California Dreaming – Part 4

Nick took a week off right before deployment began so we could spend some extra time together. We had to deal with a lot of “adult” stuff like taxes, insurance, internet, etc. but we also left some room for the fun stuff! Naturally, my first request was the San Diego Zoo. Probably my all-time favorite zoo which says a lot, I’ve been to many zoos. Since it was a “special occasion,” Nick even treated me to a special behind the scenes tour with a guide. We actually learned a lot more than we expected and I would highly recommend it if you’re in the area. I’ll share some of the fun facts.

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First stop was the laughing kookaburra from Australia! I was a camp counselor for two years in high school and one of our “clean up” songs for meals was the “Kookaburra Song.” I don’t think I’ve ever seen one in person though. They are actually pretty cute.

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I’m kind of upset about this picture. This is a Tasmanian devil. They’re actually pretty rare and San Diego is one of the only zoos in the west to have some. We went to the zoo right at opening so they were actually up and about, which was fun to see. This little guy (I can’t remember his name right now…should’ve taken a picture of the sign) was rolling around in the grass soaking up the sun and it was absolutely adorable but my camera settings accidentally changed and the exposure was set way too high. By the time I fixed it, all three of them had laid down for a nap. Figures. Wish I had gotten a better picture! They are really interesting. And I just have to say, I have no idea where Taz from Looney Toons came from because he looks nothing like this. P1000870

More meerkats! I can’t get enough of them. So cute. They actually had two separate families on display that were separated by some plexiglass. Both sides climbed as high as they could to look over and started making little whimpering sounds. We asked a worker who was cleaning up the exhibit why they were separated and she said that they’ll actually kill each other if they could. I guess meerkats are very territorial and if you’re not from their family, you’re dead meat. So apparently their cute little whimpering sounds are more like death threats haha.
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Since we were in California, I couldn’t resist sharing a picture of some condors. One of the San Diego Zoo’s claim to fame, they helped save these guys from extinction. To be this up close and personal with them is amazing. The size of these birds is insane! I don’t really want to get on their bad side…their claws are pretty intense. Just saying.

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My favorite. I didn’t get too many good pictures of these ladies, mostly because they were all eating and hiding from everyone. We sat and watched them for a long time. They had a great sign with some information about each elephant and how to identify them from the rest.

Did you know that San Diego has a state of the art elephant hospital as part of their zoo? They also run an elephant hospice care program where elderly elephants on their deathbeds can come to be pampered and taken care of in their final days. They actually opened it up not that long ago and one of their patients came from another zoo but because elephants are so attached to one another, Shaba also came with her as they were best friends. The other elephant has since passed away but Shaba remains there. However, no one on the staff or at the zoo is allowed to say the name of the other elephant because if they do, Shaba will actually recognize it and become anxious as she tries to find her companion. So that phrase, an elephant never forgets, is actually true.

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These are called capybaras and they come from South America. They are actually the largest rodents in the world as they can get up to over 100 lbs. These guys, I believe, were actually born late last year, they were significantly smaller than the others. I really wanted to hold one! They look so cute. Especially grabbing a drink of water together.

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Going to the zoo in the morning was one of the best decisions we’ve made. The animals were the most active that I think I’ve ever seen. These jaguars were pacing back and forth before settling down where I got these shots. That red blob was something on the glass but it kind of looks like a light leak. Very instagram appropriate, don’t you think? 🙂

Having troubles telling a jaguar apart from a leopard? Jags have that dot in the center of their spots, like an eyeball. Jaguars also have the strongest bite out of all the big cats. They could crush your skull with your chop. Definitely don’t want to cross paths with one in the wild.

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The mountain lions were out playing as well. Their exhibit was a little trickier to get good pictures of so unfortunately this is the best I could do. I’ve never been this close to one before. They’re usually off in the back corner sleeping. P1000978P1000935

These animals really intrigued me! I had never heard anything about them before. They are called southern gerenuks. I guess there was a two day old baby in the mix but it must have been too warm for him because we went past this exhibit twice and never saw him. I love the way they eat though! Looks like their legs will snap if you just breathe on them but that’s what makes them so interesting. P1000944

We also had an amazing experience with the snow leopards. I told you coming right at opening is the best idea ever. I didn’t realize how small they are. And fluffy! P1000981

Can’t have a trip to the zoo without a picture of a lion! With his tongue sticking out nonetheless. P1010010

One of our last stops were the giraffes. This little fellow is the youngest of the bunch, a little over a month old at the time. He is also a little bit of “runt.” Most newborn giraffes average about 6′ at birth. He was only 5’3″. Which is funny because Dad, as pictured below, is 17′ tall. No big deal.

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We also learned a little zoology at this exhibit. You can see there’s no fencing or glass in between us and the giraffes. They have what is called a psychological barrier set up. There really is nothing stopping the giraffes from walking right out of the exhibit but they won’t because in order to do so, they’ll have to step down into a 6″ ditch. Giraffes are pretty top heavy so they aren’t fond of ditches and other crevices that could topple them over.

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And of course, the pandas. The world famous San Diego Zoo pandas. I mostly have pictures of Bai Yun, the son who is actually about to make a trek to China where he will play an important role in helping to save his species.

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In between nap time, he managed to grab a snack. Check out those teeth!

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Actually I lied, sorry! I do have a picture of momma bear, Xiao Liwu! She was asleep when we went through the exhibit the first two times but third times the charm. I mean she’s definitely not active, but we could actually see her face.

Xiao Liwu is about to celebrate her 25th birthday this year. In the wild, pandas typically only live to about 18-20 because of tooth decay. Once their teeth are gone, they’re not longer able to break down the tough bamboo so they starve to death. Since Xiao Liwu has the 5-star luxury experience, her keepers are able to create bamboo smoothies and shakes for her to enjoy. She’ll probably live to be in her 30’s.

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All in all, I’d say it was a successful zoo trip. We weren’t able to see the whole zoo unfortunately, but it definitely won’t be our last time there. I’m starting to warm Nick up on the whole going to the zoo thing multiple times a year so we may end up with a membership one of these days 🙂

Hopefully I didn’t bore you with too many animal pictures! …there may be more to come in a future post. Be on the lookout.

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