Monday, December 10, 2007

The Death of Zoo Blogging?

In a couple of hours I'll be flying out to Chicago to spend the holidays with my family, so this will be the last post in my Zoo Blogging series. Not to worry, though--like Superman, Zoo Blogging will, I suspect, return from the grave to exact fiery vengeance against evil-doers everywhere (well, maybe not that last part). When that day will come, I do not know. We'll all just have to wait and see, and keep watching the skies (why, you ask, should we be watching the skies? Well, I have no idea, but it felt right!).

Here, we have two Asian elephants. I'm pretty sure those tusks were longer than I am tall.

This is a Hyacinth macaw hiding from me in the foliage of one of the park's aviaries.

Well, that's going to have to do it for now. I hoped to post more, but I've run out of time. Posting will probably be more characteristically sparse for the next few weeks, but I'll check in now and then.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

The Bride of Zoo Blogging!

Okay, here we go with more zoo pictures. First, let's return to the Primate order with two ring-tailed lemurs. Like all lemurs, these two (Lemur catta) hail from the island of Madagascar. Along with galagos and lorises, lemurs are part of a group of primates--the Strepsirrhini suborder--that are more distantly related to humans than monkeys and apes are. Nevertheless, humans and lemurs share many characteristic features, including opposable thumbs, finger/toenails, and stereoscopic vision. Ring-tailed lemurs are considered by the World Conservation Union to be "vulnerable" to extinction, though not yet technically endangered. Sadly, I'd be surprised--albeit pleasantly so--if they aren't moved to the endangered list within the next decade or two.

Switching kingdoms for the moment, I've long been a fan of strolling through the Wild Animal Park's conifer forest; it's pretty much a short nature hike (though an expensive one for non Zoo-members), and these impressive Mediterranean Cypress trees are by far my favorite sight:

Ever the botanical philistine, I'm always forgetting the names of trees, so I took a picture and now won't have to try to remember what type these are!

Incidentally, if anyone is looking for a Christmas tree to seriously impressive your relatives, I'd be happy to hook you up if the price is right (I kid, I kid!).

Finally, let's end this post with a second helping of primates. I'm not sure what this gorilla is looking at, but I like her (his?) eyes. Perhaps I'm over-anthropomorphizing, but I can't look at those eyes and that expression without seeing a sense of of intelligence and self-awareness.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

The Revenge of Zoo Blogging!

As promised, I'm back with more pictures from my recent trip to the Wild Animal Park. Leading off today is a baby African elephant. Born November 28th of this year, this female pachyderm is the epitome of cuteness--though to get the full impact of her devastating charm, you really should see her up close and in person.

Speaking of cute, I also got a shot of this desert bighorn in full relaxation mode. While I'm usually not too partial to animals with cloven feet, this sheep captured my attention with its sleeping repose (Incidentally, I think I woke it up with my camera's flash. Sorry!).

And with that, I'm going to continue my teasing ways and bring things to a close. Don't think for a second that I haven't noticed this post's lack of primate photos. Believe me, I will make up for this glaring deficiency with my next installment. Until then. . .

A proud moment in blogging history

I would like to take this ooportunity to inform my esteemed readers that this blog has reached an important milestone. Yes, A History of Histrionics has climbed the cut-throat google ladder and is now the first hit when searching for the phrase "pat robertson is a tool." *Sniff*. . .I'm so proud I could, well, burst into histrionics! I'd to thank all the little people--namely Pat Robertson and myself. To the fine person who found A History of Histrionics using this search: welcome; I couldn't agree more.

Wait! Hold the presses!

While typing this post, I happened to google the phrase "burst into histrionics" out of idle curiosity, and guess what-- we're number one there too! What a fantastic and historic day this is turning out to be!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The Return of Zoo Blogging!

I visited the San Diego Zoo's Wild Animal Park today, and, as always, took a ridiculously large number of photos. Hailing from the "technique-is-for-tools" school of photography--that is, I have no idea what I'm doing and have thus far been too lazy to try to actually learn how to us a camera--my method is to just start shooting and hope that a handful of the hundreds of pictures I take don't suck. It works--sort of. Instead of following my normal routine of immediately posting the best shots, I think I'm going to try to milk this latest slew of pictures for as many posts as I can.

To start, here is a picture of a cricket, one of the Park's many freeloading animal guests. While not typically the kind of fauna that most people go to zoos to see, I have a soft spot in my heart for insects and couldn't resist taking a picture when I saw it jump from the sidewalk into a nearby plant.
Next up is a western lowland gorilla basking in the warm morning sunlight--either that or pouting. I'm not sure which.

That's it for now. I'll be posting more over the next few days.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Who's the troglodyte now?

News stories detailing the impressive feats and skills of our closest primate relatives have become so common that they're beginning to verge into dog-bites-man territory, but the following New Scientist report on a chimpanzee study is, I think, undeniably cool:
Young chimps can beat adult humans in a task involving remembering numbers, reveals a new study. It is the first time chimps – and young ones, at that – have outperformed humans at a cognitive task.

And the finding may add weight to a theory about the evolution of language in humans, say the researchers.

Three adult female chimps, their three 5-year-old offspring, and university student volunteers were tested on their ability to memorise the numbers 1 to 9 appearing at random locations on a touchscreen monitor.

The chimps had previously been taught the ascending order of the numbers. Using an ability akin to photographic memory, the young chimps were able to memorise the location of the numerals with better accuracy than humans performing the same task.

During the test, the numerals appeared on the screen for 650, 430 or 210 milliseconds, and were then replaced by blank white squares.

While the adult chimps were able to remember the location of the numbers in the correct order with the same or worse ability as the humans, the three adolescent chimps outperformed the humans.

The youngsters easily remembered the locations, even at the shortest duration, which does not leave enough time for the eye to move and scan the screen. This suggests that they use a kind of eidetic or photographic memory.
. . .

The article conveniently comes with a YouTube video to help explain the results of the study.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

"We are not separate."

Take a look at this poignant and beautifully-shot National Geographic film about a recent spate of mountain gorilla killings in the Democratic Republic of Congo's Virunga National Park.