The Hoppy Okapi

Occasional posts about hiking and other stuff

Exploring Elephant Odyssey August 14, 2009

The San Diego Zoo’s Elephant Odyssey exhibit opened in May, but I didn’t get over to see it until the baby okapi lured me to the zoo a few weeks ago. On one hand, I was excited to see how the new exhibit had turned out after seeing all the construction going on for the past year…on the other, the somewhat cheesy advertising campaign and increasing touristification of the Wild Animal Park over the last few years made me a little bit wary. In the end, I was mostly won-over by the exhibit’s wide-open spaces and integration of animal exhibits, educational info, and play areas . Take a walk with me and see for yourself…

EO is well branded with fun signage

Thanks Harry and Grace!

One of the first things you’ll notice is that Elephant Odyssey is huge! There’s a looong entrance area with EO signs, sponser acknowledgements, and representation of elephant art throughout history:

Ancient elephants wore pants! Who knew?

Ancient elephants wore pants! Who knew?

More ancient elephant art...

This one is an elephant-peacock cross...

Ok, I make fun of the elephant art a bit, but it’s pretty fun. One aspect I was not that fond of? The faux tar pit. There was a section of wall with embedded “fossils” that was pretty cool but didn’t photograph very well, as well as zoo volunteers displaying actual fossils from early California critters, but this tar pit seemed to be trying to hard- it felt like it was already dated after only being on exhibit for three months.

I do not like it, Sam-I-am.

I do not like it, Sam-I-am.

Some of the animals on display, which I don’t have good pictures of (thanks to crowds for some animals, and my lack of a digital SLR with a big lens on the other), were lions – just a thick glass window away from the adoring throngs, and a big improvement from the old lion exhibit; a jaguar, which seemed a little bit less initimidating that it used to because the floor of it’s exhibit was moved from chest-level to floor-level, making the powerful cat appear more diminutive; and California condors, long displayed at the Wild Animal Park but exhibited at the zoo for the frist time. Two young condors were happily hopping around the rocks in their exhibit while an older codor looked on (rolling his eyes at the young whipper-snappers, I imagine).

One of the themes of EO is the ancient animals of Southern California; it’s a popular theme around San Diego these days, as seen in the animal sculptures at Galleta Meadows and exhibits in the Anza Borrego State Park visitors center and a recent exhibit at the Natural History museum. I liked the wall of ancient California animals:

Anicent Inhabitants of San Diego

Anicent Inhabitants of San Diego

Of which the tapir is a particular favorite:

T is for Tapir

T is for Tapir

Just around the bend from this wall, you get your first real glimpse of the massive elephant enclosures:

Elephant enclosure

Elephant enclosure

Guess which animals are in the next enclosure?

Tapir time!

Tapir time!

The tapirs, capybarras, and guanacos (think llamas, but cuter) have a pretty sweet exhibit, with multi-level landscaping and a nice pool. I feel kind of sad for anyone who gets to the exhibit after about 10am though, because I’m pretty sure the tapirs will ALWAYS be napping in the shade, exactly where they were when I saw them:

see the tapirs? they're just inside the cave!

see the tapirs? they're just inside the cave!

Probably if I had an ultra-sweet DSLR with a big lens I could get an OK picture, but I’m afraid that most people won’t get a chance to see the tapirs up-close. It’s hard to count the toes from so far away. At least the guanacos are diurnal:

Guanacos enjoying their new exhibit

Guanacos enjoying their new exhibit

After walking around the tapir exhibit, you get a better view of the elephants:

Elephant!

Elephant!

And then, you can take a picture of yourself as a scientist – there were several different cutouts with various fields of expertise, and even though they were mostly all wearing the same white lab coats, I thought it was a fun concept…

You can be an Extraterrestrial Impact Theorist when you grow up!

You can be an Extraterrestrial Impact Theorist when you grow up!

Carmen is a Climate Change Theorist...not sure what that has to do with Flamingos

Carmen is a Climate Change Theorist...not sure what that has to do with Flamingos

I also liked the way EO exposes the Elephant Barn and care facility to visitors – it’s pretty impressive to see the massive scale of the building:

Elephant Care Center

Elephant Care Center

There was also a stream habitat, with tutles and allegedly forgs and lizards. I thought this was a really fun part of the exhibit, excapt that there are many fake frogs and lizards (not pictured) that have been added to the ladnscaping – it was kind of disappointing to have something catch your eye, only to realize that it was a scuplture instead of a real animal. I don’t think I saw any of the real frogs and lizards, but I did see a couple of turtles.

A cute little turtle...

A cute little turtle...

And another elephant!

imaginary soundtrack: pretent you hear the elephant trumpeting now...

imaginary soundtrack: pretend you hear the elephant trumpeting now...

There was also a fun playground area – there were elephant collars to crawl through, architectural dig scenarios to act out, and an animal X-Ray machine:

Animal X-Rays!

Animal X-Rays!

Overall, I thought it was a fun new exhibit, and I’m looking forward to going back (earlier in the morning when the tapirs are out and it’s less crowded, perhaps), to see how the residents are interacting with their exhibits. And to find the frogs and lizards that I missed in the stream habitat, of course.

 

Happy World Tapir Day! April 27, 2009

Today is the second annual World Tapir Day! Follow the latest tapir news on twitter or join the World Tapir Day group on Facebook.

I thought I’d celebrate by re-posting some of my tapir pictures from the past year, all taken at the San Diego Zoo (where the tapirs will soon be enjoying a new exhibit in Elephant Odyssey):

Tapirs everywhere

Tapirs everywhere

Looking for apples in the pool

Looking for apples in the pool

Malayan Tapirs in the pool

Malayan Tapirs in the pool

bairds_tapir

And a repeat of some info from last year’s tapir day post:

If you want to learn more about tapirs or contribute to tapir research and conservation, visit one of these great sites:

  1. The SaveTapirs.org site
  2. The official World Tapir Day site
  3. The Tapir Preservation Fund

What else can you do to celebrate World Tapir Day?

  • Visit tapirs at a zoo near you! You can see Malayan Tapirs in San Diego; Baird’s tapirs in San Diego, Los Angeles, and San Francisco; Mountain Tapirs in Colorado Springs, Los Angeles, and San Francisco; and Brazilian tapirs in New Orleans and Chicago – and those are only the ones I know about! Check out your local zoo for more info.
  • Get cool tapir gear (like my stylin’ red shirt!) from any of the sites above – the proceeds from your purchase will go toward conservation, AND you’ll help make other people more aware of tapirs, building even more conservation power!
  • Learn about rain forest conservation and figure out what you can do to help save the tapir’s habitat.

Happy Tapir Day!

 

To the Zoo! January 11, 2009

Our San Diego Zoo membership gives us access to monthly early-hours events at the zoo (and quarterly ones at the Wild Animal Park), and occasionally we even manage to go! Yesterday we woke up early and headed over to Influx for some coffee and The Best Pastries Ever before heading over to the zoo.

photo from influxcafe.com

We got to the zoo just as they began letting people in at 8am – there were probably about 100 people attending the early-hours program – and shuffled our way to the morning’s presentation at the Guinea Singing Dogs exhibit. There, we watched two 14-week-old cubs play around with dad as mom watched from a hill-top perch. The pups were so cute!

Guinea Singing Dog pup

Guinea Singing Dog pup

Guinea pup exploring his enclosure

Guinea pup exploring his enclosure

Next door to the singing dog presentation, a keeper was also talking about (but not sharing a cage with!) the stripped hyenas. I think these guys are usually sleeping when we walk by, because I was surprised by how big they are when they’re up and active.

A Striped Hyena

A Striped Hyena

After leaving the hyenas, we went down to check on the warthogs. There were five of them in the enclosue, including the gnarled old male with giant warts and crooked tusks.

Warthog on a walkabout

Warthog on a walkabout

When one of his friends woke up, the big male retreated to his warthog cave – trying to hide?

Warthog Cave!

Warthog Cave!

We then headed up through bear canyon to elephant mesa, where we saw a mob of meerkats taking in the morning sun.

Meerkats

Meerkats

Meerkats

Meerkats

More Meerkats!

More Meerkats!

The Baird’s tapirs were already sleeping by the time we visited them:

Baird's Tapir - Count the toes!

Baird's Tapir - Count the toes!

But the pack of capybaras (they’ve multipled! there used to be two but there were at least ten yesterday!) that share their enclosure were awake and quite skittish, running away every time the guanaco came close to them.

Capybaras

Capybaras

The giant anteaters were hiding out of site, and the Giant Vietnamese Squirrel was apparently too tiny to see, but we got a very close up view of the two rhinos on elephant mesa:

rhino head

rhino head

friendly rhinos

friendly rhinos

And the giraffes were enjoying a morning in the sun.

Baby Giraffe

Baby Giraffe

Giraffe eating breakfast

Giraffe eating breakfast

We then headed down tiger river (the three young tigers were snuggled in close to the glass at the first viewing window), and came to the Malayan tapir enclosure for what turned out to be the highlight of the day. Chukai, Chantek, and Annie were quite active and very vocal, chasing each other around the enclosure and the pool. We heard a lot of the typical tapir squealing, but also a coughing/sneezing-sounding noise that we hadn’t heard tapirs make before.

Malayan Tapirs in the pool

Malayan Tapirs in the pool

Looking for apples in the pool

Looking for apples in the pool

Tapirs everywhere

tapirs everywhere!

After our lengthy stay at the tapir enclosure, we stopped by to see the okapis, and then walked over to see the Harpy Eagles before heading home.

Okapi hiding in the trees

Okapi hiding in the trees

 

Memorial Day at the Zoo June 4, 2008

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:
Giraffes in Symmetrical Pose

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.

 

 
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