One of the great things about living in San Diego is having a Zoological Society membership. Not only do we get to learn about and contribute to the conservation and education efforts of the zoological society, but we also get unlimited access to visit one of the best zoos in the world. For me, visiting the zoo (or Wild Animal Park in Escondido) is a nice, relaxing weekend morning activity, like a stroll in the park or a light hike. So when I found myself with a free day on Memorial Day while Chuck had to work, I headed over to the zoo for a leisurely morning. It was a beautiful morning, a little cool and grey to start out with, but sunny with dramatic clouds later on, perfect for a nice long walk to enjoy the flora and fauna.
The zoo was a bit crowded, especially on the Panda – Polar Bear Highway, where everyone crowds in to see the most popular exhibits. The line for panda viewing was so long that I skipped the exhibit, but I did see some amazingly cute baby Red River Hogs along the way – I think there were four hoglets, and as I walked up they were following their mother to the back of the exhibit – they practically ran her down and knocked her over so they could nurse. I wandered off and came back a few minutes later, hoping they were close enough for a picture, but by then they were asleep in the hay, tiny striped bundles of cuteness so well-camouflaged that most passers-by didn’t even notice.
It wasn’t a very good day for okapi pictures – there were three okapis in the enclosure, so it was good okapi viewing day, but they stayed too far away for me to get good pictures. (By the way, if you’re in the market for a stuffed okapi, ShopZoo.com has an excellent selection right now – seven varieties of okapis! The minis and the giant one are my favorites.) I did get some good pictures of the other animals though – check it out:
Giraffes In Symmetrical Poses:
Baird’s Tapir, Sleeping Under a Tree:
Malayan Tapir eating breakfast:
Koala – surprisingly active (which is to say, not yet asleep in his chosen tree!):
Wombat – I think wombats are my new animal obsession! This was the first time I’ve seen them on exhibit at the zoo (where had they been hiding before?) Aren’t they cuddly?!?!?!? Must buy stuffed wombat.
Warthog – the warthogs were not very active when I stopped by, but there were five of them out, and I got a good sleeping-in-dirt picture:
Meerkat – Like the red river hogs, the meerkats seemed to be enjoying a baby boom – there were probably 6 or 8 young meerkats in the back enclosure (the one past the kopje, rather than the one on elephant mesa, if you know the zoo), and a few of them posed for me:
Klipspringer – Speaking of the kopje, it was a good day there as well – I got to see all of the residents – mongeese and klipspringers relaxing in plain sight, and rock hyraxes peeking out from the rocks above. My best klipspringer shot:
Polar Bear: Saving the best picture for last! It was VERY crowded at Polar Bear Plunge, and for good reason! The bears were quite playful, chasing each other around the exhibit, diving into the pool to escape, and then play-fighting back on land. Like all animals at the zoo, these guys are often just sleeping or lounging around, so it’s a real treat to see them displaying different behaviors, and I had very good timing:
After two hours at the zoo, I headed into Hillcrest for another treat on my day off – lunch at Bread & Cie. I had a delicious mozzarella, tomato, red pepper and olive-spread sandwich on focaccia, and took a mini-loaf of seeded sourdough home with me to enjoy with my ginger and golden carrot soup. Yum!
PS – Another great site for plush animals is Interfauna.co.uk. They’re in the UK, so prices can be a little bit daunting for those of us in the US with the current exchange rates, but their selection and quality is excellent. I’ve purchased two okapis and several tapirs from them in the past, they’re highly recommended.