August 10, 2008
went to the point defiance zoo and aquarium in tacoma, washington with basically my whole family. mom, two older sisters, their husbands and all the little ones (three nephews and one niece). it was a beautiful hot day. i rushed right away down to the rocky shores area to see the walruses and the beluga training session.
they have three walruses, that’s ET up there, 3,300 lbs. then there’s joan, 1400 lbs, and basilla, 1800 lbs. here’s all them
then it’s beluga time!
they have 4 sea otters, two of which were rescued from the exxon valdez oil spill! they are 20 years old. those are the whitish ones, and they liked to hang out together.
and keep your eyes peeled at about 6 seconds into this video of the brown guys, too cute.
then i met back up with my family by the polar bears. PD has an arctic fox which i was psyched to see but it wasn’t on display that day. but here are some pics of the polar bears.
then we walked back through the rocky shores with the kids. they were making drawings and taking notes just like their uncle shawn.
a main feature of the zoo landscape is this huge amphitheater where they have engaging little animal theatrics for the children. this was probably the best of these type of shows i’ve ever seen. there is a huge rock wall and the actors are repelling down it and birds of prey are swooping around and porcupines are scampering across the stage. it was good, but jackson wasn’t all that interested in that so we pressed on and happened upon this little, half-blind screech owl.
then we went into the aquarium building. there was some ok stuff. a big tank in the middle with some very active fish. also a great exhibit on seahorses. i saw a leafy sea dragon for the first time, but those things are so small and you couldn’t really get close because they were really sensitive to people banging on the glass and there were barriers. so i took the usual, predictably sweet looking moonjellies shot.
there was also a pretty substancial touch pool laboratory in the aquarium, but it was so packed with kids and i just couldn’t deal.
i don’t know what was up with this elephant. she just stood there with her head against the wall.
next, i saw what was (i think) a first for me. a recent trend in zoo design is the idea of rotational exhibits. i first read about this practice in Vicki Croke’s wonderful book The Modern Ark. in a rotational exhibit, a number of different animals, of the same or different species (i.e. predators and prey from the same ecosystem), are randomly rotated through a series of exhibition spaces at different times. so say one day you might see a gazelle in exhibit A and a lion in exhibit B and a zebra in exhibit C, then the next day or even later that afternoon they would be switched all around. the idea is that it provides an environment that is stimulating in similar ways as the animals natural habitat, and also gives each individual animals access to more space than it would have otherwise. in mixed species rotations there is no danger to the herbivorous species, the spaces are never shared at the same moment, but all the animals get the chance to exercise natural behaviors and stay mentally alert. predators get to sniff around and practice tracking and stalking.
here’s a diagram by jon coe, though the exhibits need not all be adjacent.
so the PD zoo has an area like this. it’s called the asian forest sanctuary. there are sumatran tigers, malaysian tapirs, white-cheeked gibbons, siamangs, small clawed otters, lowland anoas and crested porcupines (the one animal i didn’t see). reviews of the habitats seem to be mixed, but i was impressed and excited to see those idaes at work.
slowly making our way out, again random owl encounter! stunning barn owl
there was a keeper about to give a little chat about three banded armadillos, she put this guy on the ground and he kept taking off down the hill. such a speedy little guy. and when she would come to get him he would attack her shoes.
then while everyone was making their way to the exit i ran down to see the red wolves who i had missed earlier. they were hanging back, and the docent said the zoo had just received a substantial amount of money to renovate the wolf habitat. i’ll be excited to come back when that is done.
and much to my delight around the corner from the wolves was an eagle owl! i don’t think i’ve ever seen one in person before. it was sleeping.
then there were some lemurs just before i left.
look at this guy’s tongue.
i was so dehydrated i got a headache, but it was a great day. the end.