Over the past couple of weeks we’ve relished the near summer-like weather. I continue to “try” play golf once a week while Debbie continues her three-day-a week Jazzercise and Margareta Mondays and has discovered one of the smaller, satellite pools at which to hang out and read most afternoons.
Since the end of February, we’ve seen many of our friends begin their treks north and by the end of this month the resort will be lucky to be half full … when we’ll be off to Sarasota for eight days … Hilton Head and then plan to arrive back in PA around April 25th.
However, earlier this week, we decided to do something we’ve thought about in past years but never got around to … a visit to the
which was both, interesting and educational. It’s a clean, modestly-sized zoo and well laid out with easy to follow-paths and a lagoon ride which takes you around several islands of primate habitat. Among the wildlife we had a chance to see, some we’d never heard of and many species on the endangered list, included:
which wander freely throughout the park
Black and white stripes make the zebra one of the most recognizable animals in the world. The plains zebra, also known as the common zebra, is the most abundant of three species of zebra, inhabiting the grasslands of eastern and southern Africa. The other two species are Grevy’s zebras and mountain zebras. On average, plains zebras are smaller than the other two species of zebra. They range in height from 3.5-5 ft. and can weigh almost 1,000 lbs. Plains zebras also have a different stripe pattern than the other species. They have broad stripes that run horizontally towards the back and vertically towards the front, meeting in a triangle in the middle of their bodies. They also have a stripe that runs down the center of their backs onto the tail. Finally, plains zebras have underbelly stripes. Although all plains zebras share these similarities in stripe patterns, no two zebras have exactly the same pattern.
Hyenas are not members of the dog or cat families. Instead, they are so unique that they have a family all their own. There are four members of the Hyaenidae family: the striped hyena, the “giggly” spotted hyena, the brown hyena, and the aardwolf (it’s a hyena, not a wolf). Striped hyenas are a bit smaller than spotted and brown hyenas and are the least studied. They have a broad head with dark eyes, a thick muzzle, and large, pointed ears. Their muzzle, ears, and throat are entirely black, but their coat may be golden yellow, brown, or gray with black stripes on the body and legs. A mane of long hair grows along the back. The stealthy hyena camouflages well in tall, dry grass. The most striking feature on the hyena is the legs: the front legs are much longer than the hind legs. This gives hyenas their distinctive walk, making them seem like they’re always limping uphill. Yet hyenas are agile and can run, trot, and walk with ease.
The striped skunk is easily identified by the white stripe that runs from its head to its tail. Its stripes start with a triangle at the head and break into two stripes down its back. The stripes usually meet again and form one stripe at the base of their tail. Their tails are usually a mixture of white and black fur. Each striped skunk has a unique stripe pattern. They are omnivores and typically hunt at night.
A relative of the mongoose, the Fossa is unique to the forests of Madagascar, an African island in the Indian Ocean. Growing up to 6 feet long from nose to tail tip, and weighing up to 26 pounds the fossa is a slender-bodied catlike creature with little resemblance to its mongoose cousins. It is the largest carnivore and top predator native to Madagascar and is known to feed on lemurs and most other creatures it can get its claws on, from wild pigs to mice. Unlike mongooses, and more like felines, the fossa has retractable claws and fearsome catlike teeth. Its coat is reddish brown and its muzzle resembles that of a dog. The fossa is also equipped with a long tail that comes in handy while hunting and maneuvering amongst the tree branches. It can wield its tail like a tightrope walker’s pole and moves so swiftly through the trees that scientists have had trouble observing and researching it. The elusive fossa is a solitary animal and spends its time both in the trees and on the ground. It is active at night and also during the day. Females give birth to an annual litter of two to four young, and adulthood is reached after about three years.
African Servals are small, slender cats with long legs, a lean body, short tail, and a small head. Their extra-long neck and legs give them the nickname “giraffe cat.” Servals have a coat that is tawny with both black lines and spots, while their belly is a soft white. They top out at 40 pounds yet have the largest ears of any cat. Just how big are those ears? If we had ears in the same proportion to our head as servals do, they would be the size of dinner plates! Servals live near thickly planted streams and rivers in the savannas of central and southern Africa. Unlike many other cat species, these small felines love to climb, leap, and play in water. They are crepuscular to avoid the heat of the day, although they do hunt at night when needed. Servals often share their savanna habitat with caracals and may compete with them for prey. Leopards, wild dogs, and hyenas are serval predators. If needed, a serval can climb a tree to escape. They have the highest percentage of successful hunts of any cat.
The name “two-toed sloth” erroneously describe the number of toes. They have two fingers in their hands (in the thoracic limbs) and three toes in their feet (in the pelvic limbs). The name “two-toed” sloth is misleading, although widely used. The name was intended to describe specific anatomical differences between members of the genus. However, to accurately describe these differences, the correct name should be two-fingered sloth as the differences occur in the hands, and not in the feet. They are also larger than three-toed sloths, having a body length of 58 to 70 cm, and weighing 4–8 kg. Other distinguishing features include a more prominent snout, longer fur, and the absence of a tail. Two-toed sloths spend most of their lives hanging upside down from trees. They cannot walk, so they pull hand-over-hand to move around, which is at an extremely slow rate. Being predominantly nocturnal, their fur, which grows greenish algae to blend in, is their main source of protection.
Duikers are solitary antelopes which inhabit the dense forests of west and central Africa. Weighing up to 170 lbs. Duikers tend to follow groups of birds and monkeys feeding on fruit and eat the fruits which drop to the ground. They get their name from “divers” for their habit of diving under the vegetation when frightened or disturbed.
Southern Ground Hornbill
The southern ground-hornbill is the largest hornbill in the world and features a striking red facial and throat skin that contrasts with its black plumage. This species is named for its habit of walking on the ground as it feeds, and it is less often seen in flight. The bill of the southern ground-hornbill is long, thick and downward-curving, with a small casque on the top. The eyes of this species are pale yellow, and its legs are black and quite robust. When it does fly, the southern ground-hornbill reveals striking white primary.
South African Lion
The largest of Africa’s mammalian predators, mail lions may weigh up to 400 lbs. The South African Lion can take down prey weighing up to 2,000 lbs. Although then can run up to 30 MPH over short distances, most of their hunts end in failure. Few males survive past the age of 10 years. They also tend to lose their mane hair as well as weight after the age of 8.
The military macaw is a large parrot and a medium-sized macaw. Though considered vulnerable as a wild species, it is still commonly found in the pet trade industry. It is mostly green in color with the head a slightly paler shade. It bears a red frontal patch, with a white bare facial area barred with narrow black lines. The flight feathers are blue and the red tail bordered with blue. The large strong beak is grey-black and the iris yellow. The Military Macaw is found in the forests of Mexico and South America.
The Malayan tiger is a smaller-sized subspecies of tiger, found throughout Malaysia and parts of Thailand. The Malayan tiger is today an endangered species but one of the more numerous wild tiger species. The Malayan tiger is a dominant and carnivorous predator, hunting it’s prey by stalking it until the Malayan tiger has the opportunity to catch it off guard. Malayan tigers primarily hunt larger mammals including deer, wild boar, cattle and goats. Due to the size and power of the Malayan tiger, it has no natural predators in its native environment. Humans that hunt the Malayan tiger and habitat loss are the only threats to the Malayan tiger.
The Leopard Tortoise is a large grazing species that favors semi-arid (not dry), thorny to grassland habitats. However, it is also seen in some regions featuring a higher level of precipitation. They have a very attractive shell pattern. The shell pattern acts like camouflage in its natural home range. It is found throughout savannahs of Africa from Sudan to the southern Cape. Being a tropical tortoise, Leopard tortoises do not hibernate.
The Parma Wallaby is a shy cryptic creature of the wet sclerophyll forests of southern New South Wales (Australia), it was never common and, even before the end of the 19th century, it was believed to be extinct. The Parma wallaby is the smallest member of the genus Macropus, at between 7 and 12 lbs., less than one tenth the size of the largest surviving member, the red kangaroo. It is about a half meter in length, with a sparsely furred, blackish tail about the same length again. The fur is a reddish or greyish brown above, greyer about the head, and fading to pale grey underneath.
The Red-rumped Agouti, also known as the golden-rumped agouti, orange-rumped agouti or Brazilian agouti, is a species of agouti from the family. It is native to northeastern South America, where found in Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana, northeastern Brazil, Trinidad and Tobago and Lesser Antilles. It has also been introduced to the Virgin Islands. Despite the alternative name Brazilian agouti, it is neither the only nor the most widespread species of agouti in Brazil. In Brazil all agoutis are often called “cutia”. It is found in a wide range of forests, including rainforest and secondary forest
Leopards are graceful and powerful big cats closely related to lions, tigers, and jaguars. They live in sub-Saharan Africa, northeast Africa, Central Asia, India, and China. However, many of their populations are endangered, especially outside of Africa. The leopard is so strong and comfortable in trees that it often hauls its kills into the branches. By dragging the bodies of large animals aloft it hopes to keep them safe from scavengers such as hyenas. Leopards can also hunt from trees, where their spotted coats allow them to blend with the leaves until they spring with a deadly pounce. These nocturnal predators also stalk antelope, deer, and pigs by stealthy movements in the tall grass. When human settlements are present, leopards often attack dogs and, occasionally, people. Leopards are strong swimmers and very much at home in the water, where they sometimes eat fish or crabs.
Anteaters are edentate animals—they have no teeth. But their long tongues are more than sufficient to lap up the 35,000 ants and termites they swallow whole each day. The anteater uses its sharp claws to tear an opening into an anthill and put its long snout and efficient tongue to work. But it has to eat quickly, flicking its tongue up to 160 times per minute. Ants fight back with painful stings, so an anteater may spend only a minute feasting on each mound. Anteaters never destroy a nest, preferring to return and feed again in the future. These animals find their quarry not by sight … theirs is poor … but by smell. Anteaters are found in Central and South America, where they prefer tropical forests and grasslands.
A camel is an even-toed ungulate within the genus Camelus, bearing distinctive fatty deposits known as “humps” on its back. The two surviving species of camel are the dromedary, or one-humped camel (C. dromedarius), which inhabits the Middle East and the Horn of Africa; and the bactrian, or two-humped camel (C. bactrianus), which inhabits Central Asia. Both species have been domesticated; they provide milk, meat, hair for textiles or goods such as felted pouches, and are working animals with tasks ranging from human transport to bearing loads.
Anoles are small and common lizards that can be found throughout the southeastern United States and at least as far west as San Antonio and Texas Hill Country, the Caribbean, Mexico, and various other warm regions of the Western world. A large majority of them sport a green coloration, including the only species native to the United States, the aptly named green anole, although the green anole can change its color based on its mood and surroundings. Anoles are an exorbitantly diverse and plentiful group of lizards. About 372 species are known. The knight, green, bark, Jamaican giant, and Cuban brown anoles can all be found in the United States, primarily in Florida, although the most prevalent of these species by far is the Cuban brown anole, which has pushed the native green (or “Carolina”) anole population farther north.
Giraffes are the tallest land animals. A giraffe could look into a second-story window without even having to stand on its tiptoes! A giraffe’s 6-foot neck weighs about 600 pounds. The legs of a giraffe are also 6 feet long. The back legs look shorter than the front legs, but they are about the same length. A giraffe’s heart is 2 feet long and weighs about 25 pounds, and its lungs can hold 12 gallons of air! Giraffes have a small hump on their back and have a spotted pattern similar to that of a leopard. The zoo provides an opportunity for kids (young and old) to actually feed these magnificent animals.
Red Rat Snake
The Red Rat Snake is the best climbing species of snake in Florida. Its average length ranges from 30-48 inches, but it can grow up to 72 inches. This species varies in color, but usually has a yellowish-tan to orange body color, with large red or faded blotches located on their back, a belly with dark marks, and a “V” on the top of its head. The diet of the red rat snake primarily consists of small mammals, lizards, birds, and bird eggs. This species kills its prey by constriction, as they have no toxic venom or fangs.
The Fer-de-Lance’s name means ‘spearhead’ in French. It is the most dangerous snake of Central and South America, and causes more human deaths than any other American reptile. On average, a fer-de-lance injects 105mg of venom in one bite, although a venom yield of up to 310mg has been recorded while milking them. The fatal dose for a human is 50mg. It is found in diverse habitats from cultivated lands to forests throughout tropical America and tropical Asia. The fer-de-lance, is distinguished by a small sensory pit between each eye and nostril. It has a broad triangular head and is usually about 4 to 7 feet long. It is gray or brown, marked by a series of black-edged diamonds often bordered in a lighter color. It tends to coil up on the ground and is often almost impossible to distinguish from this surroundings.
Cottonmouth (aka: Water Moccasin)
Cottonmouths reach 30 to 48 inches in length, occasionally up to 74 inches. The back is dark olive or black, the belly is paler. On young animals the back is marked by bands with dark borders and paler centers. This pattern is usually lost in older individuals. The snout is always pale, and there is usually a dark vertical line by each nostril. The banding pattern in the young may be striking. Cottonmouths are primarily active at night, but they bask in the sun during the day. Because they spend much of their time in water, and water draws away heat more quickly than air, they must somehow maintain a high body temperature, particularly for their digestive metabolism. This is accomplished partly by basking. Cottonmouths have varying temperaments. They are usually not aggressive and will not attack unless agitated. One of their unique behaviors is their ability to “stand their ground.” When thoroughly aroused, a cottonmouth coils its body and threatens the intruder with its mouth wide open and its fangs exposed, showing the white lining of its mouth (thus its common name, the cottonmouth). Cottonmouths reside mainly in the southeastern United States. This includes very southern Virginia to Florida and east to eastern Texas.
Eastern Diamond-Back Rattlesnake
The Diamondback Rattlesnake is the largest venomous snake in North America. These pit vipers can grow to be eight feet long and can weigh up to ten pounds. They are easily recognized by the black or brown diamond patterns down their body, outlined in a light shade of yellow. As their name implies, the rattlesnake has a series of hollow segments at the end of the tail which creates a rattle when shaken vigorously. These snakes have two heat sensing pits located between their eyes and nostrils, allowing them to strike prey during times of poor visibility. The rattlesnake’s habitat is anywhere with thick brush or vegetation. This snake hunts by ambush, and needs sufficient ground cover to sneak up on prey. They prefer dry areas and rocky landscapes, though they are often found curled near fallen trees and under logs. imminent. If a diamondback rattlesnake cannot get away from a predator, it will then coil and shake its tail. When the snake no longer feels threatened, it will stop the warning. Sometimes rattlesnakes will shake their tails before they feel threatened, just to let potential predators, such as coyotes, know they are present and should not be messed with.
White-handed gibbons are small, tailless apes with dense, shaggy fur ranging from black to pale gray. Their face is bare and surrounded by a white fringe. White-handed gibbons have long, slender arms and the upper part of their hands and feet is always white. They possess an opposable thumb that is used for climbing or grooming but not for swinging from branch to branch. White-handed gibbons usually move in this manner and can cover horizontal distances of 40 feet and vertical of 50 feet in one swing. They launch themselves and freefall until they catch another branch. They can move bipedally along branches or on the ground. When doing so, white-handed gibbons raise their arms above their heads for balance. White-handed gibbons are diurnal and usually take a rest break during the hottest part of the day. Gibbons are forest dwellers, usually found in the canopy . They are found in semideciduous monsoon forests and tropical evergreen forests. Gibbons range from Asia from southern China through eastern Burma, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia.
The largest of the gibbons, sometimes referred to as the ‘lesser apes’, the Siamang is known for its graceful movement through the trees and impressive emotive calls. The siamang, which often reaches double the size of other gibbon species, has shaggy black fur, apart from a grey area around the chin and mouth. Infant siamangs lack any grey areas and are entirely black. Male and female siamangs are similar in appearance. However, there is a slight difference between those occurring in Malaysia and Sumatra, with the Sumatran Siamang being slightly larger than the Malaysian siamang. Like all gibbons, the siamang swings through the forest using its long arms, which are considerably longer than its legs, in a mode of locomotion known as ‘brachiation’. Despite lacking a tail, the siamang’s sense of balance is impressive, and it can even be found walking on its hind legs along branches high above the ground, as well as sometimes climbing on all fours.
Spider monkeys (of several species) live in the tropical rain forests of Central and South America and occur as far north as Mexico. They have long, lanky arms and prehensile (gripping) tails that enable them to move gracefully from branch to branch and tree to tree. These nimble monkeys spend most of their time aloft, and maintain a powerful grip on branches even though they have no thumbs. These New World primates are social and gather in groups of up to two- or three-dozen animals. At night, these groups split up into smaller sleeping parties of a half dozen or fewer. Foraging also occurs in smaller groups, and is usually most intense early in the day. Spider monkeys find food in the treetops and feast on nuts, fruits, leaves, bird eggs, and spiders. They can be noisy animals and often communicate with many calls, screeches, barks, and other sounds.
Lemurs are primates found only on the African island of Madagascar and some tiny neighboring islands. Because of its geographic isolation, Madagascar is home to many amazing animals found nowhere else on Earth. Lemurs may have floated there eons ago on “rafts” of vegetation and evolved in isolation over countless centuries. Ring-tailed lemurs are unmistakable because of their long, vividly striped, black-and-white tail. They use their hands and feet to move nimbly through the trees, but cannot grip with their tails as some of their primate cousins do. Ring-tailed lemurs also spend a lot of time on the ground, which is unusual among lemur species. They forage for fruit, which makes up the greater part of their diet, but also eat leaves, flowers, tree bark, and sap. Ring-tailed lemurs have powerful scent glands and use their unique odor as a communication tool and even as a kind of weapon. Lemurs mark their territory by scent, serving notice of their presence to all who can smell. During mating season, male lemurs battle for dominance by trying to outstink each other. They cover their long tails with smelly secretions and wave them in the air to determine which animal is more powerful.
Blue and Gold Macaw
The Blue-and-Yellow Macaw, also known as the blue-and-gold macaw, is a large South American parrot with blue top parts and yellow under parts. It is a member of the large group of Neotropical parrots known as macaws. It inhabits forest (especially varzea, but also in open sections of terra firme or non-flooded forest) and woodland of tropical South America. These birds can reach 30 to 34 in long and weigh 1.9 to 3.3 lbs, making it one of the larger members of its family. They are vivid in appearance with blue wings and tail, dark blue chin, golden under parts, and a green forehead. Beaks are black. The naked face is white, turning pink in excited birds, and lined with small black feathers. Blue-and-yellow macaws live from 30 to 35 years in the wild and reach sexual maturity between the ages of 3 and 6 years. There is little variation in plumage across the range. Some birds have a more orange or “butterscotch” underside color, particularly on the breast. This was often seen in Trinidad birds and others of the Caribbean area. The blue-and-yellow macaw uses its powerful beak for breaking nutshells, and also for climbing up and hanging from trees.
Side-Striped Palm Viper
The Side-striped Palm Viper is an arboreal (tree-dwelling) venomous pit viper confined to the mountainous regions of Costa Rica and Panama. Arboreal adaptations include its green color (great for camouflage!) and a prehensile tail that can grasp tree branches. It that spends its time in the thick foliage of forest trees and shrubbery . It is often found at the base of palm fronds. These snakes prefer to remain coiled and still, relying on their camouflage to avoid detection, rather than defending themselves aggressively. However, they will strike quickly if touched.
and of course …
The American alligator is the largest reptile in North America. It has a long armored body with thick scales or bony plates called osteoderms or scutes. It has short, powerful legs and a long, round snout. (By contrast, the American crocodile has a long, pointed snout). Its eyes are on the top of its head. When the alligator is in the water, it can swim with just the top of its head above the water. This can help it sneak up on its prey. When the American alligator slips under the water, its nostrils and ears close up and a membrane covers its eyes. Its long tail helps it move through the water. he alligator has up to 80 teeth in its mouth at a time. When its teeth wear down, new ones will grow. Over an alligator’s lifetime, it may go through 2,000-3,000 teeth! Females can grow to lengths of about nine feet. Males grow to lengths of 13-14 feet and can weigh up to 500 pounds. The name alligator comes from the Spanish word, el lagarto, which means lizard.