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Archive for December, 2008

The Kley Building at the Zoo features a nocturnal room where the light cycle is reversed. That way animals that normally sleep during the daytime can be seen at their most active. The nocturnal area needed some major renovations to make it better for the animals, so they have found temporary new homes throughout the Zoo. The screech owls are now in the bird wing. The alligator snapping turtle is in a spare room in the gibbon building. Most of the animals have been moved to the veterinary complex. The project should be completed sometime next year and then all the animals, and maybe some new ones, will move back.

 

Here are some other terms that describe the times that animals are active:

Diurnal – active during the daytime, ex. Przewalski’s horses

Crepuscular – active at dawn and dusk, ex. short-eared owls

Cathemeral – periods of activity throughout the day and night, ex. some lemur species

Hibernation – inactivity during the cold season, ex. American toad

Aestivation – inactivity during hot temperatures, ex. kangaroo rat

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bald is... practical?

bald is... practical?

I was out and about in the North America section of the Zoo recently when six feet of outstretched feathers caught my attention. One of the Zoo’s turkey vultures was sunning itself with its wings extended. My wingspan isn’t even a third of that! Wild turkey vultures are found throughout North America, but then migrate to Central and South America in the winter. The Zoo’s vultures are able to live here year-round thanks to heat lamps and wind blocks.

 

 

As scavengers, turkey vultures serve an important role in the food chain. Because they are carrion eaters, they don’t need the sharp talons of other raptors. They do, however, have a very sharp beak and their bald head is an adaptation too! Sticking your head in a carcass can get messy and its one of those hard-to-reach areas. Not having feathers up there means less things stick. Pico will keep his fruit diet and head feathers thank you very much!

 

 

Turkey vultures find their food with an excellent sense of smell will soaring on updrafts of air. Their closely related cousins, the black vulture and California condor, will sometimes look for turkey vultures to find out where the food is. The Zoo’s turkey vultures enjoy enrichment that they can tear up like phone books and boxes. They also like having their food placed in novel objects such as a jack o’ lantern at Halloween time. It’s not a good idea to try to sneak up on a turkey vulture. They will throw up their stomach contents at you if they feel threatened. And they have very good aim! Pico will visit these guys again, but next time he will give them plenty of advance notice.

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Some primates handle the cold well, such as Japanese macaques, which are also known as snow monkeys. We may not have any macaques at the Zoo, but there are still opportunities for wintertime primate viewing. In AMAZONIA there are black howler, Goeldi’s, and squirrel monkeys. In the Discovery Center there are cotton-top tamarins and Francois langurs. In the Asian Valley, visitors will find the grey gibbon exhibit. Gibbons are native to the moist primary forests of Southeast Asia and are somewhat tolerant of the cold. However, their exhibit features an indoor holding area with two public viewing windows.

 

The Zoo’s gibbons are male and female. Gibbons usually mate for life. Our pair has lived together for many years. Even though they have only been in Evansville since 2001, they previously lived together at the San Antonio Zoo. It is hard to tell the male and female apart. The male is typically more active and the female is more likely to approach zookeepers. Also, like humans they demonstrate hand dominance, the female using her left hand more and the male his right.

 

 

In the wild, grey gibbons eat ripe fruit, new leaves, and invertebrates like termites and arachnids. At the Zoo their favorite foods are bananas, grapes, and pineapple, but they are also offered carrot, broccoli, greens, sweet potato, apple, and oranges. Other treats include nuts, cereal, peanut butter, sugar-free jelly, condiments, and hummus. They typically can be seen through the windows eating dinner around 4:00pm. Visitors will also sometimes see the gibbons manipulating the different toys in their indoor holding area. Though not as playful as younger animals, they still enjoy having new things in their environment.

 

 

male grey gibbon

male grey gibbon

 

 

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Pico has made another new pal! I was visiting the Asian Valley portion of the Zoo (shown in red on the Zoo map). I was leaning in to get a closer look at some large footprints in the mud when suddenly a tiger came rushing from behind a tree right at me! Fortunately I was safely behind the fence in the visitors’ viewing area. But what a rush!

Caught in the act, an Amur tiger gets ready to pounce!

Caught in the act, an Amur tiger gets ready to pounce!

 

 

It was a female Amur tiger. I told her I’d never heard of an Amur tiger. She said she used to be called a Siberian tiger, but the name was changed to better reflect the region of the world they’re from, the boreal forests of far eastern Asia. It’s no wonder the cold weather didn’t seem to bother her. She said she is 11 years old and has lived at the Zoo since 2001. Amur tigers are the largest and heaviest tiger subspecies. Females can weigh up to 500 pounds, males 800! In the wild, Amur tigers hunt deer and boar. At the Zoo, she is fed 7.5 pounds of meat each day except one when she is fasted and receives a big beef knucklebone. She told me fasting helps replicate their life in the wild where she wouldn’t catch prey every day. The keepers put her meat in different boxes and bags that she has to tear open. She pointed out that she has a nice view of the adjacent Axis deer, Przewalski’s horse and muntjac yard. She is also given different scents, logs, deer hides, camel hair, and manure all to stimulate her senses. 

 

Just before I left, the tiger told me she rotates exhibit usage with another tiger. I’m going to have to stop back soon so I can meet her friend the male Sumatran tiger!

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Birdwatching

I, Pico the toucan, have been spending a lot of time watching the visitors. No, I’m not talking about the human visitors. I’m talking about the wild waterfowl that use the Zoo’s Lake Victoria as a stopover on their migratory routes. So far I have seen buffleheads, Canada geese, Northern shovelers, hooded mergansers, American coots, mallards, pied-billed grebes, ring-necked ducks, and gadwalls. The shovelers are especially fun to watch as they swim in circles as a group with their heads underwater, churning up things to eat.

 

Of course if you’d rather not go birdwatching in the cold, there are lots of birds in AMAZONIA. The scarlet ibis hang out at the deep end of the tapir pool. The tapir used to be naughty and hop over the barrier to eat their food. The ringed teals have also been using the tapir pool. It was a minor scandal when they left the prehensile-tailed porcupine exhibit when it was drained for maintenance. I guess they don’t have a lot of patience for empty pools. There are four red-crested cardinals including two juveniles that fledged, or left the nest, in September. They usually hang out near the strangler fig. The roseate spoonbills can usually be found perching high up on the side of the building. I confess I have a hard time telling Warren, Wayne, Wendy, and Wanda apart. The keel-billed toucans, myself included, have a spacious abode near the entrance.

 

Pico the Toucan, Signing Off!

 

Is it Wendy? Or maybe Wanda?

Is it Wendy? Or maybe Wanda?

 

 

 

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