind with his legs straight out front. Oh, he was so cute.

Next stop was a visit with Orson, a velvety and beautiful black Jaguar. The entire time we visited Orson, he enjoyed five pounds of ground beef. His keeper explained that Orson weighed around 150 pounds and that a female jaguar is gold with black spots and half Orson’s size. Jaguars come from Central and South America, and have huge feet and a head full of muscles that can bite through a skull.

The Zoo is a breeding ground for many species, and one is the California condor, which has the longest wing span of any bird. Thanks to the Zoo, there are now 400 California Condors in the world. The experts at the San Diego Zoo work with other zoos and animal research centers around the world, helping them with their animal challenges in nutrition, diseases, medical needs, and habitats.

Experiencing the San Diego Zoo on a behind-the-scenes tour gave us the total animal encounter, with surprises all along the way and an education too. Watching the elephant get a pedicure while eating long-leaf lettuce has to rank as one of my most wonderful unexpected sights to behold. If only I could have told that elephant how beautiful it looks with its new pedicure!

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She was sitting on the ground and needed a hug and someone to play with, so I sat by her and we hugged and played and kissed each other. I rubbed my fingers through her cute, stiff straw-like course hair. And she rolled over and tumbled like a ball many times, and bit and scratched me.

But personally playing with a year-old panda in China at one of the 2 breeding and research centers was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and a dream come true for me, because I think the giant panda is the number one cutest and most precious animal in the world. And I was so fortunate to get to play with one when I toured with the San Diego Zoo to Wolong, China (now Bifengxia Panda Base since May 23, 2008 when Wolong was destroyed by an earthquake) to see pandas. We even played patty-cakes.

Besides playing with a panda, we were allowed to see Hua Mei, Bai Yun’s first American-born panda at the San Diego Zoo, who was then at Wolong and had just given birth to twins. The twins were 3 weeks old and observing one in the incubator was like looking at a stick of butter, except it was pink. Wrapped in a blanket under a heat lamp in an incubator, the panda nursery looked like a human baby nursery in any hospital. And the nursery was attended just like a human baby intensive care unit in our hospitals. We observed the baby sleeping in an incubator through a huge glass window just like we would in a hospital baby nursery. The room was spic and span, clean and white.

But seeing American born Hua Mei in a corner of her big room-den, sitting up so big black and white, grand and tall looking, and nursing her other twin was just the cutest most rewarding experience of the entire adventure. We had to be silent and non-intrusive so as not to disturb her nursing session, so we peeked through a 6-inch crack in the door. She nursed one at a time and while doing so, the other twin was in the incubator.

Seeing 40 more adult pandas at the breeding and research center couldn’t match that. However, it was a joy to see each adult panda in their own large private open yard and house. One vivid memory from the tour of pandas at Wolong (now Bifengxia) in their own environment was a panda in her house. Through the big glass windows in the house, I could see the panda sitting with her big round black and white head and 2 ears sticking up. It was just too cute.

But I didn’t get to play with just one panda. I got to play with 7 young pandas that were in their play yard on their climbing equipment. They were so busy climbing and tumbling and just doing their thing but they made time for us all. Each panda was ready to pose with us for our photo and even posed one-on-one for our Christmas card. Whatever we wanted, they were ready to perform.

We had to move on, though, because it was time for the 7 young pandas to eat. They were given a milk-looking cereal food specially formulated for them. Each one was given a pan full of it and down they came from the play equipment. One drank the potion and another picked up the pan and dumped the contents on the ground. Two had a little dispute over the food and another sat and ate. I had to remind myself that the precious panda bears’ behavior was like animals as they were animals. They ended their meal with white faces and cereal formula all over them.

But before this animal adventure was over, there was one more surprise. We were taken to see a Golden Monkey, which is rarer than a panda. I had never seen one. The orange and white monkey was about 3 feet tall and lives only in China. When I saw him, I learned that they did not exist in the Western Hemisphere yet, but efforts were being made to get them there. What a handsome, beautiful monkey he was. Little did we know that more precious pandas were to follow.

And the final surprise was a visit to the Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding and Research Center in China. Besides seeing another 50 pandas in their wide open habitat, we learned about the special foods that are made for the pandas. Custom-made pellets were full of vitamins and nutrition pandas need to be healthy. And infant pandas needed special baby formulas to survive. Cow’s milk was not giving a baby panda nutrition so the special foods were formulated.

But getting to play, hug and kiss a baby panda for 15 minutes in China shall forever remain the pinnacle of my life.

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