San Diego Wild Animal Park Part 2: The Heart of Africa

The real reason to visit the Animal Park (which I just learned has changed it’s name to the ‘San Diego Zoo Safari Park’) is actually to see the Heart of Africa. They’ve got a large bowl that holds all kinds of herbivores from the African plains.

Fun fact: all of the African carnivores are upwind of the bowl so that the animals display normal herding and defensive behavior. Defensive behavior for most of the gregarious (or herding) animals means the adults surrounding the young and facing outwards to see danger coming from any direction.

Just about everything in the park has babies by May to July, which makes for fun pictures of miniature oryx. Well, the adult’s not miniature, but the calf is pretty darn cute.

You can also see some very large white rhinos. How do I know they’re white rhinos? White rhinos eat grass; black rhinos eat browse.

Rhinos may be big, but giraffes are tall and have pretty eyelashes:

And they also have babies that like to run around and poke the adults before running off. Unfortunately for this calf, it got hungry, and by the time he got done nursing, all the adults had wandered off.

Show me bigger, you say? How about baby elephants?

Does that satisfy your baby fix? I hope so, because now come the fun animals.

For example,these Southern Gerenuk look physically impossible: long neck, big body, slender legs, and big ears. It’s hilarious to watch them try to eat the trees in their exhibit, though.

The cheetahs, of course, are always fun to watch. For like five minutes, at least, because they use so much energy running after prey that they spend most of their time sitting around.

When you’re on the tram, you can also see Somalian Asses climbing up the hillside.

Above all the most important animal to see, however, is the okapi. Okapis are closely related to giraffes but only live in secluded areas of deep rainforest. I have loved okapis since I was a little lisping kid telling mom I wanted to go see the ‘coffee horses.’

They are very shy animals that were once thought to be unicorns by the Europeans that discovered them.

This boy was very agitated and kept fence-walking and displaying a Flehmen response, so we got the feeling they’d brought in a new animal just across the fence.

Finally, a shout out to the workers who keep the zoo and park running. This particular lady was doing one of the animal encounter presentations. She was the sole person who handled this ocelot, a cheetah, a warthog, a python, a honey badger, a cockatoo, several dogs, and, well, you get the picture.

And even though they’ve changed the name, it will forever be the Wild Animal Park for me.

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