Okay, I’ll admit it, I have a superiority complex when it comes to zoos. When I was little, we lived half an hour away from the Wild Animal Park, and we visited Balboa Park to go to the zoo a lot. Moving elsewhere near smaller, less well-funded zoos, it’s hard for me to see past the small pens and ill-informed keepers to see how much a local zoo can help the community.
While I’m on a soapbox, let me say that zoos are a wonderful way to help keep public appreciation for exotic locales and endangered species alive and thriving. Also, it helps build an appreciation for the fact that some animals shouldn’t be kept as pets. Education is the key word for most zoos, followed closely by conservation.
On that note, the Wild Animal Park is the lesser-known cousin of the San Diego Zoo (the one with the pandas and Center for Reproduction of Endangered Species, or CRES). It’s more open and allows for closer encounters with most of the animals, including several walk-in aviaries and a large bowl in which large African herbivores all live together.
When you first walk in, you can enter one of the aviaries. We got there in time to see the birds being fed mealworms and other goodies by one of the keepers. One of them was sitting in a tree waiting for her to throw the mealies up to it; it would swoop down to catch them one by one, then return to its perch.
Some of the cool birds in the aviary included these (From top to bottom), a Victoria crowned pigeon, a Hammerkop, a long-toed plover, and a southern bald ibis.
Something we didn’t get to see in the wild but definitely had to see while we were at the Park was the California Condor.
They were feeding the condors, too, but I’ll spare the details here. However, right next door were…
Babies! It wasn’t until we got back home that I realized there were actually two babies in this picture.
You could probably guess what else we found everywhere.
This time, not fence lizards, but what look like granite spiny lizards. Along with wild lizards, the park also has some ‘wild’ free-roaming birds that hang around the water features.
These birds include the black-crowned night heron (a juvenile is above) and white-throated cormorants (below). They also have my favorite bird ever, the shoebill, but unfortunately we couldn’t find him at his normal hideout when we were there.
Other fun birds include several species of hornbills, but by far the most fun one was the long-tailed hornbill:
We also found the white tiger hiding in his exhibit after about 30 total minutes of searching. I’m pretty sure the 8 year old girl next to us found it before we did. Obviously we’re not up to par on I Spy…
The keepers also fed the lemurs as we got there. I promise we don’t follow people around waiting for them to feed things.
And next, on to Africa!