Saturday, October 20, 2007

Primates, reptiles and children! Oh my!

Contrary to the received wisdom of old adages, timing isn't everything, but it certainly isn't nothing, either. Much to my chagrin, upon arriving yesterday at San Diego Zoo I found that I had been preceded by what must have been every child under twelve in the tri-county area (in Coastal California, "tri-county area" is a rather meaningless geographical concept, but I was raised as a rural Midwestern boy, so I'm allowed to use it). October, you see, is "Kids get in Free" Month at the Zoo, and schools apparently use this as an opportunity to take their students on a fun and relatively cheap field trip. I had known this ahead of time, but had obviously not sufficiently pondered the dire consequences the Zoo's generosity might have for me. Luckily, my exceedingly awesome ipod music selection was able to muffle the worst of the cacophony, but the excessive number of screeching references to apes as "monkeys" still managed to grate on my ears like a shotgun blast of nails onto a chalkboard (obviously our public schools are failing utterly in the area of primate taxonomy--aren't the standardized exams mandated by the "No Child Left Behind" Act testing for this?).

Despite the hardship of being surrounded on all sides by a broiling sea of prepubescents , I still managed to have a wonderful time. I think, actually, that short of personal tragedy, it would be very difficult for me to not enjoy myself immensely at the San Diego Zoo. But enough of my inane babbling--onto the pictures!
This is Satu the Orangutan; you've seen him here a few times before, but he's my favorite animal at the Zoo by far, so I can't help but include him again. Oddly enough, it seems to be a law of the universe that if one waits around at the orangutan exhibit long enough, something highly interesting--usually involving Satu--will happen.

There also exists another tangentially-related law which states that juvenile siamangs--who share the exhibit with the orangutans--must always be compelled by some unfathomable genetic directive to harass the nearest available orangutan (usually Satu). As evidence of my claim (hey, I've just discovered two universal laws within a 24 hour timespan--isn't that enough to get me a PhD and a high-paying science job, or something?), I submit the following video:

Okay, I've been trying to upload this clip to
Google Videos for a few hours now, but it isn't
working. I'm losing patience, so I think I'll just
get this post up now and hope I can get the
video to to work later.

The playful harrassment of poor Satu (actually, I think he kind of likes it) lasted a lot longer than what I could catch on video. At one point, Satu climbed the fake bamboo poles to look out at the crowd. The infant siamang climbed right up after him and hung from his dangling legs like a useless appendage. It was very amusing, to say the least.

One of the keepers told me an amusing--amusing to me, at least, but perhaps not to the people involved--story about this female bonobo. Recently, while in one of her frequent aggressive moods, she bit off the top joint of one of the keeper's fingers. Doctors were able to reattach it, but only after the severed appendage was confiscated by the dominate female of the group and then traded to the keepers for raisins!

Moving away from the primates for the moment, here is are two Galápagos tortoises. I don't know their ages, but the Zoo has tortoises that are well past 100 years old.

Here is some sort of parrot--or a relative thereof. Judging by its guilty look, this bird is obviously up to no good.

Here, one of the Zoo's brown bears (commonly called grizzly bears) emerges from a relaxing bath in his (?) pool.

Ah, and here we come to the most exciting part of my Zoo visit, the baby bonobo! You can't really see it from this photo, but bundled in her blanket and resting on a giant bonobo stuffed animal, it was amazing just how much like a human baby she appeared to be (minus the obvious physical differences, of course).

Here she is from a different angle. Alas, due to thick glass and prohibitively poor lighting, it was difficult to get a good shot of her.

This video, I think, more than makes up for the low quality of the pictures:

On my way home, I saw this car on the freeway, and I couldn't resisting getting a picture of it. I guess it is that time of year.
And on that note of macabre humor, we come to the end of this post. I'm off now to see the movie 30 Days of Night. Mmmmm. . .vampires!


Catherine said...

Ah, it was good for you. Keeps ya real. :)

Cool baby!

Did you hear about how you can save Orangutans by not eating certain foods or something?

Dave said...

You're probably referring to products that contain palm oil (and there are a lot of them). The expansion of palm oil plantations in Indonesia is have a devastating effect on orangutan habitats, not to mention the habitats of countless other less "charismatic" species.

The best online resource that I've found (you didn't ask, but I'm going to tell you anyway!) on the threats facing orangutans that I have found is a document put out by the UN's Great Ape Surival Project called "The Last Stand of the Orangutan." It can be found here (WARNING: that link goes directly to a very large PDF file).

Dave said...

Oh, and I don't think that first video is going to work. I uploaded it to my Google account, but I can't get any access to it for some reason.