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Archive for January, 2009

Pico loves lizards with interesting names! Just down the way from my pal the prehensile-tailed skink lives a much larger lizard with the name rhinocerous iguana. He gets that name from his three facial bumps, which are more developed in males of the species. He currently weighs 10 pounds and has a body length of 36 inches (17 body and 19 tail).

Rhino iguanas are native to Haiti and the Dominican Republic. As youngsters, they have a carnivorous diet. Once they reach adulthood, they become primarily vegetarians. The rhino iguana at the Zoo’s favorite foods are pineapple, apples, and leaf lettuce. He has special lights for heat and UV-A & B, something needed by most reptiles in indoor settings.

The rhino iguana is looking at you!

The rhino iguana is looking at you!

He also enjoys wrestling with stuffed animals and going for walks in the Kley Building. These walks are important because it gives him physical and mental stimulation. In addition, it helps form a bond between iguana and keeper which will make him easier to handle during the increased aggression of breeding season.

Pico the Toucan, signing off!

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The Zoo received several inches of snow on Monday. The following are some of the animals out enjoying the wintery conditions:

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Back in August when AMAZONIA opened to the public, there were three emerald tree boas on display. One was green and two were bright orange. Now two are green and one has green spots.

Newly hatched emerald tree boas are various shades of orange. Then at around 9 to 12 months of age, they begin changing to the adult green coloration with white “lightning bolts.”

So Pico was excited to learn that it just means these little snakes are growing up, but it will still be quite awhile before they reach their adult body length of six feet!

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This week I was admiring my friend Rojo the scarlet macaw’s beautiful plumage, or feathers, when he told me about some other macaws in the Zoo. The hyacinth macaws live in the Discovery Center and have intense cobalt blue plumage over yellow skin.

In the wild, hyacinth macaws are found in the woodlands of parts of Brazil, Bolivia, and Paraguay. Their diet is mainly palm nuts. Their beaks are large enough and strong enough to crack open coconuts. Pico can’t do that! They are the largest macaw species and one of the largest parrots in the world. Males and females look the same.

The Zoo has a few other macaws including two blue and gold macaws in the Kley rainforest, my friend Rojo, two military macaws in the Children’s Enchanted Forest, and a hybrid macaw that participates in education programs. Macaws are very long lived, up to 70 years, and require a lot of space, attention, and specialized diet.

The Zoo currently has a breeding pair of hyacinth macaws and their 1.5 year old offspring. It won’t be mature for a few more years at which time it will be paired up with it’s own mate. Hyacinth macaws are very rare in the wild due to capture for the pet trade. In captivity, they have a low breeding and chick raising success rate. So this baby is very special! Right now the youngster is still friendly to its keepers and will even take walnuts from their hands.

a young hyacinth macaw says, "watch me crack open this walnut"

A young hyacinth macaw says, "Watch me crack open this walnut!"

 

Pico the Toucan, signing off!

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a prehensile-tailed skink prepares to munch on some mulberry

a prehensile-tailed skink prepares to munch on some mulberry

 

Pico has made another new pal with an awesome adaptation! I was saying hi to some of my bird friends in the Kley Building when I noticed a curious creature in the snake display. This animal was not a snake at all; it had scales like a snake, but it also had limbs and eyelids, which are two things snakes lack. It was a lizard, a prehensile-tailed skink.

I asked the skink how it got its name. It demonstrated by dangling from a branch using only its tail to hang on. Prehensile means an organ or appendage adapted for grasping.

When threatened these skinks do not routinely lose their tails like a lot of other lizards. Also unusual to lizards, they typically give birth to a single live infant instead of laying eggs.

Prehensile-tailed skinks are native to the Solomon Islands, which are northeast of Australia. They spend most of their time in the trees eating leaves, fruit, and flowers. At the Zoo, they eat greens, vegetables, and fruit with a vitamin powder on top.

There are other animals at the Zoo with prehensile tails including howler monkeys and prehensile-tailed porcupines. They just happen to be Pico’s neighbors up in AMAZONIA!  Another species at the Zoo with a prehensile appendage is the giraffe, whose tongue can grasp leaves and branches.

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