point defiance

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.

oregon zoo

July 8, 2008


joel and i went to the Oregon Zoo last month. i bought a new camera but it had to charge so these pictures are from my old, broken digital, but i think they are not so bad. 



the first section of the zoo we walked through was the “great northwest” exhibit, featuring wildlife from the area. this is the kind of thing i like. the path seems like it was just subtly carved from a beautiful, moss-laden coniferous forest.


elderly black bears, a sleeping lynx, bald eagles, otters, owls, spooning cougars, this part of the zoo ruled. the bald eagle canyon area was nice.

then we walked through the pacific coast section, where at a distance i could see the largest sea lion i have ever seen. it was a male steller sea lion and it looked huge. also saw this sea otter



the polar bear exhibit looked cool, there were areas for above and underwater viewing, but the bears were snoozing in a little cave in the back. there was a LOT of information about the effects of climate change on the arctic. definitely important and shocking. here’s joel and some bears


i’d never seen a sun bear in person before, and this one was great. active, walking around, saw that characteristic long tongue. lots of people shouting at him. i am constantly sickened by the lack of respect and common sense people show at zoos. this is that animal’s home. don’t bang on their windows or scream at them to look at you. such stupidity. eventually the bear retreated into it’s inside area.



there were a bunch of mandrills in their enclosure. one big male and a whole slew of smaller females. the male sat very calmly while everyone took picture. what a crazy looking animal.



the rest of the red ape reserve was sort of a bust. they were doing lots of renovations and some of the animals weren’t on display. no gibbons at all and the orangutans looked none too happy, maybe they were just relaxing.



there were three female asian elephants out and about, one was pregnant and the oldest was also the smallest. 



a significant section of the park is undergoing renovations at the moment and will reopen july 19 as a predators of the serengeti exhibit. it will feature lions, cheetahs, wild dogs, mongoose, and lots of birds. i’m curious how the animals will adapt to the chilly, wet climate of portland. 



the rest of the africa exhibit was nice. there were hippos, zebras, marabou storks, a nice enclosure with colobus monkeys and swamp monkeys, and a really active bat cave area. there were a ton of fruit bats, rodriguez flying foxes, egyptian fruit bats and straw colored fruit bats. i think the keepers had just put food in there before we arrived and so the bats were going nuts. 

two of the last things we saw as we were leaving the zoo were a pair of the world’s rarest cats, an amur tiger and an amur leopard. this was cool because i had just read a lot about these two cats in David Quammen’s book, Monster of God. so it was cool to see them, but also made me think about how elusive and phantasmic they are in the wild.



there was also a dinosaur exhibit that we did not go see. when i come back here in september i will probably spend more time here and make some drawings.