On Monday, Marc and I met our friend Debs and some of her family at the Auckland Zoo. As we were running a little late, we met up with Debs and her youngest daughter Ellena at the giraffe enclosure. The zoo was offering the chance to feed one of these massive creatures and there was no way we were going to miss that! The male is named Zabulu and I think he may be the only one tall enough to get his head over the viewing platform. He waited patiently while the presenter told us a little about him and what not to do; namely don’t try to pet him because he doesn’t like it. Then we each got a carrot or a piece of celery to offer to Zabulu. It was an extraordinary experience to be so close to such a large animal and see this looooong tongue reach out and delicately furl around the vegetable before retracting for a snack.Being so close to him reminded me of something I read somewhere about how the original inspiration for dragons heads in movies came partly from looking at a giraffes head. What do you think?
After that amazing experience, we continued around the zoo To the white rhino enclosure. They have three, but we only saw one. The others must have been hiding from the sun. It’s a pretty massive beast.
It was getting on towards lunchtime, so Debs and Marc went to get picnic supplies from the cars while Ellena took me to the Rotunda where we were to meet the rest of the crew. Debs’ older daughter, her brother, and sister-in-law and her sister with several small children all gathered around the picnic table for a nice lunch of sandwiches, Quiche and fresh pineapple. The food was gone in no time and Marc decided to teach Ellena a hands/ clapping game. Ellena countered quickly with another, much more complicated clapping game that he bowed out of, so I took a turn. Pretty fun actually, and kind of took me back to my own childhood.
We tried to catch the lions, cheetahs and serval awake, but they were all pretty much conked out. Next stop was the orangutans, who were also pretty much all asleep. It was kind of funny though to see several sleeping under blankets, and when one shifted to another spot; she brought her blanket along to share with a neighbor.
As we followed the path around the park, we saw spider monkeys and the Siamang gibbons.The gibbons treated us to a concert that almost made my ears ring. They make these deep base hoots and higher pitched screeches that are designed to guard their territory and scare away any potential interlopers. After hearing this duet, I’m sure you’ll agree it’s probably pretty effective against anything but a human, and then sometimes even them too!
We hurried on to the penguin enclosure as they were advertised as having a 2:30 afternoon feeding time. These little guys were so cute! They are called little blue penguins and are the smallest in the world. They usually live underground in burrows or under houses which pretty much explains why they were hanging out underneath an overturned boat except for an occasional swim until it was time for lunch. When lunch came however, that woman got mobbed by nine hungry little guys looking for fish.
The aviary was a huge hit for everyone. They have four separate areas depending on where the birds are from. We hit the one for native birds and saw a Kaka fly up to a feeder for an orange slice.
Marc had been wanting to see a Kea, so we went to the HIgh Country aviary next. This is the worlds only mountain parrot and is threatened because of its habit of making its nest in a hole in the ground. While New Zealand doesn’t have a lot of predator species; stoats, possums, cats and ferrets all like to eat their eggs. Unfortunately, about half of all eggs are eaten every year. Good news though, The Kea Conservation Trust is working diligently to try to protect the Kea and raise its numbers in the wild.
Nearing the end of our day, we checked out the hippos, who were both in the water. One doing a water stroll and the other napping. My goodness they are massive! Equally imposing was the Asian Elephant, Burma. Bit of a sad story though, while normally elephants live in groups Burma has lived by herself since her friend Kashin died several years ago. The zoo works very hard to keep her interested and entertained. She paints and visits with the other animals. Not sure why they haven’t brought a friend in yet, but my best guess is they want to build a much bigger enclosure before they do that.
Last stop was the flamingos. There are sixteen at the zoo and they are all gorgeous! Those long legs and iconic curved beaks and necks do make them look like the lawn ornaments of a tacky yesteryear, only live and in person. I believe a couple were sitting on nests while others were working in that direction. Ah, love in the afternoon!
That pretty much finished us up for the day, but I do think we saw nearly everything there was to see at the zoo that day. Walking around the zoo for five or six hours was so much fun, and we got to learn something too. In Indonesia and Malaysia, forests are being chopped down to plant palm oil plantations. These plantations do nothing to help threatened species and indeed result in a loss habitat and food for animals like orangutans, Sumatran tigers, clouded leopards, Asian rhinos and elephants and many more creatures. Palm oil is used in one out of every 10 items in the supermarket and consumption has been doubling every ten years. The zoo asks everyone to be more vigilant in buying palm oil free products whenever possible as a way to decrease demand and thus, help conserve the rainforests. I’m going to try. Will you try too?