Baby animals and more at the zoo


By Robert Bernstein

We’re letting our Santa Barbara Zoo membership expire during COVID. But my wife Merlie made me come back to see him because of several new baby animals. It appears that the Zoo has doubled its membership price. But I went ahead and renewed anyway and we headed for a visit on Sunday. We had the chance to see all the babies!

Right here are my photos of our little visit.

We started with the new lions. “Baby” Pauline is actually a year old now, so not a total baby. Here, she snuggled up with Father Ralph while Mother Felicia watched over.

After spending some time with the lions we went to the next enclosure with the African spur turtles. We were treated to this fascinating activity that I recorded on video.

A family stopped at one point and the parents explained to the child that the turtles were “dancing”.

Then we went to the enclosure on the other side of the lions to observe the giraffes for a while. They moved continuously, most of the time at random. But at one point, they lined up in this perfect lineup!

The furthest giraffe (center) is the “baby” Twiga. He is also no longer such a baby, born exactly at the start of the COVID shutdown on March 27, 2020. “Twiga” means “giraffe” in Swahili. Kind of how our local mountain peak is called “the summit” in Spanish.

We found it odd that the lions were housed next to the giraffes and noticed that the lions spent a lot of time looking at this potential food. We wondered if this was stressing the giraffes. The staff member we spoke to laughed and said it was just the opposite. Giraffes take pleasure in coming to tease the lions, knowing that they are safe!

A new highlight of the zoo is the Walkabout which isn’t quite open for walking around, but we were able to take a peek inside. Here two wallabies were training, hopefully in-game.

That emu from the Walkabout looked me straight in the eye.Our next stop in search of babies was the Amur leopard enclosure. Amur leopards are considered to be the most endangered big cats in the world. The zoo does its best to reproduce as many as possible, but space is limited. They have a breeding pair, but they can only have one baby on site at a time, so they have to separate the adult male Kasha between breeds.

Here, mother Ajax took a beautiful pose for us.

Here she was hanging out with baby Marta who was born on August 5th and who is really still a baby.Baby Marta came over and looked at us closely and personally through the glass.An interesting moment: a squirrel entered their enclosure, apparently oblivious to the danger. Ajax jumped in for an afternoon snack. But the squirrel barely made it out. He stayed in the tree above, wagging his tail.

Nearby, we entered the Asian bird aviary and saw this baby with its beautiful mother. Believe it or not, this is a variety of pigeon!

This bleeding heart dove from Luzon is closely related. Luzon is the large island of the Philippines where Manila is located.

My particular passion in the animal kingdom is the world of amphibians and reptiles. Especially the frogs. As you probably know, frogs are the canary in the coal mine for environmental threats. Frog skin is highly vascularized with blood vessels for respiration, so it is easily poisoned by environmental contaminants. Here are some beautiful poison arrow frogs (which I was lucky enough to see in the wild in Central America).

They had just received tiny pinhead crickets so they were very active.

This Amazon milk frog posed in a precarious place. These are now being bred as pets and I have seen them for sale at Sensational Pets.This toucan is in a cage, but with the magic of a real camera with a real lens I was able to take a good photo of him looking at us.We made one more stop to return to the lion enclosure where we started and Father Ralph did this royal pose for us.If you look at the rest of my photos you can see he was doing a bit of “dancing” as well.

Next to the lion enclosure is this fennec fox, native to the region around Egypt and Israel. It is the smallest fox in the world and it also has the largest ears in relation to its body size. Very cute, but it’s not a baby!Please visit the Santa Barbara Zoo website for more information. Due to COVID, they require advance reservations when you visit. As Simon and Garfunkel sang: Everything happens at the zoo!


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